Ethiopia protesters burn Nobel winner’s book

Protesters in eastern Ethiopia have burnt copies of a new book by prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed in a show of solidarity with an opposition media activist.

Jawar Mohammed had said the government was removing security from his home in the capital, Addis Ababa.

This triggered protests outside his compound and elsewhere in the country.

Despite being praised for his reforms, the prime minister has struggled to contain growing ethnic rivalries.

The police have denied that security was withdrawn, but Mr Jawar’s statement fuelled some frustrations with the government.

In Addis Ababa, supporters offered to act as Mr Jawar’s security detail and protesters were heard shouting: “Down, down, Abiy.” The book burning took place in the town of Dadar.

Copies of Mr Abiy’s book, Medemer, which was published on Saturday, have been distributed across the country. It focuses on the prime minister’s political philosophy as well as his vision for Ethiopia.

Mr Jawar used his media platform, Oromo Media Network (OMN), to report on the 2016-18 wave of anti-government protests under the previous Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.

During those protests, OMN gained a huge following among people in the Oromo community, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. The Oromos have felt politically and economically marginalised in Ethiopia.

At that time Mr Jawar, born in Ethiopia, was based in the US, where he is a citizen.

But he returned to Ethiopia after Mr Abiy took power in April last year and started introducing reforms.

The prime minister has allowed more media freedom in a country that human rights groups had previously condemned for its repression of journalists.

Despite his return, Mr Jawar has been critical of Mr Abiy.

“Those media owners who don’t have Ethiopian passports are playing both ways,” he was quoted as saying in parliament by Reuters news agency.

“When there is peace you are playing here, and when we are in trouble you [are] not here.”

Many saw this as a criticism of the OMN chief.

Mr Abiy was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month for resolving Ethiopia’s border conflict with Eritrea, and promoting peace and reconciliation in his own country and in the region. -BBC

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