An Ethiopian singer freed: Movement of jah people – The Economist
The country’s Bob Marley can return to what he does best, at a price. (more…)
The country’s Bob Marley can return to what he does best, at a price.
IT WAS a euphoric week for younger Ethiopians. The country’s great long-distance runner, Kenenisa Bekele, ran down an Eritrean rival to win gold in the world athletics championships. Even better, the country’s most popular singer, Teddy Afro, was released from prison.
Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, says there are no political prisoners in his country. Human-rights activists and diplomats say there are thousands—and a lot of Ethiopians believe Mr Afro was one of them.
Mr Afro was jailed for a hit-and-run incident in 2006, despite always insisting that he was not in the car which the prosecution said knocked down and killed a homeless man in Addis Ababa. He served 16 months of a two-year sentence, which had already been reduced on appeal from six years on grounds of shaky evidence. His supporters, though, allege that his jailing had more to do with his third album, “Yasteseryal”, released just before the country’s last election in 2005. A lusty patriot who often sings, with funk and reggae influences, in praise of Ethiopia’s deposed emperor, Haile Selassie, Mr Afro got into trouble for songs which compared Mr Meles’s lot to a brutal junta.
The decision to release him was probably pragmatic. The government knows that it will have to win over unhappy young voters—Mr Afro’s fans—if it is to win next year’s general election convincingly. Officially, the singer’s release was for good behaviour. But it was probably also conditional on his avoiding political songs in the run up to the election. Mr Afro seems to be playing along, at least so far. He told the state media that he had a “nice” time in prison.
The worry for the government is that the release of Mr Afro will now throw the spotlight back on its jailing of Birtukan Mideksa, a charismatic young opposition leader, judge and single mother. Ms Mideksa had already spent 18 months behind bars before she was jailed again earlier this year for denying that she had asked for a pardon. Her supporters say she has had to spend much of the year in solitary confinement.