In defense of Jawar, a brilliant and dedicated agent of change

On October 22, around midnight, an audio posted on Facebook reported a crisis unfolding in the Bole district of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. In the audio, a commander in the Ethiopian Federal Police was heard instructing the protective detail assigned to Jawar Mohammed, the Executive Director of the Oromia Media Network (OMN) and a renowned political activist, to vacate their post at their assigned subject’s residence. The security detail who first answered the call refused to accept an order that came at midnight as unlawful. Another told the commander bluntly that they will not abandon Jawar to “nocturnal beasts”, stressing that they are ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice. The incident in the Bole district soon became a conflagration that, according to official estimates, claimed the lives of at least 86 people in the Oromia region.

Five years earlier, a social movement now widely known as the Oromo Protests erupted in the Oromia regional state. The protest started as a resistance against land seizure but it was quickly transformed into sustained opposition against the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government’s stranglehold on the political landscape, discrimination in allocating national resources, and the incessant use of violence to resolve political differences in Ethiopia. It lasted for almost four years, culminating in the fall of EPRDF’s authoritarian regime and ushering in an era of democratic reform. The movement catapulted Jawar Mohammed to prominence as a leading political figure in Ethiopia’s history.

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