Addis Ababa (AFP) – Jawar Mohammed, a former ally turned foe of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, told AFP on Saturday he would join the race for a 2020 election to ensure that it is “free and fair”.
Jawar, a media mogul and activist who was at the centre of last month’s deadly protests in Addis Ababa, is credited with helping to sweep Abiy to power but has recently criticised some of the premier’s policies.
Jawar told an audience in the US state of Minnesota that he would run in next year’s vote, a decision he confirmed to AFP by phone.
“I’ve not decided which position or which party. What I’ve decided is to run,” he said.
“The purpose is to help to ensure the election is free and fair. I want to add my voice and my influence to ensure the election is free and fair. And I want to make sure the federalist voices are given enough space in the debate.”
Both Abiy, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Jawar are from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, and their feud highlights divisions within the Oromo support base that could complicate the prime minister’s bid for a five-year term.
Ethiopian-born Jawar said he would have to give up his current US citizenship and reclaim Ethiopian citizenship to be able to enter the contest, in which he said he could run for the Oromia regional parliament or the national assembly.
Jawar, who has 1.7 million followers on Facebook, said he would return to Ethiopia within 10 days to start the paperwork needed for his candidacy.
Ethiopia’s general election is scheduled for May 2020, but many observers expect the vote to be delayed as preparations are already running behind schedule.