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  • Ethiopian PM Blames Olympic Protest on U.S.-Based Dissenters

     

    When Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa held his arms in an “X” as he crossed the finish line for a silver medal last month at the Rio Olympics, he says he was culminating a political protest he’d planned for months.

    But top Ethiopian officials say he was put up to the stunt by U.S.-based opposition groups in order to protest the government’s crackdown on demonstrations and further fuel controversial secessionist movements at home and in neighboring Eritrea.

    Speaking to Foreign Policy in an exclusive interview from the living room of his suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said he strongly believes that groups of anti-government Ethiopians based in the United States convinced the athlete to use the Summer Games as a protest venue. He also figures they helped get him from a Rio hotel to Washington, D.C. in time for a televised press conference last week.

    “It’s me who sent him to Rio for the Olympics, and we expected him to come back after winning the medal,” Hailemariam said, specifically naming members of the Oromo Liberation Front as having likely contributed to Feyisa’s protest.

    “This is not the capacity of the man himself. It’s something which has been orchestrated by someone else from outside.”

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  • Ethiopian 'apology over textbook blunders'

    Ethiopia's Ministry of Education has apologised for mistakes in school textbooks, state-owned television has reported.

    The sixth grade English language textbook wrongly placed Ethiopia's highest mountain, Ras Dashen, in Tigray Regional State instead of the Amhara Regional State, it quotes an unidentified ministry official as saying.

    The official added that a map in a tenth grade textbook on nationality and ethics failed to show the correct location of regional states, the report added. 

    The sixth grade text book was published in 2004 and the tenth grade book in 2010. 

    It is unclear why the ministry has made the apology now, but Amhara has been one of the regions recently rocked by deadly protests against the government.

    Protesters have accused the government of political and economic marginalisation - a charge it denies. 

    There have been lots of reaction on Twitter to the apology. One tweeterer shared a picture of the Ras Dashen mountain. 

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  • Will the Release of Muslim Community Leaders from Prison Change Anything in Ethiopia?

     

    The Ethiopian government pardoned more than 700 prisoners in celebration of New Year's Day on the Ethiopian calendar and the Muslim holiday Eid. Among those released were people charged under the country's controversial anti-terror law. Critics of the law say it is used to stifle dissent and lock up political opposition members. Ustaz Kamil Shemsu was imprisoned in 2012 when many Muslims in Ethiopia protested what they said was government interference in their religious doctrine. He was sentenced to 22 years.

    "It's difficult to say I am happy because there are still other brothers left in prison," he told VOA Amharic. Prisoners were released from Kaliti, Dire Dawa, Ziway, Shewa Robit and Harer, as well as other prisons administered by the federal government in the Southern region, Tigray region and Amhara region. Hayatel Kubera was a freshman in college in Addis Ababa when she was arrested in 2012 and taken to an Ethiopian investigation center known as Maekelawi. She said she was arrested in relation to the Muslim protest movement and was still under investigation and awaiting trial at the time of her release.

    "The prison suddenly called us last week on Monday, along with men and one woman,” she said. “They told us that the government doesn't want you to be imprisoned so you will be released." Government media announced that the president signed the pardon for Muslim groups because they expressed regret, according to Ethiopian Prosecutor-General Getachew Ambaye.

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  • BBC: Ethiopian government confirms "some" deaths during prison fire

    An unknown number of inmates have died after a fire at an Ethiopian prison where prominent anti-government protesters are reportedly being held.

    Sustained gunfire could be heard coming from Qilinto prison, on the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa, after the fire broke out, local media reported.

    The government confirms "some" deaths, while local media report that at least 20 people had died in the incident.

    There has been an unprecedented wave of protests in Ethiopia in recent months.

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