Health condition of arrested politician prompted protests across the Oromia region of Ethiopia.

Sources say Jawar Mohammed, a prominent Ethiopian politician, has been denied a medical treatment he badly needs. The news has sparked protests in many parts of Oromia, the largest and most populous region in the country.

Arfase Gemeda, Jawar’s wife who lives in the United States, tweeted that her husband “is critically ill. His face is swollen and he [is] unable to stand on his own.” In her tweets, she also expressed her concern saying the court turned down Jawar’s request to see his doctor.

Many people believe that Jawar Mohammed played the biggest role during the 2015-2018 Oromo protests that brought Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to power. Jawar, who resided in the United States at the time, used social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to organize protesters back home.

After he returned to Ethiopia, Jawar continued to criticize the prime minister for ignoring the Oromo people’s demands, and instead, trying to reincarnate the feudal system of the past Ethiopian regimes. This line of criticism resonated with many Oromos who expected much more from the man whom they thought better understands their grievances.

Oromos, Tigrayans, and other ethnic groups in the south of the country consider the Amhara-dominated regimes of King Menelik, King Haile Selassie, and Mengistu Hailemariam the “neftegna” system. They accuse the system of imposing the language, culture, and values of the Amhara people on them.

In Amharic, “neft” means a gun, and “Neftegna” refers to rulers of the north, mainly the Amharas, who “occupied” and ruled the Southern Ethiopia from the late 19th century to 1991.

Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, and other Oromo political leaders were detained on June 29th following the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer and activist. The government accuse Jawar Mohammed of forcing the body of Hachalu Hundessa, which was on its way to Ambo for burial, to return to Addis Ababa. Jawar denies the charge saying his arrest was politically motivated aimed at excluding him from the next election.

The news of Jawar Mohammed’s health condition has sparked anger in Oromia. Videos circulating on social media show young people chanting anti-government slogans. Some protesters were seen calling on the prime minster to step down.

News media outlets are reporting that the standoffs between angry crowds and government security forces has already led to deaths and injuries of unspecified number of people.

As many suspect, Abiy Ahmed might have arrested Jawar for political reasons, but whether in prison or not, the formidable politician will continue to pose a big challenge to his government.