Haile Gebrselassie, from Olympic champion to Ethiopia’s military in the Tigray War

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TO Haile Gebrselassie He had no choice but to run to get to his school, located about 10 kilometers from his home. He was just four years old when he underwent the winding political transition in his country, Ethiopia, after the death of the emperor Haile selassie. Thus a legend was created that ended with two gold medals in the Olympic Games and four World in the distance of 10,000 meters. Your country now lives the war with the rebels of Tigray and thinks to join the battle.

Abiy Ahmed Ali, Ethiopian Prime Minister, received in 2019 the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the end of the territorial conflict between his country and the neighboring state of Eritrea. Just under a year after receiving the award, he was leading a country that was once again at war… against himself. The conflict is a civil war against the northern region of the country where the rebels of the FLPT they have seen their power grow amid constant human rights violations.

At the beginning of November 2021, the Tigray militiamen took over two cities just over two hundred kilometers from the presidential palace, after which Ahmed had no choice but to declare a state of emergency throughout the country. . In his speech, the prime minister called for the sacrifice of his entire population to “defend the dignity and flag of Ethiopia.” Haile Gebrselassie has responded to this appeal.

The award prince of Asturias of sports In 2011 he announced that he will enlist in the Ethiopian army to fight the insurgency. At 48 years old, he will defend his country with a weapon as much as he has worked for its progress during his career as an athlete. Gebrselassie has tried to give 112 million compatriots the same opportunities that he had and does not want a radical movement to throw his country back into chaos.

Haile’s involvement

“I am ready to do whatever is necessary on my part, even go to the front line”, were the words that Gebrselassie outlined to the local media. The role of the former athlete in the country is very important as he accumulates half a dozen hotels and resorts, a real estate business, a coffee plantation and a stake in an automobile assembly plant. Hyundai, a collection of companies that employ more than 3,000 people.

In fact, during riots last year, some of its hotels suffered extensive damage. This is why 400 people were left without work. These businesses also led to problems with Mo farah. The four-time Olympic champion was assaulted in the Gebrselassie’s Yaya Africa Athletics Village and he demanded a watch and two cell phones from Haile, as well as almost 3,000 euros in four different currencies.

Gebrselassie decided to do things for her country that many people, including members of her family, thought was crazy. For example, in 2004 he decided to open the first privately owned cinema in the city. Until relatively recently, Ethiopia was considered an economic basket case, but it has seen high levels of growth in the decade leading up to the global pandemic. Poverty levels have dropped and consumers have found they had time and money to spend.

The conflict with the Tigray is returning to add darkness to the country. Gebrselassie is a member of the group called “the elderly” that tried to negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict last year. He called on the international community not to put too much pressure on Ethiopia, but has not been able to manage the problem internally. “I think there is a lot of pressure in this country and in the West you have to be careful, careful … if you keep pushing in this way, the result will be very bad,” he explained this summer to Sky Sports. That bad omen has come true.

Will not be alone

The Olympic medalist in Rio de Janeiro 2016, Feyisa Lilesa, has also announced that he is willing to fight on the front line. He won silver in the marathon test behind Eliud Kipchoge and at that moment he made a gesture that could cost him his freedom and even his life if he returned to his country: an ‘x’ with his arms. The gesture represents the repression against the ethnic group Oromo, made up of more than 35 million people in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian authorities, however, denied the allegations and claimed that Lilesa would be greeted as a hero upon returning to the country. When he was reunited with his family, his wife, and children aged six and three, he took refuge in Florida. Despite the assurances given by the government, he refused to return to his country and remained in Brazil for three months before moving to USA, where he was able to access with a “special skills” visa. After two years of exile, he was able to return to his country with the change of government.

It was precisely the protests of the Oromo that ended up bringing down the former prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, in whose mandate many citizens of this ethnic group were persecuted and imprisoned. To seek peace in her country again, Feyisa Lilesa this time will not put on her slippers but will enlist in the army to fight the rebels. Haile Gebrselassie and this other Olympic medalist will seek to end the conflict that has Ethiopia in check.

[Más información: Etiopía se desangra entre acusaciones al mandatario Abiy Ahmed Ali: del Nobel de la Paz a la guerra civil]

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Haile Gebrselassie, from Olympic champion to Ethiopia’s military in the Tigray War