Why Ethiopia’s ‘alphabet generation’ feel betrayed by Abiy

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Oromo protests in 2017 – Ethiopia

When Abiy Ahmed became prime minister of Ethiopia three years ago, the Oromo community felt their shackles had finally been broken.

He was one of them – he understood the anger of the country’s largest ethnic group who had led mass demonstrations leading to his predecessor’s resignation.

He knew what their crossed arms – the shackle symbol made famous at the Rio Olympics when marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa raised his arms at the finish line – really meant.

Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head at the finish line of the Men"s Marathon athletics event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016.

Feyisa Lilesa made crossed hand shackle sign famous at the Olympics in 2016

“Many people saw [Abiy] as a new Messiah,” says Merera Gudina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).

For Oromos have felt like second-class citizens in their own country – once referred to even in official circles by a derogatory slur known as the G-word, the equivalent of the N-word, and made to feel ashamed…

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