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Oromo rights activist joins Ethiopia's 2020 race, to renounce US citizenship

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

ADDIS ABABA - Media entrepreneur and activist Jawar Mohammed has announced intentions to join Ethiopian polls scheduled for May 2020, to ensure they are 'free and fair'.

The Chief Executive Officer of Oromiya Media Network has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whom he helped ascend to power in 2018.

Addressing a gathering at Minnesota on Saturday, the flamboyant businessman cum politician did not immediately reveal the seat he would run for.

"I've not decided which position or which party. What I've decided is to run," he told AFP without giving further disclosure to his quest.

The leftist politician said he wants to ensure the voices of federalists in the Horn of Africa nation is heard both in and out of parliament.

"The purpose is to help to ensure the election is free and fair. I want to add my voice and my influence to ensure the election is free and fair. And I want to make sure the federalist voices are given enough space in the debate."

Although he's yet to formally declare the position he would run for, the human rights activist could join the race in Oromia regional parliament or National Assembly race.

Either way, the youthful entrepreneur said he will renounce his US citizenship and regain his Ethiopian identify as a basic constitutional requirement.

The Ethiopian laws do not allow dual citizens to run for a political seat. Jawar Mohammed controls most parts of the Oromia region where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hails from.

Last month, chaos rocked most parts of Ethiopia after Mohammed claimed that the government had withdrawn his security 'without explanation'.

The skirmishes, authorities said, claimed lives of 78 youths, most of who succumbed to police brutality and shootings, further raising questions about the government's commitment towards safeguarding human rights.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who recently won Nobel Peace Prize ostensibly for peacekeeping mission in Eritrea, indirectly blamed Jawar for the skirmishes.

"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 peace you are playing here, and when we are in trouble you [are] not here," he added in reference to Jawar Mohammed.

His entry to the race would further escalate ethnic tensions, which have eclipsed Abiy's leadership for close to 18 months now.

To quell the internal violence, Ahmed on Saturday managed to dissolve the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, a strategic move to form one party.

Already, his team has agreed to form the Ethiopian Prosperity Party, which will give room for smaller ethnic parties and subsequent opportunities in government.

Besides the internal quagmire, Ahmed is also facing criticism from Jubaland in Somalia, with the regional government accusing Non-AMISOM Ethiopian forces of working secretly with FGS to overthrow Sheikh Ahmed Madobe.


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