Jawar Mohammed: Youthful politician giving Nobel Peace Prize winner Ahmed headache in Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA - Slightly over 21 months ago, Hailemariam Desalegn, the powerful Ethiopian Prime Minister, was forced to resign following deadly protests that almost destabilized the Horn of Africa nation, Garowe Online reports.
Behind the protests was then exiled journalist cum activist Jawar Mohammed, who used his social media influence and Oromia Media to stage a successful revolution that paved way for radical reforms in Addis Ababa.
The resistance became spontaneous across the Ethiopian highlands, briefly uniting a country of over 80 tribes against a regime that was no longer wanted.
“We used social media and formal media so effectively that the state was completely overwhelmed,” Jawar said in a past interview. “The only option they had was to face reform or accept full revolution.”
But despite the progressive changes engineered by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Ethiopian revolution seems to be far from over.
Abiy, 43, is now facing predicaments, similar to those befell his predecessor, and significantly, orchestrated by the same force and maybe to be precise, 'by the very revolutionary team's.
What started on Tuesday as a mere security reshuffle of Jawar, escalated to violent protests across Ethiopia, with the Oromia region suffering many casualties. At least three people were shot dead by the police.
In the capital, Addis Ababa, supporters offered to act as Jawar's security detail and protesters were heard shouting: "Down, down, Abiy." At Dadar town, Abiy's recently published book Medemer had it's copied burnt.
Jawar, 33, the man causing panic in Ahmed's government, was born to a Muslim father and Christian mother in 1986. He began his formal education at a Catholic school in Asella.
He then attended secondary school in Adama until 2003, when he was awarded a scholarship to study at the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore, from which he graduated in 2005. He did journalism.
After registering master class performance, he proceeded to Stanford University for Political Science course, graduating in 2009. He enrolled at Columbia for MA and subsequently, graduated in 2013.
His return to Ethiopia in 2018 after years in exile has dramatically shaped the country's politics, giving endless nightmare to PM Abiy, who is now struggling to cement his international reputation as a peace ambassador.
At Parliament on Tuesday, Ahmed seemingly blamed Jawar for the ethnic clashes witnessed in the country, dragging uncensored media houses in the process.
"Those media owners who don't have Ethiopian passports are playing both ways," Abiy was quoted as saying in parliament by Reuters news agency.
"When there is the peace you are playing here, and when we are in trouble you [are] not here," he added in a statement that precipitated deadly spontaneous protests in Jawar's favor.
Both Jawar and Abiy hail from the ethnic Oromo, the largest community in Ethiopia. But at their backyard, the latter is considered an opportunist while the former is celebrated as a hero.
Despite the current unrest, Abiy is credited for paving way for liberalism after decades of autocracy in Ethiopia. He released over 10,000 political prisoners when he took over in 2018.
The radical internal reforms coupled with the mediation of the Eritrean crisis ostensibly handed him Nobel Peace Prize, which he scooped barely a fortnight ago.
However, the latest political unrest and ethnic violence across Ethiopia could prove the hardest task for the youthful PM, as he seeks to stamp authority in Addis Ababa.
As if that's enough, Abiy is also involved in a diplomatic row with Egypt over the proposed construction of a dam on the Blue Nile. At Somalia, the Jubaland leadership has often accused him of meddling in their internal welfare those non-AMISOM troops.
In what could be just the onset of political uncertainty under Abiy's regime, the youthful revolutionary journalist, who holds a US passport, invited elders from Oromo ethnic group to perhaps send signals to Abiy's government.
"Elders and political led will have a press conference to calm the situation today at 1:30 at my residence," he tweeted, an indication that he enjoys backing from Oromo elders.
How and when Abiy Ahmed will maneuver in the political climate similar to one witnessed during the reign of his predecessor, is something the world will be monitoring closely.
Reporting Abuga Makori in Nairobi; Editing by Omar Nor