Hundreds of supporters of Ethiopia’s popular activist, Jawar Mohammed, on Wednesday surrounded his house in the capital, Addis Ababa, following claims of an assassination plot against him.
A Reuters witness said at least 400 young men joined the protest, expressing their support and swearing allegiance to Jawar against the prime minister Abiy Ahmed.
Gunshots heard in Adama
Reuters news agency said two Ethiopian residents in the city of Adama heard the sound of gunshots amid protests there on Wednesday afternoon.
The plan was to remove my security and unleash civilian attackers and claim it was a mob attack.
The protests in Adama, 90 km southeast of the capital, and in other cities in the Oromiya region, began after hundreds of supporters of Ethiopian ethnic activist Jawar Mohamed gathered outside his house in the capital on Wednesday.
Local officials told the BBC at least three protesters have been killed and several injured in Adama town, while one person died near the ancient city of Harar in the east.
Another three protesters were reportedly wounded in Ambo, a town about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital, Addis Ababa, according to a hospital official said.
Jawar, who was a popular figure in the anti-government protests that are widely credited to have forced the ruling coalition to reform, claimed there were attempts to remove his security detail on Tuesday night.
‘‘The plan was to remove my security and unleash civilian attackers and claim it was a mob attack. There has been strange mob type conflict in the city in the last few days including one not far from where I live just about an hour before they tried to remove security from my house,’‘ Jawar said in a message posted on his Facebook page.
Jawar, who runs the Oromo Media Network (OMN) was one of the activists and political leaders who were security by the government, following his return from exile.
Local news portal Addis Standard said the Federal Police Commission Commander Endeshaw Tasew, confirmed that some of this security detail is being withdrawn from private citizens based on low threat and increased stability evaluations.
“His message that the police were taking measures against him are false. Neither the government nor the police took any measure against him,” Tasew added, in response to Jawar’s accusations against the government.
Abiy’s tough media message
The tensions between Jawar and the federal government can be traced to remarks by the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed who on Tuesday warned of forthcoming tough measures against media organisations ‘fuelling conflict’.
“Those media owners who don’t have Ethiopian passport are playing both ways. When there is peace you are playing here and when we are in trouble you not here,” he said.
“We tried to be patient. But if this is going to undermine the peace and existence of Ethiopia, whether you speak Amharic or Oromiffa, we will take measures. You can’t play both ways.”
Amharic and Oromiffa are the languages of the country’s largest ethnic groups.
These remarks were interpreted by many, including Jawar, as an attack on himself and his organisation. Jawar ho holds a U.S. passport, later explained to his 1.7 million followers on Facebook that he only acquired a foreign passport ‘because the government would not renew the one he had’.
Jawar vs Abiy
The popular activist has repeatedly dismissed allegations that he intends to run for political office, but is increasingly seen to be working towards a showdown with Abiy, the country’s first prime minister from the Oromo ethnic group.
Jawar’s core group of supporters who gathered outside his house call themselves “Qeerroo”, an Oromo term meaning “bachelor” adopted by politically active young men.
Wearing hooded sweatshirts, they shouted “Jawar, Jawar” and “Abiy Down! Abiy Down!”
Addis Standard reported that some of Jawar’s supporters were seen today burning copies of ‘Ida’amuu’, the Afaan Oromo equivalent of ‘Medemer’, a book written by the prime minister.
Abiy is currently attending attending the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi. Russia’s president Vladmir Putin on Wednesday congratulated Abiy upon the Nobel Peace Prize he won this month.READ MORE: African leaders in Sochi as first Russia – Africa forum starts