The arrest of prominent Ethiopian pro-democracy activist Jawar Mohammed has been confirmed by multiple sources from the country. His media outfit, Oromia Media Network, OMN, has also been shut down by authorities.
The arrest comes in the wake of mass protests against the shooting and killing on Monday night of a famed Oromo musician and activist in Addis Ababa.
Hachalu Hundessa, was celebrated as a symbol for the Oromo people – Ethiopia’s most populous ethnic group. His songs spoke out about their political and economic marginalisation and became a rallying point for activists in their fight against Ethiopian regimes.
The musician had also been imprisoned for five years when he was 17 for taking part in protests, an analysis on the BBC Africa LIVE page added.
Jawar was reportedly arrested along with Bekele Gerba, a veteran opposition activist. The duo were arrested at the Oromo Cultural Center in Addis Ababa, where they were attending the funeral of Hachalu.
OMN reported on Tuesday morning via its Facebook page that their offices had been raided by federal security agents who ‘arrested’ employees. They also said the OMN offices in Addis Ababa was under control of the state.
Jawar vs. Abiy: Season II
The latest incident is the second major face off between Jawar and state security agents. In October 2019, Jawar – now a member of the Oromo Federalist Congress, OFC; was shielded by supporters after he announced that the state wanted to arrest him.
Jawar’s supporters demonstrated against Abiy after Jawar said police had surrounded his home and tried to withdraw his government security detail. Protests in the capital and other cities resulted in 16 deaths and dozens of wounded.
“The majority of people believe the transition is off track and we are backsliding towards an authoritarian system,” Jawar said, sitting in his heavily guarded Addis Ababa home-office at the time.
In December 2019, Jawar joined the Oromo Federalist Congress, OFC, led by veteran politician Merera Gudina. The OFC has joined a bloc of other opposition parties in the Oromia Regional State. The state is Ethiopia’s largest and most populous.
It is also the home region of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Abiy and Jawar fell out last year after the PM told parliament of media personalities who were fomenting unrest with their outlets, Jawar said the claims were an attack on him.