Wrists crossed in the air, which Feyisa Lilesa showed when he crossed the Rio Olympics’ marathon finish line, have been a symbol of defiance in Ethiopia’s bloody nine-month-long anti-government revolt, known as the Oromo protests.

By Colin Cosier (Stuff.co.nz) |

When Feyisa Lilesa crossed the Rio Olympics’ marathon finish line, the Ethiopian silver medalist would normally have been celebrated as a national hero.

But the crossed arms protest gesture above his head means Lilesa’s achievement is likely to get scant official attention back home.

Wrists crossed in the air have been a symbol of defiance in Ethiopia’s bloody nine-month-long anti-government revolt, known as the Oromo protests.

“If I go back to Ethiopia maybe they will kill me. If I am not killed maybe they will put me in prison. [If ] they [do] not put me in prison they will block me at airport,” he said. “Maybe I move to another country.”

As the athlete’s protest made global headlines, Ethiopia’s government spokesman Getachew Reda tweeted his congratulations “to all #Ethiopians”, making special mention of “#FeyissaLelissa”.

But within the country, state broadcaster EBC reportedly failed to cover the silver medal achievement in news bulletins and only briefly mentioned it in a sports report, running pictures of the Kenyan winner. Its online article doesn’t mention the protest gesture.

The Oromo protests began late last year against government plans to expand the capital Addis Ababa’s footprint into surrounding Oromo farmland. The government later scrapped the development plans but the protests have continued against the authorities’ crackdown.

Continue reading this story on Stuff.co.nz
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