Ethiopia is going through some rough times. Protests have been going on since last November. The protests are mainly against the exclusion of the Oromo people from political processes and economic development. These protests have led to many deaths and mass arrests. To gain publicity, Feyisa Lilesa has made a very brave statement.
According to Amnesty, Ethiopia is currently ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which is mostly controlled by members of the minority, the Tigrayan ethnic group. Recent protests have called for political reform and an end to the marginalization of the Oromo and Amhara people. In December 2015, 40 people were killed after members of the Oromo ethnic group protested against attempted government land seizures. This situation in Ethiopia has gained much attention thanks to what Lilesa did.
On the last day of the Games, the Olympian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa stood out of the group during this time of tragedy in Ethiopia. As Lilesa crossed the finish line to win the silver medal, he made an ‘X’ over his head with his hands and arms. He did this gesture once again while he received his medal. Lilesa later explained that the symbol was a popular sign among antigovernment protestors in Oromo.
“The Ethiopian government [is] killing people. So wherever I stand, [I stand] with the Oromo protest anywhere because Oromo is my tribe. At this time, any people, all my relatives in prison, in prison. Daily I worry, I worry… If you talk, you write [about the protest], they kill you. So I stand with Oromo protest anywhere.”
Lilesa is being considered a hero and is receiving the blessings of many people, including the Olympic marathon champion, Eliud Kipchoge. “So so sorry for Lilesa,” Kipchoge said. “Sad news, shocking these soldiers… can still kill everybody.” A fund raiser has been put together for the runner and over $100,000 has been raised at this point in time.
Currently, Lilesa has said that he is unsure of where to go from here. He said he would consider relocation to Kenya or perhaps the United States.