United States’ famed Time magazine on Wednesday released its 2019 TIME 100 list with a number of Africans making the list across the different categories.
Most notable is Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who was listed in the category of leaders for his speedy reforms since taking office a little over a year ago.
He is listed in a category that includes Speaker of the U.S. Congress, Nancy Pelosi; President Donald Trump, Pope Francis, fellow Prime Minister Jacinda Arden of New Zealand.
Others in the same category were South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Emirati Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The tribute message for Abiy was written by Feyisa Lilesa, an Ethiopian runner who made waves at Rio 2016 Games for using the Oromo protest sign as he crossed the line after his race. He returned to Ethiopia after exile in the U.S. and was recently awarded by the government.
Tribute by Feyisa Lilesa, an Olympic-silver-medalist marathoner
In 2016, the situation in Ethiopia was very bad. People were being killed and many were in jail, and I wanted the world to know what the government was doing. That’s why, during the 2016 marathon at the Rio Olympics, I crossed my wrists at the finish line—to symbolize that the Ethiopian people want to stop the killing, stop the jailing. We don’t want a dictatorship.
After that, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back. The government was killing dissidents. I missed my country; I missed my mother. She cried to me on the phone every day for two years.
Then last March, while I was training in Kenya, I heard that Dr. Abiy Ahmed would be the next Prime Minister. In Ethiopian history, we have never seen a leader like him. He’s an educated person who talks about unity.
He has released thousands of people from jail. He brought peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea after 20 years of war. And he made it possible for me to come home.
Yes, people are still protesting. But now, when they protest, they aren’t going to jail. To me, that is democracy. That is hope.