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Protests in Ethiopia Threaten to Mar Image of Its Nobel-Winning Leader


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Protests against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia erupted on Wednesday, threatening to taint the aura over his newly won Nobel Peace Prize, after a prominent critic accused the police of attempting to orchestrate an attack on him at his home.

The accusations made by the critic, Jawar Mohammed, founder of an independent media network, came a day after Mr. Abiy warned that unidentified media owners were fomenting unrest in the landlocked nation of 110 million, the most populous in Africa after Nigeria.

Hundreds of supporters of Mr. Jawar, an Ethiopian activist who has American citizenship and was in exile in the United States until last year, gathered outside his Addis Ababa home, which was surrounded by police officers.

The supporters, of the Oromo ethnic group, denounced the prime minister, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize less than two weeks ago for his work in ending the protracted war between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea, and restoring some political freedoms in his country.

News reports and witnesses reached by telephone said protests had spread to the cities of Adama, Harar and Ambo. The BBC reported that three people had been killed in the unrest and that some protesters had burned copies of the prime minister’s newly published book.

Mr. Jawar claimed on his Facebook account that agents in two cars had arrived at his home around midnight and demanded that his own security guards leave. Mr. Jawar said the demand was part of what he described as a pretext to attack him.

Mr. Jawar and Mr. Abiy are political rivals, and both are from the Oromo ethnic group, the largest in Ethiopia.

There was no immediate comment from Mr. Abiy, who was attending a summit of African leaders convened by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the Russian Black Sea resort town of Sochi.

In remarks to Ethiopia’s Parliament on Tuesday, Mr. Abiy made an implicit criticism of Mr. Jawar, who returned to Ethiopia after Mr. Abiy came to power last year.

“When there is peace you are playing here, and when we are in trouble you not here,” Mr. Abiy said, without specifically referring to Mr. Jawar. “We tried to be patient. But if this is going to undermine the peace and existence of Ethiopia ... we will take measures. You can’t play both ways.”


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