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PM ABIY AHMED Among The TIME 100 Most Influential People of 2019

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By Feyisa Lilesa

Inflentual leadersIn 2016, the situation in Ethiopia was very bad. People were being killed and many were in jail, and I wanted the world to know what the government was doing. That’s why, during the 2016 marathon at the Rio Olympics, I crossed my wrists at the finish line—to symbolize that the Ethiopian people want to stop the killing, stop the jailing. We don’t want a dictatorship.

After that, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back. The government was killing dissidents. I missed my country; I missed my mother. She cried to me on the phone every day for two years.

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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (C) attends the 32nd Extraordinary Summit of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Addis Ababa on June 21, 2018. – East African leaders gathered in Ethiopia on June 21, 2018 hoping to revive stalled South Sudan peace talks, following a long-awaited face-to-face meeting between the two warring leaders.President Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar held face-to-face talks on June 20, 2018, brokered by Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed, in their first meeting in nearly two years. (Photo by YONAS TADESSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YONAS TADESSE/AFP/Getty Images)

Then last March, while I was training in Kenya, I heard that Dr. Abiy Ahmed would be the next Prime Minister. In Ethiopian history, we have never seen a leader like him. He’s an educated person who talks about unity. He has released thousands of people from jail. He brought peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea after 20 years of war. And he made it possible for me to come home.

Yes, people are still protesting. But now, when they protest, they aren’t going to jail. To me, that is democracy. That is hope.

Lilesa is an Olympic-silver-medalist marathoner