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The beautiful political inside story behind Ethiopian athletic triumphs

Rasmus Sonderriis
Danish-Chilean journalist who has spent a total of over six years in Ethiopia since 2004

Historically, a majority of the country’s world-class long-distance runners have been the Oromo athletes , but at this event, the ones to sprint first across the finishing line were mostly Tigrayans, the little northern province whose leaders — who used to be the inner circle of the 1991–2018 dictatorship — have staged an armed rebellion. This small group of wealthy former strongmen also sponsor ethno-nationalist terror groups in other parts of Ethiopia, recruit child soldiers by force (though their own children go to expensive schools in the West) and have committed countless war crimes in the neighboring regions. Last November 2021, the world press predicted they were going to retake national power, and CNN even announced, mistakenly, that they had reached the gates of the capital Addis Ababa. But Ethiopia’s nascent, still-fragile democracy fought them off and pulled through its near-death experience. So today, the rebels’ main war aim is breaking up the country with the motto that “if we can’t rule Ethiopia, let there be no Ethiopia to rule at all.”

Athletics – World Athletics Championships – Women’s 5000 Metres – Final – Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, U.S. – July 23, 2022 Gold medallist Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay celebrates after winning the women’s 5000 metres final REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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