The National - News

Gold medallist Gebrselass­ie says he is ready to fight Ethiopia rebels


Ethiopian Olympic gold medallist and world-renowned distance runner Haile Gebrselass­ie has pledged to join the fight against rebel forces in his country after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he had gone to direct the war from the front line.

The retired champion, 48, who set 27 long-distance running records, said he felt compelled to join the conflict because Ethiopia’s existence was under threat.

Gebrselass­ie said he would be willing to join the fight against the Tigrayan forces and their allies, who last month threatened to march on the national capital, Addis Ababa.

“What would you do when the existence of a country is at stake? You just put down everything. Alas, nothing will bind you. I am sorry,” he said.

The year-long conflict has already led to the deaths of thousands of people.

More than two million people have been driven from their homes by the fighting and 400,000 in the northern province of Tigray are facing a famine.

The threat by rebel forces to march on the Ethiopian capital led to internatio­nal efforts to broker a ceasefire.

On Wednesday, state-affiliated media reported that Mr Abiy had gone to direct the war from the front.

Gebrselass­ie cast the conflict as a battle in which the threat to Ethiopia was a threat to all of Africa.

“Ethiopia is a country that contribute­d a lot to Africa and the entire continent,” he said.

In his office in the capital, where he runs more than a dozen companies engaged in hospitalit­y, real estate, agricultur­e and education, Gebrselass­ie talked about of the role he was willing to play in the war.

“You expect me to say until death? Yes, that is the ultimate price in a war,” he said.

“There is no way that I can sit here due to fear because it will come to my door. We wouldn’t know when it comes. We wouldn’t know who will do what.”

The retired champion cast the conflict as a battle in which the threat to Ethiopia was a threat to all of Africa

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