By Tafi Mhaka
Mi caan believe it.
Government waan fi move mi.
Mi tun refugee inna mi owna country.
But a long long time mi live yaso cant go no weh.
Dem really tek poor people fi fool, dem really tek poor people fi fool.
Vybz Kartel, Poor People Land: Kingston Story
Rastafarians believe Ethiopia is home.
Fiyesa Lilesa truly believes Ethiopia doesn’t feel like home.
The Olympic Silver medallist in the men’s marathon famously crossed his hands above his head as he crossed the line at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Fiyesa’s from the Oromo tribe: Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group. His act of defiance a la Tommy Smith in 1968 was meant to highlight the plight of the Oromo in Ethiopia – and perhaps by extension – the Amhara’s quest for administrative independence.
Huge, violent demonstrations against government plans to move the Oromo out of their ancestral lands, which are situated in and around the capital, Addis Ababa, have led to the deaths of more than 400 people, according to New York-based advocacy group, Human Rights Watch.
The Oromo Federalist Congress says the government forced 150,000 Oromo farmers off their land without compensation.
The Oromo feel highly marginalised as well.
And claim the government has excluded them from fully participating in politics and economic affairs for a lengthy period of time.
The Amhara on the other hand don’t want to be ruled by Tigrayans.
The Amhara are keen to see their land, which falls under the administration of Tigray regional state, moved to Amhara state.
“I grew up witnessing the suffering of my people and this was not new to me,” explained the son of farmers raised in a rural community. “But we have not seen what we are seeing now, with young children and pregnant women and elderly people being killed. The thing has got worse in the past nine months.”
“As soon as the Ethiopian athletic federation selected me to go to Rio, I decided that I needed to train hard and I knew the people were dying but no one was seeing or hearing their suffering. So I decided three months before Rio, if I get good result, the media would be watching and the world would finally see and hear the cry of my people.”
Fiyesa Lilesa and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaerpnick are both using the platforms their God-given talents have presented them with to push pertinent human rights-aligned matters.
Fiyesa’s in the USA at the moment.
He hasn’t sought political asylum.
But he won’t go home.
As things stand: He has no regrets.
“I would have regretted it if I did not make my stand and show my protest because, when I was in Rio, there was a prison fire in Addis Ababa. People were burned to death including my close friend, Kebede Fayissa.”