You can hate him passionately. In deed, it is evident that, while his supporters love him with passion, his detractors hate him with an equivalent or more passion. Hate him, you may. But you can’t ignore him. If you are an observer of the Oromo and/or Ethiopian political developments, what you can’t do is to ignore Jawar S. Mohammed.
Having survived the most stringent of public scrutiny (virtually living his life in front of the relentless gaze of the media), Jawar Mohammed remains to be the one person in the Oromo and/or Ethiopian public life who continues to ignite and sustain the (political) passion of the youth in Ethiopia today, especially among the Oromo.
Jawar loves taking risks. His courage to take risks and to thrive in their midst, unusual as it is for most politically engaged personalities from Ethiopia, makes him rather uncommon. In taking risks, he also commits himself to the possibility of making mistakes. He may make mistakes and may do so rather frequently. In fact, he does make mistakes. (Who doesn’t?) He may be excoriated for his mistakes (sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly). He may even be emotionally bruised at times (when the criticism goes to the extent of disfiguring him, his cause, or even his family). But what you don’t find Jawar doing is a retreat.
What he can’t do is retreat in the face of opposition. Every day, he seems to be pushing and pushing and pushing himself to achieve something for his people. Achieve, he did. Perhaps, his achievements of the last five years alone are too numerous to recount on this platform.
As a fellow traveler on this journey (and as a compatriot and a friend), I ‘see’ Jawar at work every day. Beyond the daily routine, I see him as someone who tries to contribute his bit to the Oromo struggle for emancipation and to leave a mark on his people’s inexorable journey to victory. As we can all see, he has already made what is arguably the most important contribution to the resistance movement of recent years (eg, #OromoFirst, #OMN, #OromoProtets,#GrandOromoRally, #OromoRevolution #OLC, #LagannaaGabaa, etc, etc). The unprecedented successes of boycotts of the last few weeks and the ongoing stay-at-home protests are in part the result of his work on and offline, on social and conventional media outlets. That is why he is a phenomenon in the Oromo and/or Ethiopian politics of recent years. Yes, it is tough to be him and to not make mistakes. But there is no gainsaying that he is quite a presence, a force to reckon with. It comes as no surprise that the regime in Ethiopia seeks to make him one of the victims of its legal violence by prosecuting him, in absentia, “for inciting terrorism.”
To those who love to hate Jawar as a proxy for what he represents and stands for (as an Oromo), I would like to say, he is one of the best things that happened to Oromos, Ethiopians, and their politics. Yes, even to his detractors, he is the best thing that happened to them, albeit they don’t even know it. In this, he is like the entirety of the Oromo nation, which–even at its worst–is the best thing that “happened” to Ethiopia, although Ethiopia didn’t know it.