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.
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.
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.
Social media reactions:
BREAKING: Jawar Mohammed arrested, Oromo Media Network shut down – Oromo activists, VPN comms.
Now that is pouring petrol on fire.
— Rashid Abdi (@RAbdiCG) June 30, 2020
Wow! The arrest of @Jawar_Mohammed will definitely ignite more anger among the Oromo people. It seems the Ethiopian government is unraveling & trying to control flow of information by shutting down opposition media networks & the internet. Could the military intervene? #Ethiopia https://t.co/Oj64QhOQiC
— Adel El-Adawy (@adeladawy) June 30, 2020
The Gov't of #Ethiopia arrested @Jawar_Mohammed the prominant activist and founder of OMN Tv. They also arrested #Bekele_Gabre the Oromo Federalist Coalition (OFC) leader. The gov't also closed OMN Tv Studio in Addis Ababa.
Internet was also shutdown.
Undemocratic action!!! pic.twitter.com/lakjCRmIgq
— Abdinasir Abdullahi (@Abdinasir_Abdul) June 30, 2020
Police and state authorities should deescalate as much as possible to control this situation. Let people express their anger, heartbreak, mourn their icon, and grieve. Arrests and knee-jerk reactions are only going to lead to more protests and devastation. #HaacaaluuHundeessaa pic.twitter.com/19Ahz0VeAR
— Mohammed Ademo (@OPride) June 30, 2020
Obbo Berkele Gerba, a prominent Oromo politician, was arrested alongside Jawar Mohamed. This is a man who’s been through a lot at the hands of Ethiopian state apparatus for much of the last decade.
Hidhaaf Ajjeechanis, asumatti nurraa dhaabatuu qabdi! #HaacaaluuHundeessaa
— Fatuma Bedhaso (@FBedaso) June 30, 2020