By John Lloyd
The opinions expressed are his own.
The Arab Spring’s effects continue to ripple outward. As Tahrir Square fills once more, it gains new momentum. For months now, the autocrats of Africa have feared it would move south, infecting their youth in often-unemployed, restless areas.
That fear has come to the ancient civilization of Ethiopia, the second-most populous state (after Nigeria) in Africa. There, since June, the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has cracked down hard on dissidents, opposition groups and, above all, journalists, imprisoning some and forcing others into exile.
The latest refugee is Dawit Kebede, managing editor of one of the few remaining independent papers, the Awramba Times. Kebede, who won an award for freedom from the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists last year, fled to the U.S. last month after he received a tip off that he was about to be arrested.
Also in the past month, apparently reliable reports have circulated of a teacher in his late twenties, Yenesew Gebre, who burnt himself alive in protest against political repression in his home town of Dawra, in the south of the country. It has also been reported, by sources who spoke to the opposition satellite station, ESAT, based in the US, that Gebre had been dismissed from his teaching post because of his political views.
The move recalls the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi – another young man in his twenties – in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia in January this year, a catalyst for the protests there and elsewhere in the spring. The parallel is being widely made in oppositionist sites and media.