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Gaafii fi Deebii itti aanaa dura ta’aa Kongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo, Obboo Baqqalaa Garbaa wajjin geggeeffame daawwadhaa.- VOA AFAAN OROMOO (JOURNALIST JALLANNEE GAMMADAA) INTERVIEWED BAQQALAA GARBAA, UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR AND DEPUTY LEADER OF OFC May 12, 2018

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Bekele gerba speaks

 

 

Healthy Man Lost His Both Legs to Torture in Ethiopian Prison

Bekele Gerba gave an interview to Voice of America Afaan Oromoo service about his experiences in Ethiopian prison. Mr Gerba touched on his unwavering philosophy and commitment to peaceful civil resistance which he believes has brought about significant changes in Ethiopian political arena. He also elaborated his hope in the future Ethiopian politics, mentioning his party’s (Oromo Federalist Congress, a party of which he deputy chairman) progress of continuing struggle for freedom, peace and prosperity of Ethiopia.

Asked about his view on philosophy of standing at odds with the normalized brutality, “There is nothing fulfilling as standing for freedom even in the worst of times“.

He narrated several politically motivated injustices done to him and his compatriots ranging from defaming, insult, beating and tortures to death.One of the stories he has spoken about amounts to crime against humanity. A story of a young man whose both legs are amputated after he had sustained a terminal injury to his one leg.

He was beaten and tortured, as a result of which one of his legs was deemed to be of no use and hence has to be amputated. He was admitted to a health facility for surgery and for an unknown reason he woke up from the anesthesia devoid of his healthy leg as it was amputated. He was later admitted for surgical removal of his maimed leg and he became without legs.

Mr Gerba didn’t specify the name of the prisoner or the health facility where the procedure was done.

What makes it inhumane again is that he wasn’t even fortunate to be benefited from the government’s amnesty but rather sentenced to life in prison.

You can listen to the full interview here

Related:-

Atlantic Council:- In February 2018, Eskinder Nega (left), a prominent Ethiopian journalist and blogger, and Bekele Gerba (right), the deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, an Ethiopian opposition party, were released from prison. They were jailed for years under the country’s anti-terrorism laws. During a live conversation at the Atlantic Council, Eskinder and Bekele underscored the imperative of non-violence in Ethiopia’s struggle for political reform and the pursuit of democracy.

 

 

 

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Ethiopia: End Game? Having achieved so much through protest, it is unlikely that the Ethiopian people will accept half-hearted reforms. #OromoProtests #OromoStrikes February 15, 2018

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Crowds waiting for Bekele Gerba, February 13, 2018

The protest movement playing out in Ethiopia is one of the most consequential conflicts on the African continent – more than any other, it has the potential to upend US policy in the Horn of Africa. It could disrupt counterterrorism efforts in Somalia and reduce the number of peacekeeping troops in South Sudan. But alarmingly, it has barely registered in Washington policy discussions or in the American press.

Ethiopia’s Oromo population is celebrating a victory today that is probably unprecedented in African history. Without extensive violence or bloodshed, and while almost all of its leading voices languished in jail, a grassroots protest movement has managed to force one of the most powerful regimes in Africa to surrender to its demands. As an organized strike involving tens of thousands of Oromo youths drew closer to the capital city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopian authorities agreed to release a host of important political prisoners, including Bekele Gerba, a compelling activist whose release from prison the government has fiercely resisted. (Just the week before, Bekele had been sentenced to an additional half-year behind bars, for the crime of singing a protest song in front a judge.)

In honor of Bekele Gerba’s release, the Oromo strikes were suspended, and the crowds in the street turned jubilant. Then, on February 14, authorities stunned and delighted the protestors further by releasing other extremely prominent dissidents (including among others the blogger Eskindir Nega, opposition leader Andualem Aragie, former Gambella Governor Okello Akway, and the Muslim religious freedom activist Ahmedin Jebel), some of whom had been imprisoned on “terrorism” charges for years.

ETWEET1

Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalagn had promised the release of a large number of political prisoners in early January, and did later release a number of political activists, including opposition leader Merera Gudina. Government officials claimed at the time that the move was intended to widen the political space and foster a genuine dialogue with the political opposition and with the ethnic-based protest movements. But skeptics (including the majority of protestors) saw the move as largely symbolic, and perhaps even calculated to sow discord within the opposition, as some individuals were released and not others, and particularly as the most influential figures remained behind bars.

After the events of February 13 and 14, however, there can be little doubt about the seriousness of the Ethiopian authorities. The severity and persistence of the protest movements have clearly become an existential threat to the regime, and the need to diffuse the protests’ momentum is imperative enough, apparently, to overcome differences of opinion between the so-called “moderate” and “hardliner” factions with the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is the most powerful faction with the ruling party.

The TPLF’s alarm is well-founded; the only question is whether its belated concessions to the protestors, after years of growing unrest, may be too little, too late. Anger at the perceived economic and political dominance of the small Tigrean ethnic faction is a moving force behind the protests, and the threat of a genocide or other targeted ethnic violence against Tigrean individuals appears to be escalating. Fearful Tigrean citizens have reportedly relocated in large numbers from the Amhara and Oromo regions of the country, and attacks on Tigreans (a rarity in the past) are reported. At the same time, violent clashes between other ethnic groups, particularly the Oromo and Somalis, have dramatically increased. Tensions are high across the board; the protestors are flush with victory; and the newly-released scores of political dissidents may vie for prominence. Is there any chance of the protests subsiding?

Probably not, though it is surely the TPLF’s hope that Bekele Gerba, Ahmedin Jebel, Eskindir Nega and their colleagues will prove to be wise and moderating voices in the coming dialogue. They have in the past not only been decisively less radical, but have been firmly committed to non-violence – unlike the radio and social media personalities, some of the based in the diaspora, that have risen to prominence in their absence and are now driving the opposition discourse in real time.

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Having achieved so much through protest, it is unlikely that the Ethiopian people will accept half-hearted reforms. Speculation is rampant, for example, that Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalagn – who is not Tigrean but is widely regarded as an instrument of the TPLF elite – will be replaced with an Oromo at the ruling party’s upcoming conference in three weeks’ time. (Lema Megersa, president of the Oromia Regional State, is a prime focus of this speculation.) These rumors are mere speculation, but have taken on the force of expectation, and disappointment could easily lead to another round of protests. Another round of civilian deaths at the hands of Ethiopian security forces, or the declaration of another state of emergency, could have the same effect. Next time, the Ethiopian government’s concessions may not be enough to halt the protests. If dialogue fails, and the security forces are unleashed, the resulting conflict will be bloody and awful – and will certainly not succeed in ending the uprising.

ETWEET3.1

Implications for US Policy

Washington, of course, has every incentive to avoid such a scenario.

The United States has much at stake in Ethiopia, whose troops and cooperation have been essential to Washington’s efforts to stabilize Somalia and South Sudan. American strategy in the Horn of Africa is deeply flawed and is demonstrably failing to achieve its objectives (as the situation in both countries continues to deteriorate). But no alternative policy proposals are on table, and a sudden collapse of Ethiopian capacity to support American policies with African boots on the ground would be catastrophic. The African Union mission in Somalia, already on its last legs, would probably not survive a sudden and wholesale withdrawal of Ethiopian forces – and countless civilian lives in Southern Sudan would be endangered. A disordered Ethiopia is of course more vulnerable to incursions by the al Qaeda-linked Somali terror group, al Shabaab, which has already managed to establish a vibrant offshoot in Kenya amid similar social conditions (a large population of unemployed youths, a disenfranchised and villified Muslim population, and rampant police brutality).

Unfortunately, few countries are more poorly positioned than the United States to play a constructive role in Ethiopia’s future. This stems from Washington’s long history of providing budgetary support to the Ethiopia’s ruling party, the close cooperation between the two countries’ military and intelligence services, and the long-standing refusal of American officials to criticize the human rights record of the regime or to challenge the imprisonment of thousands of civilians.

Washington’s silence on Ethiopia’s deteriorating human rights and security situation is a result of many factors. First and foremost, of course, the Ethiopian regime has served as Washington’s indispensable partner in the “war on terrorism” since the early 2000s. Second, the former prime minister and architect of the ruling party, Meles Zenawi, cultivated warm personal friendships with senior American policymakers who subsequently championed the regime and shield it from public criticism. Third, as is the case in Rwanda, Western policymakers paraded Ethiopia as an “African success story” as a means of facilitating continued aid and investment to the continent, and drawing attention to the human rights narrative was inconvenient. Fourth – and not least important – public criticism of the Ethiopian regime was found by American diplomats not to work very well: over the years it has resulted in numerous journalists, diplomats and American non-governmental organizations being expelled from Ethiopia over the years, without causing a whiff of improvement in the regime’s conduct. And Ethiopia’s ability to restrict access to the African Union (AU headquarters are located in Addis) has led many otherwise reputable analysts and journalists to practice self-censorship. Ethiopia has also proved very willing to retaliate against diplomatic pressure by holding American security interests hostage: in September 2017, for example, when the House Subcommittee on African Affairs attempted to pass a resolution drawing attention to Ethiopia’s human rights abuses, Ethiopia’s then-ambassador to the United States, Girma Birru, visited the Subcommittee members and threatened to withhold counterterror cooperation in Somalia. Faced with this threat, the Subcommittee immediately abandoned the resolution. (The Subcommittee threatened yesterday to bring the resolution to the floor for a vote on February 28, unless the Ethiopian government gives UN investigatory teams access to the country.)

The most credible voices among the protest movement have already condemned US inaction, and would not consent to a dialogue with US officials – indeed, they argue that engaging with Washington would erode their credibility, and they are probably right. Washington can of course attempt to pressure or persuade the TPLF to undertake credible and meaningful reforms – but Washington’s chequered diplomatic history with Addis suggests that such efforts are unlikely to bear fruit. It is also unclear what reforms would appease the public: while there have been calls for Ethiopian security forces to leave the Oromo and Amhara and other regions (including the Somali or “Ogaden” zone), absolutely no one is demanding fresh elections (which have historically been heavily rigged) or other staple democratic measures to restore the peace.

The next month, and days, will be decisive. The Ethiopian regime will either commit to its current course and expand on its commitment to reform, signaling this commitment perhaps by offering the prime ministership to an Oromo leader. Or it will double down on its previous course, and declare a state of emergency. But this would be a deadly decision, as a new state of emergency would surely be regarded by opposition leaders and the protestors as a declaration of war.

Ethiopia’s only hope for peace is a series of rapid and sincere concessions by the TPLF elite, which must certainly involve a meaningful redistribution of political and economic power. The Ethiopian public has tasted its power, and one way or another, the status quo will not survive.

Bronwyn Bruton is deputy director and director of programs and studies in the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. Follow her on Twitter @BronwynBruton.


Related  Articles:

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Ethiopia: #OromoProtests: Oromia state rocked by protests. Oromo leader and prisoner of conscience Bekele Gerba freed, Oromia Economist

 

Simannaa obbo Baqqaalaa Garbaa Adaamaa- Obbo Baqqaa is a wise leader, Kichuu

Ethiopia: Top Oromo Opposition Leader Freed from Prison, Democracy NowHEAD LINE FEB 14, 2018

Ethiopia’s Oromia region celebrates release of political detainees, Africa News

Washington puts Ethiopia’s human rights abusers on notice, The Hill

The release of Ethiopian political prisoners, Addis Standard

Ethiopia: The relentless protests that forced the Prime Minister to resign, African Arguments

Ethiopia’s prime minister resigns amid political turmoil, WP

Ethiopia ‘at crossroads’ after Hailemariam resignation, Al Jazeera News

Ethiopia: Prisoner Release Should Be First Step, Freedom House, 14 Feb. 2018

Bekele Gerba, a university Professor & one of the prominent political prisoners is in a critical condition denied of medical care in #Ethiopia. #MedicalCare4BekeleGerba #FreeBekeleGerba #OromoProtests @ScholarsAtRisk February 1, 2018

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

Free Bekele Gerba and all political prisonners in Ethiopia


Bekele Gerba, a university Professor & one of the prominent political prisoners is in a critical condition denied of medical care in Ethiopia. #MedicalCare4BekeleGerba #FreeBekeleGerba #OromoProtests @ScholarsAtRisk

NEWS: IMPRISONED OPPOSITION LEADER BEKELE GERBA RISKS LOSING LEFT EYE VISION, HIS DISTRAUGHT DAUGHTER SAYS    

Obbo Baqqalaa Garbaa Wal’ansa Fayyaa Dhabuun Nu Gaddisiisa: Maatii, VOA Afaan Oromoo

አቶ በቀለ ገርባ ግራ ዐይናቸው መጎዳቱን ልጃቸው ቦንቱ በቀለ ገለፀች. VOA


#MedicalCare4BekeleGerba: Activists launch online campaign amid jailed leader’s deteriorating health,  OPride 


Ethiopian activists on Thursday launched an online campaign demanding the release of and immediate medical treatment for jailed Oromo opposition leader, Bekele Gerba. The campaign is themed, “Bekele Gerba’s eye is our eye. He won’t lose his sight while we watch idly.”

Bekele, the deputy chairperson of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), is at risk of losing his eyesight due to hypertension and other health issues. The Qilinto prison administration, where he has been held since December 2015 accused, among other things, of inciting the #OromoProtests, have refused to allow Bekele to seek medical treatment at a local private clinic despite a referral from government hospital in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Bekele, a champion of nonviolent movement and who during previous prison term translated Martin Luther King’s speeches to Afaan Oromo, was widely expected to be released as part of government amnesty announced last month. However, so far, authorities have remained tight-lipped about whether his release and the release of other prominent political prisoners is forthcoming. Merera Gudina, the chairperson of OFC, was released 12 days ago.

“The doctors told us Bekele needs specialized doctors to treat his retinal blood vessels which are severely damaged due to a high blood pressure he has been experiencing since his detention, which has not been treated,” his distraught daughter, Bontu, told Addis Standard on Thursday. “We don’t know what is going to happen, my father’s left eye vision is completely blurred and he is in pain.”

At the last check-up, Bekele’s blood pressure reportedly came in at 190/110, which according to Addis Standard, “is considered hypertensive crisis or an emergency.” 

A quick timeline of Bekele’s ordeal:

  • Bekele was detained in December 2015 for allegedly inciting the popular Oromo protests.
  • Bekele was charged in April 2016 along with 21 defendants that included defendants Dejene Fita Geleta, Secretary General of OFC, and Gurmesa Ayano, another senior member, with various articles of the country’s sweeping Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.
  • A federal high court in July acquitted five of the 22 defendants, and reduced the terrorism charge against Bekele to crime charges under article 257/A of the 2004 Criminal Code.
  • In August, a panel of three judges at the Federal High Court denied Bekele’s request for bail.
  • On Oct. 30, 2017, the  Supreme Court overruled the high court decision and granted Bekele bail on appeal.
  • The court ordered Bekele’s release pursuant the posting of bail bond for 30, 000 birr (about $1, 000.)
  • On Oct. 31, the Qilinto prison administration refused to release Bekele claiming that the file number was incorrect.
  • On Nov. 1, the high instance court, also known as cassaction bench, suspended the bail. Bekele was asked to file a response.


Fairfield University students work to free imprisoned Ethiopian professor Bekele Gerba, a peace activist who has translated the works of Martin Luther King April 24, 2017

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CT Post: Fairfield U. students work to free imprisoned Ethiopian professor

 Linda Conner Lambeck, April 21, 2017


FAIRFIELD — Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes baked by Molly McNamee in her Fairfield University town house probably won’t lead to the release of Bekele Gerba, a professor locked away in an Ethiopian prison.

But it will educate more students about the cause.

“Cupcakes are an attention grabber,” said Adrienne Sgarlato, a Fairfield senior from West Caldwell, N.J., said. “College students are always looking for an incentive.”

Attached to each cupcake the students grabbed Friday on their way in and out of the DiMenna Nyselius Library was a fact about Gerba:

“This is Gerba’s second time being imprisoned.”

“It is speculated that Professor Gerba’s arrest was a reaction to the protests taking place across the Oromia region.”

“An Ethiopian court brought terrorism-related charges against Professor Gerba and 21 others in connection with the protests.”

Professor Janie Leatherman, who leads a service learning class called International Human Rights, called the cupcake idea clever.

“When you do work in peace and conflict resolution, you have to think about what kinds of tools you can use that will end up in the hands of those you want to influence,” Leatherman said. “In terms of outreach and advocacy, cupcakes — with a message —is something very indigenous to this community.”

Leatherman’s class devoted a week to educating the larger university community about Gerba, a professor of foreign languages at Addis Ababa University and a peace activist who has translated the works of Martin Luther King into Ethiopian. Gerba was also First Secretary General of the Oromo Federalist Congress, a political party, and his latest arrest came in December 2015. Terrorism charges were later leveled against him.

Other student events included a panel discussion, a research symposium and a celebration of Ethiopian food and music. At every event, a petition the class started calling for Gerba’s release grew longer.

Leatherman consulted with Scholars at Risk, an international advocacy group that works to free educators and others who become political prisoners, before the course began.

Last year, Leatherman taught a class called Politics and Humanitarian Action, that worked to free Mohammad Hossein Rafiee, an imprisoned chemist in Iran. The work included a meeting with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights on Iran, and subsequently a visit to the UN. The class wrote a 50-page case dossier on Rafiee.

Last September, after spending 15 months in prison, Rafiee was released on medical furlough, due to poor health, and was allowed to recuperate at home, without guards.

“We are still concerned about his well-being,” Leatherman said.

She said she believes the work of the class helped elevate the case. And Clare Farne Robinson, an advocacy director for Scholars at Risk, said if it weren’t for the students’ efforts, the case would most likely have missed out on this larger, international audience.

“I am confident that the increased pressure that the students (and others) placed on Iran had a role to play in this,” Robinson said. The class also was in contact with Rafiee’s family, giving them hope.

The 16 students in Leatherman’s current class are hoping for a similar outcome.

“It is not out of reach,” said Jessica Held, an international studies and Spanish major from Pelham, N.Y.

Held said it is important to spread the word.

“People in this class are like-minded,” she said. “There are kids who are not. Who don’t really know as much about world issues.”

McNamee, a junior from Lowell, Mass., said she never knew there were classes like this.

“It’s cool to be working on something that can change another human’s life,” she said.

Leatherman also works with Alfred Babo, a sociology professor, in teaching the class, which touches on the broader topics of human rights and ethnic strife in Ethiopia in addition to fighting specifically for Gerba’s freedom.


 

Africa Times: Update: Ethiopian police release Oromo leader Bekele Gerba’s daughter October 1, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomistbontu-bekele-gerbaFree Bekele Gerba and all political prisonners in Ethiopia

 

 

Update: Ethiopian police release Oromo leader Bekele Gerba’s daughter

By AT editor 30 September 2016


(Africa Times) — Oromo rights activists said Friday that Bontu Bekele Gerba, daughter of the imprisoned Oromo political opposition leader in Ethiopia, had been released after security forces detained her in the town of Mojo.

Independent Oromo journalist Mohammed Ademo, a former al Jazeera America columnist based in the United States, said the family’s lawyer confirmed the late-afternoon disappearance.

Ademo and other Oromo advocates immediately took to social media, some demanding that U.S. officials and international NGOs confirm her whereabouts and intervene as necessary.

Journalist Jawar Mohammed, executive director for the Oromio Media Network in the U.S., reported that she was released after being detained for questioning at a Mojo police station.

Bontu Bekele Gerba is a political activist in her own right, speaking often to media organizations and Ethiopian activists on behalf of her father, a leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, and the movement.

The elder Bekele Gerba was most recently detained at Ethiopia’s Kilinto Prison in Addis Ababa, a maximum-security facility where high-profile political prisoners and anti-government protesters are incarcerated. He was rearrested in December following a short release and since remained at the facility, where a fire claimed 23 lives in early September, according to official Ethiopian government totals.

Bontu Bekele Gerba led a search for her father when prison authorities failed to provide information to anxious families who knew nothing of their loved ones’ fate, and spoke publicly again on their behalf.

Her father’s initial 2011 arrest followed a meeting with Amnesty International researchers that led to terrorism charges, which are often used by Ethiopia to silence political dissidents including the Oromo.

Global concern for the 30 million Oromo living under President Mulatu Teshome has increased, following a year in which at least 500 hundred Ethiopians died in violent clashes with security forces.

That visibility was raised following the protest of Ethiopian Feyisa Lelisa at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and his subsequent application for U.S. asylum. Activists in the U.S. have held large protest marches, most recently on Thursday in Washington D.C., on behalf of the Oromo.

AI: Heading the Wrong Way: The Ever Closing Political Space in Ethiopia May 24, 2016

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Odaa Oromoo#OromoProtests against the Ethiopian regime fascist tyranny. Join the peaceful movement for justice, democracy, development and freedom of Oromo and other oppressed people in EthiopiaAmnesty International

Heading the Wrong Way: The Ever Closing Political Space in Ethiopia

, Amnesty International USA, 22 May 2016

 

Ethiopia human rights protest

By Adotei Akwei,Managing Director for Government Relations and Kayla Chen, Government Relations and Individuals at Risk Intern at Amnesty International USA

Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a growing trend of evaporating political space. Non-governmental organizations are being heavily and often violently restricted, and newspapers, bloggers and other voices of dissent or criticism are being silenced or intimidated into exile.

In some countries such as Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, heads of state are rewriting their constitutions to eliminate term limits, in the process using security forces to squash protests from both political opposition and civil society. In other countries such as in Angola, the governments make use of their control over their judiciariesto intimidate or bury critics and youth activists in legal processes that cripple them financially or trap in never ending trials. Elsewhere, governments invoke the specter of terrorism and threats to national security as justification for passing sweeping laws whose interpretation empowers them to impose draconian penalties on oppositional parties and civil society, with little regard for international standards of due process or international and regional rights standards on freedom of expression, association and assembly.

In several countries government authorities have cracked down on nonviolent protests with violence. On Monday May 17, the Kenyan security forces brutally beat nonviolent demonstrations organized by the opposition Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to demand the dismissal of the members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

TOPSHOT - Protestors run from water canons after Kenya's opposition supporters demonstrated in Nairobi, on May 16, 2016. Opposition protestors led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga had gathered outside the Indepedent Electoral and Boundaries Comission building to demand the dismissal of IEBC commissioners from office citing alleged bias towards the ruling Jubillee Alliance Party. / AFP / CARL DE SOUZA        (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

On the 6th of May the Ugandan police beat demonstrators who had gathered after it was announced that opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye would face the death penaltyfor charges of treason.

Ethiopia has been at the forefront of this wave of violent intolerance. Members of the Oromo ethnic group are facing a brutal crackdown following initially peaceful protests that started in the fall of 2015. Some estimates place the number of persons killed at the beginning of 2016 at over 400. Thousands have been detained and hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed. The violent crackdown is consistent with the violent security force crackdowns in Oromia in 2014 and in Konso in March 2016 as well as against other protests.

Closing of Political Space in Ethiopia

This is the reality facing Ethiopians whom the  government  designates opponents of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The government heavily restricts freedom of expression and association, and severely constrains political space, especially for civil society organizations.

In the 2015 elections, the EPRDF and its allies claimed all of 547 seats in Parliament amid concern over the lack of conditions for free and fair elections. It has become virtually impossible to question, challenge or protest against any action of the government.  According to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index,  Ethiopia ranks 91 out of 102 countries with severe constraints on government powers and fundamental rights.  Freedom House also rated the country “not free”. Ethiopia scores 6 out of 7, on a scale of 1-7 from free to not free, on both civil liberties and political rights. Civil society organizations have been forced to close, thousands of political prisoners are languishing in prisons, and human rights defenders who dare to speak out are forcibly imprisoned and beaten.

The use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation Act continues to be used to silence journalists and other critics who dare to speak out. People like noted journalist Eskinder Nega, Oromo leader Bekele Gerba, and Anuak Land rights activist Okello Akway Ochalla are all behind bars and charged with terrorism for opposing the government policies. They are just three individual stories of many who are suffering under the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on human rights.

Eskinder Nega was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2012 for fulfilling his role as a journalist and questioning the use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to arrest those that criticized the government.  This was not the first time Eskinder had faced unjust retaliation due to his refusal to be silenced.  Eskinder’s son Nafkot was born in prison in 2005 when both Eskinder and hjs wife Serkalem were imprisoned for criticizing the government’s killing of nearly 200 people in post-election protests in 2005. Four years later after he was unjustly convicted and imprisoned once again, Eskinder Nega still languishes behind bars and more convictions have been handed down using the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.

Bekele Gerba, a prominent leader of the Oromo Federalist Party, visited the United States last August after his release prior to President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia. He told NPR that Obama’s visit to Ethiopia last summer was a trip that sent the wrong message of solidarity to a repressive government with very little support from its own people. He also expresseduncertainty in regards to his freedom when he returned back to Ethiopia. A few months after his return Bekele was arrested on December 23, 2015 and held in a 4m X 5m cell with 21 others.  Bekele and his counterparts were charged on April 22, 2016 with various provisions  set forth in the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.  This charge is clearly meant to silence him and others who dare to criticize and oppose the current regime.

Okello Akway Ochalla, a Norwegian citizen, was abducted from Juba, South Sudan, two years ago and ended up in an Addis Ababa court where he was sentenced to nine years in prison on April 27, 2016. Okello was the governor of the Gambella region, a key location of land grabbing and forced relocation by the Ethiopian Government, before escaping the country following a massacre of his people, the Anuaks, in 2003.  Abducted from South Sudan in 2014 and brought back to Ethiopia, Okello was charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation for speaking to the international media about the massacre of his people and the ongoing struggle of the people of Gambella. Rights groups are alarmed that the primary evidence used to convict Okello was a confession obtained while Okello was in solitary confinement. There have been reports that Okello was beaten and tortured. His trial highlights serious failures of due process and the rule of law in the Ethiopian courts.

More laws are being drafted by the Ethiopian government that confirm it will continue to suppress opposition and dissent. Current government policies of making access to education, government jobs and services contingent on party membership, forcing citizens to undergo “policy trainings” of indoctrination, and widespread monitoring of all public spaces has created an environment of fear with no room for public debate.

Despite all this, the ruling ERPD still enjoys support from the international community.  The United States recently renewed a new defense and security cooperation agreement with Ethiopia, which is being trumpeted as U.S. support of the Ethiopian government’s policies, including the military’s excessive use of force. Ethiopia also continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States, the European Union and other countries in development and humanitarian aid.

It is crucial that governments that commit human rights violations be held to the spotlight and pressed to be accountable. Countries that provide assistance to those governments need to prioritize respect for, and protection of human rights for several reasons.

First, grave human rights violations can further stymy development and it potentially drives voices of dissent to abandon non-violence.

Second, supporting an oppressive regime for the sake of regional security will only further destabilize a region already ravaged by conflict, unclear borders, poverty and lack of respect for the rule of law, all in the pursuit of short term stability.

The Ethiopian people deserve better than that.


http://blog.amnestyusa.org/africa/heading-the-wrong-way-the-ever-closing-political-space-in-ethiopia/

Demand the Immediate Release of Oromo Peace Activist Bekele Gerba from Ethiopian Prison January 5, 2016

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Odaa Oromoo

Free Bekele Gerba

 

Baqqalaa Garbaa

https://www.change.org/p/demand-oromo-peace-activist-bekele-gerba-s-immediate-release-from-ethiopian-prison

On the evening of Dec 23, 2015, Bekele Gerba, was at home, reading at his desk in the company of his wife and son when armed Ethiopian federal security forces surrounded his home, entered and searched his house against his will, and forcibly arrested him. His family and witnesses were told that he would be taken to Makalawi, an infamous high security prison where they could visit him in 24 hours. But they were not allowed to see him. The day he was scheduled to appear in court, he disappeared. Later, he was taken to a hospital where word got out that he had been beaten to unconsciousness during an interrogation at a military camp. He continues to be denied visitation. Right now, he is being held incommunicado, and we have grave concerns that his health is deteriorating.

Bekele Gerba is the Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress party and a widely respected peace advocate. He is a renowned voice for nonviolence, urging only peaceful forms of resistance to violent oppression in Ethiopia.  He envisions peaceful struggle as the preferred means for attaining democracy, unity, and justice. He has become a significant voice of this generation. 

His arrest late December was not his first. In August 2011, following a meeting with Amnesty International about Ethiopia’s human rights violations, Bekele was imprisoned, charged under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism proclamation and sentenced to eight years. Similarly trumped up charges are frequently used to silence any voice of opposition to the government. He was released in late March 2015 upon appeal, and upon his release, he was invited to the U.S. to deliver keynote remarksat an academic conference.  He spent a week in Washington, meeting with members of the diplomatic community. He met with Congress members, State Department officials, media outlets and human rights groups. He gave an interview to NPR’s Michele Kelemen about the lack of political space in Ethiopia and to Al Jazeera’s The Stream.Recently, he spoke to Al Jazeera about the Ethiopian government’sviolent crackdown on widespread Oromo protests against proposed large-scale land takeovers that will displace millions of farmers.

For most of his life, Bekele was a professor of foreign languages. A few years ago, he declared that he could not simply witness the widespread and systematic oppression, ethnic persecution and grievances of his people, the Oromo, and the Ethiopian government’s merciless targeting and killing of the Oromo. Amnesty International reported, “between 2011 and 2014, at least 5000 Oromos have been arrested based on their actual or suspected peaceful opposition to the government.”  Now thousands more are being rounded up and arrested by federal security for participating in peaceful protests.

Please stand with Bekele and join me in signing this petition calling for the immediate release of Bekele Gerba. And please send this petition to your Representatives and Senators.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”- MLK

https://www.change.org/p/demand-oromo-peace-activist-bekele-gerba-s-immediate-release-from-ethiopian-prison

LETTER TO
Pres. Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, UN Amb. Samantha Power, UN General Sec. Ban Ki Moon
Representative Ed Royce
Representative Chris Smith
and 2 others

Oromia: Baqqalaa Garbaa Woyyaaneen maaliif hiitee akkas itti taphatte? September 8, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Baqqalaa Garbaa, Because I am Oromo.
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Baqqalaa Garbaa Woyyaaneen maaliif hiitee akkas itti taphatte?

Awash Post, Birraa (September) 8 Bara 2015

 

Abdii Gammachuu: Bilisummaan nuti laga, gaaraafi daggala keessa barbaannu daandii Finfinnee, Amboofi Adaamaa irra jirti. Nuti onnee hidhamuufi mindaa baatii muraasaa dhabuuf qophoofte qabna taanaan.

Hedduun keenya ob.Baqqalaa Garbaa osoo inni hinhidhamin dura irra jireessatti oduudhaan beekna. Yeroo inni mana hidhaa tureefi mana murtii deddeebi’us daran isa barre, waa’ee isaa kan odeeffamus hanga tokko dhageenye. Baqqalaa qajeelatti kan barre, akka yaada namoota hedduutti, erga inni mana hidhaatii bayee asi.

Ob. Baqqalaan sabboonaa Oromoo isa dhugaati. Isa waan itti amanu hojjatuufi isa saba isaaf jedhee lubbuu isaafi jireenya maatii isaa hallayyaa irraan tiratu. Baqqalaan nama rakkoo Oromoo hubatuufi nama ammas daandiin hallayyaa rakoofi qaanii kana keessaa ittiin baanu itti mul’atu. Baqqalaan sabboonaa figoota Oromoo qofa osoo hintaane gamnaafi nama siyaasni galeef. Egaa Woyyaaneen murataafi dhimma oromoo irraa akkas dubbataa kana kan ganna hedduuf nurraa hiitee dararaa turte. Oromoof namni gaariin hinbarakatu. Kan mataa olqabate, dhugaa qabatee waa’ee saba isaan quuqamaa dubbate mootummaan usee hin ilaalu. Namni ummtaaf firaa mootummaaf diina. Mootummaan yeroo hunda isa ummnni jaalatuufi abdatu kan hidhee itti taphatu. Kan abshaalummaafi bilchinaan fundura isaa dhabbate mootummaan ilkaan itti qarate.

Woyyaaneen dhaadannoo keenya hindhageettu, bookkisa keenyas akka sodachisaatti hinfudhattu. Hunda tuffatti. Kolfaa bira dabarti. Kan isii sodaachisu, hirriba malee halkan guutuu isii teessisu, isa mataa gadi qabatee, tarsiimoofi tooftaa isii qajeellotti hubatee, dadhabinaafi cimina isiis gargar baafatee, tooftaa tolfatee harka garaa jalaan isii balleessuu hujii godhateedha. Isa alaa bookisuufi geerraru osoo hintaane xiinxanaa keessaatitu nuballeessa, umrii keenya gabaabsa jedhaniiti kan hedduu sodaatan. Mallas Zeenaawiis yeroo lubbuun jirutti namootuma ykn gareedhuma akkanaa irraa fagotti uf tiksaa ture. Hundaafis dhaamee kan darbe kanuma. Baqqalaan leenca Finfinnee keessatti gogaa hoolaa uffatee fundura isaanii dhaabbate ta’uu mootummaan hubate; mirkaneeffate. Bofni mataa olqabate rukutamuu hinqabuu? Yeroo isaanitti hinfudhanne. Akuma innuu irra deddeebi’ee dubbate, ragaa sobaa wolitti qabatanii, mana hidhaa Kangaroo uumatanii murtii hamaa Baqqalaa irratti dabarsan.

Yaanni cimaan qawwee caala

Baqqalaa waan hanga ammaatti raawwatee miti kan rakkoo kana hundaaf isa saaxile, akka amantaa kootti. Humna (potential) fi yaada (idea) inni qabuudha mootummaan qaxxaamura guddaa akka isarra kaayu kan godhe.  Dhugumatti yaanni nama kanaafi dandeettiin isaa, deeggarsa ummata bal’aa argate taanaan, gaaga’amni inni sirna abbaa irree kana irraan gayu salphaa hinta’u. Hubannoofi amantaan mootummichaas kanuma.

Mootumichi nama ummata ufjala hiriirsu, nama hawaasa onnachiisuu, isa tooftaa tarsiimoo isaanii jalaa ittiin fashaleessu qabatee mul’atu tasa arguu hinfedhu. Mormituun heddu. Hooggantoonni paartilee mormitootaas baay’ina dhaabilee siyaasaa yoo caalan malee hinhanqatan.  Dhaabuma Baqqalaan keessa jiru keessatti kan isaa olitti angoo qabu jira. Hoogganoota heddu, Dr. Mararaaas dabalatee,  hireen harka mootummaa kanaatti mana hidhaatti tortoruu isaan hinmudanne. Baqqalaan, hundi beektu,  dhaabicha keessatti nama lammaffaati. Tapha dirree siyaasa irratti, biyyuma abbaa irree keessattis, dhaaba seeraan galmaayee socho’u tokko keessatti nama sadarkaa ol’aanaa irra jiru sababuma xiqqoon (sanuu uumanii) mana hidhaatti galchanii duubaan namatti cufuun kasaaraa siyaasaa heddu akka qabu ykn fiduu malu tilmaamama. Mootummaan Itoophiyaas gaafa Baqqalaa Garbaa hidhuuf murteessu kuni jalaa hindhokanne.  Garuu, mootummaan maaliif Baqqalaa hidhuuf murteesse? Deebiin gabaabaan mootummaan filannoo ufii baduu ykn Baqqalaa balleessuu irra gayuu isaa agarra. Namni qawwee mitii shimala cimaa hinqabne tokko akkam akkasitti mootummaadhaan sodaatama jedchuun keessan hinhafu. Maaliif jennaan yeroo heddu hedduun keenya kan namni dhuunfaas ta’ee mootummaan baay’ee sodaatu qawweedha jennee waan amannuuf. Dhuguma qawween waan sodaatamu. Dhimmi Baqqalaa qawween alatti wonti sodaatamu heddu akka jiru ifatti mul’ise; hubannoofi amantaa keenya kan  hanga ammaa qabnu hanga  tokkos ta’u irra debinee akka gamaaggamnu osoo nuhindirqin hinhafne. Yaanni namoota irraa dhagayamaarus kanuma calaqqisa.

Yaanni cimaan qawweefi boombii akka caalu dhagayuu hinoolle. Viktor Huugoon wanni tokko woraana addunyaa hunda caalu yaada yeroon isaa geette jechuu isaa quba qabduu? Baqqalaan Garbaa yaada yeroon isaa geette qabateeti kan socho’u: hundi keenya dandii Finfinnee, Amboo, Adaamaa, Naqamte, Ciroo, Roobee, Jimma, Asallaafi Yaaballoo irratti akka tokkotti  mootummaa nu saamu, nu ajjeesuufi nubuqqisu afoo dhaabbachuu qabna jechuun isaa. Heedduu keenyatti yaanni kuni kan hojjatu fakkaatee hinmul’atu. Mootumichi garuu yaanni kuni hundarra hedduu hamaa fi yaada yeroon isaa geette ta’uu qajeelchee beeka. Mallas Zeenaawii kan angoo barbaaduufi isa haqa isaa gafatuuf mirga gaara bahuu ykn dagallatti galuu malee mirga haqa isaa daandii Finfinnee, Amboofi Adaamaa irratti gafachuu hinlaanne. Diinni karaa ittiin injifatan namatti mul’isaa? Hattuun faana waan hattee namatti argisiistii? Dhimmoonni biraa akkuma jiranitti ta’ee, jechummaan Mallas suni karaa ittiin qabsoofnee mirga keenna argannuu waan nutti himu heddu ufkeessaa qaba; qalbiidhaan yoo waa xiinxalluu kan dandeennu ta’e. Haga ammaatti iccitiin dubbii kanaa kan galeef Baqqalaafi namoota muraasa qofaaf. Hedduun qabsaawota keenyaa dirree diinni itti naaf bayi jedhu irratti kan argamuu fedhan. Kuni namoota tokko tokkotti gootummaa fakkaatuu nimala. Akka tarsiimootti garuu, kuni isa injifannotti nama geessuu miti. Sun Zuun, abbaa tarsiimoo kan jedhamu, diina keessan kallattiin dhaqaa rukutaa hinjenne. Kan inni addunyaa gorse dadhabina diinaa gargar baasaa san booda bakka qaawwalti jirtuun seenaa rukutaadha.

Eenyummaa Baqqalaafi balaa inni sirnicha irraan gayuu danda’u qajeelatti kan hubate mootummaan, bitaa fi mirga erga ilaalee booda, nama akkanaa ummata keessatti gadi lakkisuu mannaa itti cufanii iyyiisnsa Dayaaspooraa,  balaaleffannaa mootummoota dhihaa fi jaarmayaalee mirga namaaf falman keessummeessuu woyyaa filate.  Santu irra laafaa ta’eeti kan Woyyaanetti mul’ate. Waan dogoggoraanis hinfakkaatu. Kanneen eenyummaa Baqqalaa akka gaaritti hubataniif tankaarfiin isaanii sirriidha. Kabajaa mirga bineensotaafi jettee bofa si’idduuf jiru ufitti hindhiistu. Woyyaanetti iyyiinsa Dayaaspooraa ilkaan hinqabneefi balaaleffannaa jaarmayaalee mirga namaaf falman irraa balaan Baqqalaa gessu  hedduu guddaafi yaachisaa itti ta’e. Kanaaf kan jiruu isaa irraa buqqisanii Zuwaayitti dabarsan.

Murannoon waan itti amane qabachuufi onneedhaan daandii Oromoo nibaasa jedhe irra dhaabbachuu qofaa miti kan Baqqalaa Garbaa adda godhu. Haala amma keessa jirru kanatti daandii Oromoo rakkoo keessaa baasuufi qabsoo deemsisu akka gaaritti adda baafata. Tooftaa diinaa nihubata. Tarsiimoon balaan sabicharra gayaa jiru ittiin qolachuun danda’amus akka dansatti itti mul’ata. Karaan rakkoo keessaa ittiin baanu heddu akka jirus irra deddeebi’ee dubbata. Inni garuu kan irra gabaabaafi baasii (lubbuufi qabeenyaanis) irra xiqqaa gaafatu akka filmaata jalqabaatti fudhata. Karaan rakkoo keessaa ittiin baanu heddu. Ta’us, inni qoree hinqabne, kan gufuun hindanqamne tokkollee hinjiru. Karaa gabaabaaf isa gufuun itti hinheddummaanne adda baafachuufi filachuun gamnummaadha. Karaa kiyya malee daandiin biraa hinjiru jechaa wolafoo dhaabachuudha kan umrii qabsoo dheeresse; inuma bakka tokko tokkotti kan ummata qilee irraa balleesse. Hubannaa siyaasa sadarkaa kanaa qabaachuun mootummatti  amuummachuudha. Kanaafis Baqqalaan qarriffaa diinaa keessa seene.

Gaarummaan Baqqalaa heddu. Namni haasawa Baqqalaa Garbaa tibbana godhaa ture dhaggeeffate cimina nama kanaa heddu hubata. Gama kootiin namni danddeettii haasawa isaa hindinqisiifanne heddu na hinqunnamne. Akka nama hundaa galautti, haasawuu qofa osoo hintaane sadarkaan ufitti amaniinsa isaa hedduu guddaadha. Nama siyaasa tokko irraas kan eeggamu qabxiin tokko kana. Nama danddeettii gudada qabu , nama dubbatee nama amansiisu, haasawaan nama harkisu Woyyaaneen arguu hinfeetu; keessattuu yoo namni suni Oromoo ta’e. Baqqalaan akkas yaadaan, jechaan, gochaan hedduu cimaa ta’ee mul’achuun isaa qorra sodaa worra angoo irra jirutti gadi lakkise; isaan roqomsiise. Gara sababuma hinjirreen harkaafi miila sabboonaa Oromoo kana xaxuutti isaan geesse.

Qabsoon karaa nagaa Oromoof ni hojjata

Mootummaan namoota akka Baqqalaa kanniin qawwee mitii dullaa sona qabu hinqabne kan akkas sodaatuuf waa malee miti. Yaanni Baqqalaan faati deemaniin, qawwee kan caaluufi samuufi onnee namaa keessatti facaafamee hidda godhannaan kufaatii guddaa kan qaqqabsiisu ta’uu isaa sa’aa kanatti mootummichi hunda keenya irra hubateera. Ummanni Oromoo bilchaateera. Kana booda dhaaba siyaasa kamiinuu irraa kan eeggamu ummata ijaaruufi hujii irratti bobbaasuu qofa. Kuni osoo gamtaan ykn wolhubannaan ta’ee irra bayeessa. Yoo kuun kana jedhu inni kuun kun hinta’u jedhee wolbushessuun hujii wolharkaa balleessuu fi gara diigamiinsaatti wolgessuudha. Kan argaafi taajjabaa turres kanuma. Oromoon waanuma  fedhe haajedhuu, karaa kamiinuu haasocho’uu, harka duwwaas taanaan, tarsiimoofi tooftaa isaa hanga tokko sirreeffatee, waanuma jedhu san hujitti geeddarraan waan fedhu akka salphatti akka argatu diinni qajeelchee bareera. Yoo bartoonni Amboo ka’an hangam ardiin akka sochootu, Woyyaaneen akkam akka dhamaatu hundi beektu. Osoo wonti akkasii bakka hundatti yeroo tokkotti, kuni ijaarsa siyaasaafi qindoomina guddaa gaafata malee waan hindanda’amu jedhamee bira darbamuu miti, osoo ta’ee maaltu akka dhufuu danda’u tilmaamaa. Addurreef harki lachuu mirga. Wanti kumee hedduuf hawwine balbaluma jirti. Maaliif karaa ufitti dheeressina, dararaa ufitti heddumeessina garuu?

Baqqalaan qabsaayaa Oromoo dhugaa ta’uu fi kallattiin qabsoo isaa kan deemsisu ta’uu isaatiif ragaan addaa barbaannu hinjiru; gochi mootummaa ragaa guddaadha. Yaada gaarii qabaachuufi karaa sirrii irra jiraachuun qofti gayaa miti, garuu. Yaannis hujitti jijjiiramuu qaba. Daandii sirrii irra dhaabbachuun konkolaataan rukutamutti nama geessa; tankaarfachuudha falli. Milkaayinni yaada Baqqalaafi garee isaa guutummatti kan hundaayu tokkoon tokkoo keenyaa hangam isaan deeggarre ykn bira dhaabbanne waan jedhu irratti. Yoo shakkiidhuma qabsoon karaa nagaa eessayyuu hingeettu jedhuun xaxamnee, waa’ema gaaga’ama 1992 nurra gaye akka ragaatti qabanee,  filannoon hatamuu irraas dubbataatuma yoo  kan  jiraannuu, Oromoo , eessayyuu hingeennu. Tasa waan yaannu hinargannu. Qabsoon karaa nagaa, akkuma hayyonni heddu irratti wolii galan waan gatii malee geggeffamuu miti. Gatiin kafalamuu qaba. Gatiin kafalamus qaaliidha. Mootummaa abbaa irree gara nyaattoo ykn mararfannaa tokko hinqabne wajjiin wol’aansotti jirra kana hindagatinaa. Erga bara 1992 kaasee gatiin kafalamaatuma jira. Gahaa ta’uu dhabuu isaa bira rakkoon kan jiru. Oromoon baatii baatitti kumaatamaan hidhamnaan, kumaatamaan ajjeeffamnaan, kumatamaan saamamnaa haqaafi bilisummaan sahuu hawwinu wonti harka ummataatti hingalleef tokko hinjiru.

Oromoodha hanga ammaatti humna isaa xiqqeessuufi namaa gadii uftaasisuu kan hayyame. Baqqalaan daandii Finfinnee irratti mirga koo nitikfadha jechuun isaa akka badii guddaatti ilaallamuu qofa osoo hintaane akka duumessa balaa roobuuf deemuuttis fudhatame, mootummaadhaan. Onneedhaan, ufitti amaniinsa sadarkaa ol’anaatiin mirga kootiif asumaa dubbadha, asuma keessattis haqa kootiif falmadha jechuu isaati kan dubbii itti dhale. Yeroo heddu nama akkas jajjabaatee isaan afoo dhaabbatu worri Woyyaanee nisodaachisu, nidoorsisu tooftaa adda addaan akka biyya irraa baqatu taasisu. Namoota heddu irratti tooftaan kuni yoo hojjatu argina. Yaaliin kuni hundi nama hincal’isiisu ykn gara baqaatti hingeessu taanaan tankarfiin itti aanuu kanuma Baqqalaa Garbaa irratti fudhatame. Oromoon nama  diina afoo dhaabbatee hanga dhumaatti falmatuun malee isa akka sinbiraa darbata takkaan gir jedhee biyya irraa baduun miti kan bilisoomu. Namoota  murannoo akkanaa qaban rakkoofi gufuu heddutu mudata. Obsaafi cicha sadarkaa ol’aanaa waan qabaniif malee namoonni kunniin dur harka laatan ykn baqatan ture. Yeroo dheeraadhaaf Baqqalaa hidhanii dararuudhaan yaaliin Baqqalaa rifaasisuufi ummatas (miseensotaafi deeggartoota) biraa bittinsuu gahaan godhameera. Itti milkaayanii garuu? Ammati hinmilkoofne. Erga Baqqalaan hidhaa bayee kan taajjabne, gama hamilee Baqqalaa cabsuufi yaadaa inni durii kaasee qabate gachisiisuutiin mootummaa kasaaraa guddatu mudate. Gara boodaatti karoorri inni Baqqalaafi fakkaattota isaaf qabu maal akka ta’e kan arginu ta’a.

Qabsoon Oromoo yadaafi mul’ata haarawaa barbaaddi

Mooraa Oromootti namni yaada haarawa qabu hedduu barbaadamaa ta’utu irra jira; rakkoo hedduufi wolxaxaa ta’e  qabna waan ta’eef. Yaanni rakkoo Oromoof furmaata argamsiisuu malu kallattii hunadaa burqutu irra jira. Hujii hojjatamu hunda keessatti, qabsoo bilisummaas dabalatee, woldorgommiin yaadaa jirachuu qaba. Akkamitti bilisoomna? Tarsiimoo, daandiifi tooftaa kamtu dafee bakka hawwinuun nugaya? Gara boodaatti Oromoon yoo daandii kam qabate naannoo Gafa Afrikaatti irra fayyadamaa ta’a? Yaadota ijoo kanniin irratti namoonni beekumsa qaban, kallattii qilleensa keessaafi alaa hubataa, yaada bifa wolirraa hincinneen burqisiisuu qaban. Wonti nama gaddisiisu garuu, namni tokko bilchina yaadaafi siyaasaa hangamuu cimaa ta’e haaqabaatuu, keessumattuu yaanni isaa kan yeroo heddu odeeffamuun adda ta’e taanaan, balaaleffanna guddatu isa mudata.

Namni tokko hangamuu beekaa ykn yaanni isaa cimaa yoo ta’e bakka deeggarsi ummataa bira hinjirretti eessayyuu hingayu; hinmilkaayu. Namni Oromoof qabsaaya jedhu kamuu kan deeggaramuu qabu cimina yaada isaatiin. Kanniin yaada burqisiisan, hangamuu yaanni isaanii adda ta’ee haa mul’atuu,  jajjabeeffamuufi kabajamuu qaban. Deeggarsi, wolbiradhaabbannaafi woliif birmannaan naannoofi wolbeekumsaan osoo hintaane cimina yaadaa qofarratti kan hundaaye ta’uu qaba. Miseensa ykn deeggaraa dhaaba tokkoo wan taaneef qofa yaada gaarii  kallattii biraatii bubbisu yoo kan tuffannuu rakkoo woggaa dhibbaaf yomuu fala hinargannu. Nuti garuu namoota yaada haarawa ykn waan fala ta’u  qabna jedhan nituffanna, maqaan adda addaas itti laatna. Hamileen isaanii rukutama; akka dheessanii  manatti galan taasifama. Akkanatti wolqancarsine. Gocha dadhabaa akkanaan mootummaa goobsine. Ufis dadhabsiifnee ummatas dukkana hamaa keessatti hanbisne.

Rakkoo keessa jirru kana keessaa bayuuf ilaalcha wolii kabajuun dirqii ta’a. Yoo danda’ame ammoo ifatti yaadaanis ta’ee human qabnuun woliif birmachuu, wolcinaa dhabbachuu qabna. Yeroo karaan haqaa kiyya, kan isin bilisoomsus anuma jedhamu dabreera. Hundi oromoo yaada bilisummatti nugeessu minjala irra kaayuu qaba; ifaaf bilisatti. Kan irra baasu, hedduu funduratti nutankaarfachiisu filachuun kan sabboontota hundaati.  Hedduuun keenya yaada caalaa ta’es hinomishnu. Kanuma durii irratti kan mataa woldhukkubsinu.  Ugginee mootummaa abbaa irree afos hindhabbannu. Hidhamuufi lubbuu dhabuufis ufqopheessinu. Namoonni heddu hidhamuuf mitii mindaa baatii tokkoo dhabuuf qophii miti. Xiqqaachuu namoota murannoo qabaniiti kan qabsoo saba kanaa akkas lafarra harkise, saba guddaa kanas kan dukkana gabrummaafi hiyyummaa keessatti hanbise. Bilisummaan nuti laga, gaaraafi daggala keessa barbaannu daandii Finfinnee, Amboofi Adaamaa irra jirti. Nuti onnee tumamuu, hidhamuufi mindaa baatii muraasaa dhabuuf qophoofte qabna taanaan. Dirqama nurraa eeggamu bayuu dadhabnee Woyyaaneen ‘akkana, akkas’ nugoote jedhaa woggaa 25’f jiraanne.

http://www.awashpost.com/2015/09/08/baqqalaa-garbaa-woyyaaneen-maaliif-hiitee-akkas-itti-taphatte/

NPR: Ethiopian Prisoner, Bekele Gerba, Urges U.S. To Put Pressure On His Country Over Human Rights. #Oromia #Africa August 27, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Baqqalaa Garbaa.
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http://www.npr.org/player/embed/434975424/434975425

http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/08/26/434975424/just-out-of-jail-ethiopian-leader-brings-a-sharp-message-to-obama?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social
(NPR) – Just a few months ago, Bekele Gerba was languishing in a high security Ethiopian jail, hearing the cries of fellow prisoners being beaten and tortured. Now, the 54-year-old foreign language professor is in Washington, D.C., for meetings at the State Department. His message: The Obama administration should pay more attention to the heavy-handed way its ally, Ethiopia, treats political opponents — and should help Ethiopians who are losing their ability to earn a living.

Gerba is a leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, a political party that represents one of the country’s largest ethnic groups. With estimated numbers of about 30 million, the Oromo make up about a third of Ethiopia’s population.

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In 2011, Gerba was arrested after meeting with Amnesty International researchers and sent to prison on what he calls trumped up terrorism charges, often used in Ethiopia against political dissidents. In court he made remarks that have been widely circulated in Ethiopia and beyond: “I am honored to learn that my non-violent struggles and humble sacrifices for the democratic and human rights of the Oromo people, to whom I was born without a wish on my part but due to the will of the Almighty, have been considered a crime and to be unjustly convicted.”

Gerba was released from jail this spring in advance of President Obama’s July visit to Ethiopia. A soft spoken man, who seemed exhausted by his prison ordeal and his numerous appearances at U.S. universities and think tanks, Gerba tells NPR that Obama’s trip sent all the wrong messages.

“He [Obama] shouldn’t have shown any solidarity with that kind of government, which is repressive, very much authoritarian and very much disliked by its own people,” Gerba says.

Since Ethiopia’s ruling party and its allies control all of parliament, his party doesn’t have a voice, he says. What’s more, he says, his people are being pushed off their land by international investors.

“The greatest land grabbers are now the Indians and Chinese …. there are Saudi Arabians as well,” he says, adding that many families are being evicted and losing their livelihoods.

Gerba says those who do get jobs are paid a dollar a day, which he describes as a form of slavery. He is urging the U.S. to use its aid to Ethiopia as leverage to push the government to give workers more rights and allow people to form labor unions.

Gerba’s case has been featured in the State Department’s annual human rights reports. He describes himself as a Christian who believes in non-violence and says he spent his four years in prison pouring over the sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King and translating them into the Oromo language for a book that he hopes to see published. The title: “I Had A Dream.”

Bekele Gerba is not sure what he will face when he returns home from the U.S. When he was jailed, his wife, a high school teacher, lost her job. His family has struggled financially and psychologically.

“Nobody is actually sure in Ethiopia what will happen to him anytime,” he says. “Anytime, people can be arrested, harassed or killed or disappeared.”

Still, he plans to return home next week. He’s expected to return to his job at the Foreign Languages Department at Addis Ababa University.

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BEKELE GERBA SPEAKS! May 17, 2015

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Addis Standard – I would like to congratulate you for being a free man at last. But what was it like to be in prison?

 

Bekele Gerba – Prison is not a place one appreciates to be. But I think it is also the other way of life as an Ethiopian; unfortunately it has become the fate of many of our people. You will find a lot of students, youngsters, brothers and sisters, sons and fathers, husbands and wives. Especially when it comes to the Oromo, they are there in great numbers. Therefore going there or being there was a very good experience by itself because you will understand the agony and the hardship our people are facing at the moment. There are lots of problems there too, from the type of food people eat to the type of bed they sleep on. But there are a lot of things to learn from them so I think for me it has been a place of training.
What was your everyday life like and what was your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was the first one year and two months when I was kept in maximum security in Kality prison. The room was very small and the type of people we were with are regarded as deadly criminals in this country; they fight and even the police are scared of them. Sometimes they use drugs and they fight easily with anybody. It is a very difficult place. After being there for a year and two months I was sent to Ziway. Ziway is a place where people who come from the countryside are always kept; people who are economically not well off, mainly people who are allegedly suspected of having links with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). And most of them are Oromos there.
There is this popular term that says ‘the prisons in Ethiopia speak Afaan Oromo.’ Is it what you are confirming to me now?
Exactly. If you take away the large number of thieves (the most popular crime there [in Ziway] is theft – and say may be out of 5000 or 6000 prisoners there about 3000 or 4000 thieves) and if you take away those people who are suspected of corruption, very few in number in fact, the rest you can say they are all Afaan Oromo speakers.

inside 3
How did that make you feel as a politician whose party represents the Oromo and as an Oromo?
In one way I am very glad to be there because I felt myself sharing the agony of my own people. How am I different from those people? Those people went to prison because they demanded their rights; I was also there because I demanded my rights. In this country I thought that the Oromos are being excluded from the political and from the economic spheres or participation, something I always object. Therefore I am very glad to be there. I remember the first day I went to the court before my arrest just to see how the court was proceeding when about 500 or 600 Oromos were imprisoned and then taken to the court. I went there as a party member to witness and to see what was going on around. I felt very badly because I saw the prosecutors organizing false evidences; they were calling upon people and they were giving them orientations to testify against people whom they didn’t know at all, whom they have never seen before. I was sad and I called some media that day and gave a brief interview. I think it was after the airing of that interview that the government started following me in order to stop what I was doing. But since I was the spokesman of my party that was the job given to me – to give press conferences or sometimes press releases of what was going on around the party and anything related to the Oromo people. But after I went to prison I was relieved because I had to experience the agony of my people; I had to share their pain and I am glad for that.
Going by your own explanation, if living the pain and agony of your fellow countrymen brought you relief, how did that affect your other life that you stood for? You had a family, you had a political life, and you had a career that you had to leave behind.
Like anybody else, like a human being, when you miss your family of course you feel sad. But my family is no different from other peoples’ family. For example there is a family that I know, the husband was in prison and when he was released the wife was taken to prison. Their children are growing up without a father at one time and a mother at another; my children are no better than these. And if only my family, if only a group of people enjoy normal life and the great majority are not doing the same, I think your happiness or your joy cannot be complete. Of course when I first went there I thought my family would be affected very badly but they are very courageous and they were very supportive psychologically. They were very strong and thanks to many Oromos my children did not quit school and my family has not suffered as such economically.
Your daughter Bontu gave an interview to Afuraa Biyyaa radio station once and told the station you were suffering from ill health. Walk me through that. What happened? How did you maintain your health afterwards?
During the first two three days soon after I was taken to Ma’ekelawi [prison] I started having severe headache and the nurses told me that my blood pressure was high. I had never had that experience before. I was then taken to the Police Hospital and was diagnosed with the same thing; the nurses told me that I looked like a chronic hypertensive patient. I have not had that kind of medical history. Since then until I came out of the prison a few days ago, my blood pressure has been on the rise; I think may be because of the tension, I don’t know. But I am happy that after I was released I am quite okay. I haven’t taken any medication or I have not consulted any physician since my release; I feel I am healthy.

Inside 1
What did help you maintain your everyday sanity when you were there? Was it your interaction with other inmates? Did you have access to books?
The first year was a very difficult time and we have not had enough books and we didn’t know how to smuggle books or any magazines or anything to be read. We have not had any relations with the police; that was a very difficult time until we adjusted ourselves to the prison situations. But later on we started having some books to read that some friends brought for us. We started reading and on a small scale started writing, although it was very difficult to get it out because every three weeks or so the prison police would conduct a search and take away anything that is written; that was the difficult part of it. But after I went to the prison in Ziway I had a chance to meet senior people from the army and from the air force who were accused of staging a coup. Those are people like General Tefera and General Asamenew who were taken to Ziway together. We stayed together and they are very understanding people; they like reading, they like discussions and I enjoyed the discussions. We shared books; we read whatever books we could lay our hands on. That helped me to squeeze through all these bad times.
Moving out of your time in prison, can you tell me what it was like growing up as Bekele Gerba, an Oromo child?
Surprisingly the place I was born and raised is a typical monolingual area. All the people around, all the shop owners or all the government employees and all the school staff speak only one single language, Afaan Oromo. It is a very special place I can say even by Oromia standards. Therefore I didn’t know whether there was any kind of difference between one ethnic group and the other or if there was any kind of oppression elsewhere. But when you go to colleges and universities you will begin to realize there are various ethnic groups and there are various things you will find difficult to tolerate. When I went to the big towns like Addis Abeba and I speak my own language in a taxi or in a bus people turn around and take a look at me; that was when I started to get surprised. And then the consciousness, the social consciousness – not as such political – the reality makes you a bit conscious. However I have not had any bad experience until I graduated from university and went to Wolega again as a high school teacher. And I like speaking languages; I am an outgoing person. I have no problem living with other ethnic group members. But it is later on that I came to understand that there is something wrong going on against the ethnic group I came from.
Is that what drove you to get involved in politics?
Yes. Even in my employment for about 25 years I had never been involved in politics. I was simply an academician and I thought that politics was not a job for everyone. I am a teacher and if I am a good teacher in my profession I thought that will do and that was that. But gradually I found out that my peoples’ grievance is not addressed in a way that it should be. So I thought I could get involved in politics to contribute my share. I don’t know whether I had done anything or had made any change because before I could do anything substantial I was taken to prison. My life experience as a politician is not more than three years.
But within that short period as a politician, I think it was during the 2010 election debate that in a rather succinct argument you spoke about the use and abuse of land distribution and said land was used to advance political causes. What made you take that very strong stand against the ruling party?
You know land is the most important resource in this country, not only in this country but everywhere. It is this resource that everybody who comes to power tries to get control of. If you simply open your eyes and look at what happens around Addis Abeba, then you will see how people are being evicted, and how other people who cannot explain where they get that amount of money from are being catapulted overnight into so much wealth. From my own experience I had a lot of friends who were brought up with me, who had been teachers with me yesterday but who had a lot of money today. That’s okay if it is a legal one.
Realizing that I tried to make a kind of taxonomy, a kind of classification, even though I cannot recall it perfectly now. Accordingly our level of citizenship is divided into various categories. There are people who when they travel around they see a land their eyes fell on and feel like having it and who can have it. Whoever is born and brought there they don’t care. So they can evict everybody and they can sell or hand it over to their friends. I call these people first class citizens. And many of these people are who claim themselves to have liberated us by struggling for 17 years. But what they did not do is liberate these poor farmers; in fact in this regard the Dergue did better for me because it took the land from the landlords and distributed it to the poor farmers, to the tillers. But this time it is the other way round.
And then there are others – regional officials like if you take the Oromia cabinet members, or the SNNPR cabinet members or the Amhara if you like – they can be categorized as second class citizens. They have their power to take any land they wish but there is a power above them. Frankly this power is the power of the TPLF who are the first class citizens. Second class citizens can sell and give but there are others above them who will watch them and who will control them. And then there are the lower hierarchies like the municipalities, for example, or like the Zonal administrators. They have also the same power but above them they know that there are two more hierarchies and may be sometimes they can be accountable. They know that whatever is remaining from the top two, they will get some amount.
And then there are others who do not own anything, who do not own any land but who just look and witness what is going on around, but who are quiet, who are made to become voiceless, who cannot do anything – like the civil servants. And finally the last one is the farmer. He is the farmer who is being looted, who is being evicted, but if at all something happens, like if the country is at war with neighboring countries or with any enemy, these are the people who are called upon to die for this land, a the land for which they don’t have any power on, for the land from which they can be evicted any time. It is the sons and daughters of these people who are going to the warfront and pay with their dear lives. But on the ground they have nothing. For example if you go around Addis Abeba and take a look at someone who is guarding a building and then ask who that man is, he will immediately tell you he was born and brought up there. And he will tell you that it was his land on which that huge building is built. These are mainly Oromos by the way.

 

Inside 2
Were you speaking that because the majority of this case is happening in and around lands predominantly belonging to the Oromos or was it because it is a trend that represents the rest of the country?
The pattern is all the same. In the name of investment people are being evicted in the South, in Amhara or even in Tigray regions. What makes Oromia very different is that the land is very close to the center and the investors, these high officials and the government representatives, all these wealthy people want to dwell around it; they want the area very much. The land is very nice, the location is very good, and the weather is good. So everyone puts his eyes on it. Otherwise the trend is all the same everywhere.

But the government argues it is offering compensations…

 

What does compensation mean? How much money is enough for someone who is evicted forever? Not only him but his children, his grandchildren and the next generation? What makes this very difficult is these people don’t have any profession other than farming. They don’t have any other skill. So how much compensation is enough for these people?
Speaking of which, last year in May a number of University students were killed, imprisoned and have disappeared, I am sure you have heard about it, because they were protesting against the Addis Abeba Master plan, which wanted to include around eight peripheral localities known as the Oromia Region Special Zone. What was your take on that? How did you react when you heard about it?
This is obviously a crime. A massive crime has been committed, and people must be accountable for it. The students did not die in vain for me. They paid sacrifices in order to protect the constitution of this country which says each of the nine regions and the two city administrations has specific boundaries. Addis Abeba has its boundary too. Even though it has not been demarcated on the ground, it was a boundary which is lesser than what it was during the Dergue and greater than what it was during Hailesellasie regime. This was how it was agreed upon during the Transitional Government [24 years ago]. But today the outskirts have turned into Addis Abeba. On daily basis massive farmlands of the farmers are being included into the boundaries of Addis Abeba. So, when I say these students didn’t die in vain, I meant that it was simply to protect the constitution. The Vatican City State is in Rome but the Vatican City state cannot say I have to expand into Rome. That is not possible.
For me the idea is not to expand Addis Abeba as such; it is not to turn it into a beautiful or into a modern city but to change the social structure of Addis Abeba and its vicinity. By doing this what will happen is the language spoken around those areas will change. If you take Dukem, Legatafo, Burayu, Legedadhi or Sululta not long ago, may be some ten years ago, Afaan Oromo used to be the main language. But this doesn’t exist any longer. That is what I call language shift. There is a shift when you change the population, when you change the social structure, then the culture and the language will be destroyed. This is how the Australian Aborigines lost their languages, lost their identity, lost their history, and lost everything. This is how Red Indians in North America lost their identity, lost their language and lost everything. I think for me this is not different. Even though we live in the same country, and we call ourselves Ethiopians – and for me I call myself as an Ethiopian and as an Oromo at the same time – the idea is grave. Javier Perez De Cuellar, the former UN Secretary General in his writing entitled “Our Creative Diversity” wrote: “Put a people in chains, strip them, plug up their mouths, they are still free. Take away their jobs, their passport, the tables they eat on, the bed they sleep in, they are still rich. A people become poor and enslaved when they are robbed of the tongue left to them by their ancestors, they are lost forever.” No one likes to be lost forever.

 

Inside 4
But the argument from the ruling party and sympathizers of the plan is that they need to do whatever they are doing because Addis Abeba is also the capital of the federal government, the seat of the AU and of the ECA, you if like. How do you react to that argument?

 

Why so much focus on developing Addis Abeba only? Why is that? Why not Bahir Dar? Why not Hawassa why not Mekele? Why is the focus on Addis Abeba? And why is Addis Abeba so much concerned about the development of Oromia? When you say it is the capital of the country do you mean it is the seat of the diplomatic community? and the federal government? It is not only because of the diplomats and the civil services in the federal government that Addis Abeba is expanding. It is because of various reasons, one of which is perception – people think they are safe in Addis Abeba than any other cities in the regions. But we can work on that, the government can work on developing other cities. There is no problem in doing that. The other problem is it is not only because Addis Abeba is the capital of the federal government, it is a self-administered, a self-chartered city. It is regarded as having a status of a region. But regions, as I said earlier, have their own borders. That is all. If the constitution is no longer working, then Addis Abeba can expand indefinitely. Otherwise you cannot cut some part of Tigray and hand it over to Amhara and cut some part of Afar and hand it over to the Somali. Constitutionally it has been made impossible. That is it. No single region should be allowed to trespass that. The third is why is Addis Abeba concerned about the plan? Where is the regional government if Addis Abeba is making a plan for Oromia?

 

Do you think this dilemma traces its root from the very federal system the country says it is following? What, in your opinion, does the federal system currently in use in Ethiopia mean to the ordinary people? Do you think it is losing its relevance beyond being a toll deployed to serve political ends? Or as a famous Oromo legal expert once said, I quote: “beyond dishes, dances and dresses”? What does it represent?

 

Constitutionally this country is a federal country but as many people think, this is not a gift from the ruling EPRDF. Federalism evolved or it came out of the situation that existed 24 years ago. Twenty four years ago there were about 17 armed groups actively engaged in rebellion, with all their weapons and strongholds. So when the Dergue collapsed there was no way out of the political deadlock except to go for federalism because everyone could have gone home on his own way; the Oromos had the OLF, the Ogadens have the ONLF and so on. So except federalism no other kind of government was possible.

 

I think it is an argument that Leenco Lataa recently wrote in one of the local newspapers published here. That said how do you evaluate the last 24 years? Has the country lived up to the federalism arrangement? Where did the county perform best, if there is any, and where did it lag behind?
I have not read what Leenco has written. But it is true that federalism was dictated by the situation at the time. But since then what’shappening is its concept and practice is being eroded on a daily basis. If you look at regions I don’t think they are even electing their own rulers. Practically I think the country is as unitary and as centralized as it has been before. There was one big man, the late Prime Minister [Meles Zenawi] who used to appoint regional officials without the consent of the people of the regions, who used to transfer them to the federal government as he likes. That was what was happening and continued to this day. In federalism you plan your own way, levy taxes in your own way, you execute it in your own way; your priority is different from the federal government or other regions. That is not what’s happening now, but if you take Addis Abeba city for example, which is also the seat of the Oromia regional state, in the name of self-administered city its officials singlehandedly decide on the fate of the city and its areas. For them the creation of the Addis Abeba recreational ground in Burayu may be a high priority. But for the Oromia region to which the area belongs to a school of high standard may be its priority. But as things are happening now the federal government plans by itself and executes by its own finance. That is not true federalism.

 

So you are firmly implying that the federal system the country is following now was dictated by the existing circumstances 24 years ago but fell short of its purpose?

 

Yes it didn’t serve its purpose. I am saying this because we know so many people who were elected by their constituencies, but who are moved from power by the federal government. To bring another example, in March 2011 about one thousand Oromos were taken to the Ma’ekelawi prison in Addis Abeba but the Oromia regional state didn’t know; they didn’t have any knowledge of the Oromos taken by federal security agents from every corner of Oromia. Here is when one should ask what is this regional government doing? Did the regional government invite the federal government to come and act on its behalf to bring these people to justice? Are they incapable of bringing them to justice in their own region? So what is federalism?
Let’s talk about ethnic federalism. Do you think there is a deliberate misrepresentation and exploitation of what ethnic federalism stands for? An exploitation by the powers that be of deploying the concept as a means to prolong their time in power, and a deliberate attempt by people who advocate for the so called unity using the side effects of ethnic federalism?

 

People say ethnic federalism doesn’t take us anywhere. But I simply say that the ethnic federalism that came about 24 years ago because of the situation we were in is a necessary evil that we cannot avoid. Because our identity, our language, our culture has been denied for many years before that and it is only through this way that we can promote our language, our culture, and our identity. But it is true that it is a very broad topic but I don’t believe in the idea of the unionists because on party level, for example within Medrek, there were various ethnic based parties like the Arena Tigray. You know if you scratch any party you will find out that the issue of ethnicity is underlined but by the name it implies something else, just like we have the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Does it mean it is federal? Does it mean it is democratic? There is nothing in a name. Therefore for me every party in this country is an ethnic based party. I am not saying it’s a bad thing; it becomes bad when one ethnic group becomes a foe to another.
Politically, it becomes bad when it is used as a tool of repression against others; when it is imposed. When somebody imposes his own agenda on another, then the problem comes. If you say don’t speak your language speak only mine then here comes the problem.
But willingly I can learn your language and you can learn mine. For example people complain that we are not able to work in the regions because we don’t know the language. In the first place you are there because you want to sell your knowledge, your skill and your service, is that not? If I went to Tigray to sell my knowledge, my skill or to sell my expertise then I have to interact with the people who want to be served in the language they understand. Nobody is disallowed to work there. But the only thing is serve these people in the language they understand. Otherwise if I am an Oromo and if I want to go to Tigray and ask all the Tigray people to speak Afaan Oromo, I think that is crazy and it should be addressed. This is a situation that often goes wrong. But people love their language very much, they want to promote their culture, they want their identity very much. If there is another mechanism by which this can be addressed, such as by geographic kind of federalism, that is okay.

 

Does this reinforce your belief in a just ethnic federalism system that this country has to wake up to one day?
Yes and we have to appreciate our diversity. Look, if we are of the same age, wearing the same clothes, of the same height, of the same color, eat the same food, and dance the same way to the same music this world would be nasty, it would be really ugly! Very ugly! We don’t want to turn this earth into hell. We want our diversity. We want other people to sing in their own way, speak in their own language, to wear different kinds of dresses. I think the idea of trying to bring everything into one is not a sane idea.
I would like to ask you the next question as someone who is an Oromo politician. Currently there are at least two predominant Oromo discourses. The first is the discourse for secessionism, although it’s a discourse that looked as if it was losing ground since the split within the former administration of the OLF, many people think it has surfaced again when the “Oromo first” debate came about in the recent past. The second is the Oromo discourse supporting a greater autonomy within the federal government – a better way of federalism that gives the Oromo a greater say in their affairs. For this group secessionism is no longer the call of the day. Where does Bekele Gerba stand? What do you see as a better way forward for the Oromo people?
Well my stand is very clear in this issue. I always say that first the rights of the Oromo should be respected. The Oromos are located in the middle of this country; they have formed this country, they are part of this country, they will remain in this country. You cannot think about Ethiopia without the presence of the Oromos. They have sustained it and they are in the center of this massive land. Therefore I think what is very important is that their rights is respected; there should be no compromise. If so I can boldly say from what I have seen and experienced that the Oromos are not after secession. But the problem is when the situation continues like it is now; when the exploitation, the eviction, the attempt to assimilate, to destroy their language, to destroy their culture, to destroy their identity goes on in such a way I think people may think otherwise. It is true that people who are following this very closely may assume the situation is getting desperate. But for me it’s not that desperate and I still believe that things can be put in the right track, and the wrongs can be righted. If we start righting the wrongs, then I think the question of an independent Oromia or an independent land will not be a very serious issue.

 

But it is exactly what many Oromos feel is not happening. For them this very grim situation the country keeps on generating has continued. Reports indicate that the exile of the Oromo has continued en mass as we speak; the jailing, the killing, the mysterious disappearance of University students just a year ago didn’t help either. Don’t you think this makes the secessionism discourse to gain momentum? As someone who has been in the center of the politics in the country do you see there is still hope for peaceful struggle for the rights and respect of the Oromo? Is there a room for that? Does the political space allow for that to exist?

 

Inside 5
There is a challenge. But I think there is still hope. I always believe that things can change gradually. Because of the culture we were in for hundreds, or may be thousands of years, we used to think changing a government is only possible by violence, or armed struggle. But I think that time has passed now; it is possible to change regimes and to confront governments by peaceful means of struggle. If people are very much committed to peaceful struggle, I think the situation will change and the government must exploit this situation – meaning that, as an opposition,we are very helpful, we can contribute much. Going to the jungle and destroying everything, crashing everything and building it when you come back again as new doesn’t take this country anywhere. And if the current leadership was wise, they could have designed many ways in which armed struggle in the future would not be a possibility. But I don’t think they are smart. The legacy now is that people are still toying with armed struggle. Ten years ago when the opposition, Kinijit, won Addis Abeba and much of the country, things would have changed a lot had they been given what was theirs at that time. People would begin to trust that it is possible to change regimes without war, thorough the ballot box, and the political tradition itself would have been one step forward. But we lost that. We lost that chance because of the power mongering attitude of the ruling EPRDF; we lost that big chance.

 

But don’t you think the refusal of the opposition to get into the parliament itself has contributed?
But they [the opposition] had pieces of information about Addis Abeba at that time that all the treasury that used to belong to Addis Abeba city administration were handed over to the federal government including transport facilities; the state capital of Oromia was called back again and Oromia was to tax the city. So it was because of what the EPRDF did that the opposition refused to accept the city. I am not saying they did a good job, or the right thing; I think they could have taken the challenge. All I am saying is it was because of what EPRDF did that everything turned into ashes and the possibility of changing regimes and leadership in this country through the ballot box failed.

 

Ethiopia is about a month away from holding yet another general election. Do you think elections for a country like Ethiopia are a means of sustaining power for those who have it; for the sake of the L word – legitimacy, as many argue? Or do you believe it is a means to change the political order peacefully?
From the experience we have so far I don’t think EPRDF is ready to give power anytime. If you look at what they are doing now in terms of the use of media space, they allocated 500 hours, but they designed it in a way that they can take a bulk or the large share once again. In the last election [in 2010] 10 million ETB was allocated to all the parties out of which 9.5 million went back to the EPRDF and 300, 000 ETB went to EDP. Do you believe if I tell you that we received just 3,600 ETB? That was about 175 Euros. This time they have allocated 30 million ETB and if you ask around you may find out that more than twenty something millions of it went back to the pocket of EPRDF again.
Soyou are saying holding elections is just another way of legitimizing the time in power?
That is it. It is already a foregone conclusion. For me EPRDF has already won. I think there is very little thing we expect from this election.
So what does it mean to be in an opposition party trying to survive under such circumstances? What makes your party decide to exist all together?
The objective of a political party is not only to seize power. If you can get the wrongs to be corrected by the ruling party that is already something; if you can do it yourself that is even better. But if you cannot do it and someone does it then that is also fine. Therefore we will try to contribute our best in this regard, irrespective of the hard situations we find ourselves in; there is no way out. We don’t want to go to armed struggle; we don’t want to show on television Ethiopians killing Ethiopians for power. So even though pursuing peaceful struggle is very difficult I personally always appreciated the likes of Mahatma Gandhi; I have always appreciated the struggles of people like Martin Luther King and I think we have to continue that way. Rome was not built in one day.

 

How did your prison experience change your political determination? Did it reshape you in any way? Will you go back practicing politics again?
I think I am stronger than I was when I went to prison; I consider myself more prepared and stronger than before. And I can never be out of politics; I don’t want to be out of politics.
When you were handed the eight year sentence back in 2012, you made a speech that became a symbol of the rally behind the ‘free Bekele Gerba’ campaign. In this speech you said that if you were to ask an apology you would ask it from the “Almighty” and, I quote: “from my people for failing to speak to the depth of their suffering in the interest of the co-existence of people.” Don’t you think it’s exactly this attitude of putting the “interest of the co-existence of people” at the expense of the suffering of others that is sustaining repression in this country? That people like you keep silent for the sake of co-existence?
If you see what is happening in this country by members or group of people coming from certain ethnic groups against other ethnic groups you will be very sad. But these people should live together. This peaceful co-existence can be built if I have some share; if you and the others have some share as well. Personally, for example, I cannot speak everything that I saw of what happened to the Oromos at some point in this prison known as Kilinto; it was really very sad. Well coordinated and against one single ethnic group of prisoners, who are not able to defend themselves – both by the police, by the officials, by fellow prisoners, virtually everybody other than members of that ethnic group. But you don’t speak everything and at the same time you don’t generalize too because if TPLF has done something bad it doesn’t mean the whole Tigraians are like that. At the end these people have to live together. The TPLF may not be there after some point, but these people must continue to live together, so we should not put that kind of animosity among people. So there are times when you don’t speak everything. That was the idea; it is only for peaceful co-existence of these people. I did nothing for my own benefit and I am not scared for my life if I have spoken everything; I have not addressed it very well only because I want these people to co-exist. That is it.

 

Currently there are many political activists who are behind bars, and as many are exiled. Some of these youngsters are the same people who looked up to you as a role model. What do you say to them? How should they continue to be the voice for those who are rendered voiceless? What advice do you give them because many of them are the same young activists who spoke for you when you couldn’t from your prison cell? What words of wisdom do you share with them?
First I would like to thank everyone who supported me, who supported my family, who demanded my release, and who never forgot the cause for which I was there…I would like to thank them all. But at the same time you know doing politics in Ethiopia is a very difficult task, because the politics is, whether we like it or not, geared in such a way that it is ethnically motivated. Everybody tries to see everything from his ethnic group point of view.
Is that a bad thing?
No, it is not bad. It becomes bad when what you want to achieve is at the expense of other ethnic groups. There should not be any hidden agenda that will exclude the other ethnic groups; whether we like it or not every group, every individual wants his right as we want ours. It is only by self-respect that we can maintain peace and brotherhood in this country. Now you may ask if there is peace in this country. The fact that the guns are silent, the fact that there is no war going on in the country doesn’t necessarily mean that it is as such very peaceful. We are carrying around so many things that can ignite any time. So the young generation must think about its future. This young generation should not listen if they hear these old politicians of the 1960s or 1950s who are old professors and who wrote many things and researched around but who do not contribute to the peaceful co-existence of the people of this country. They are gone, their time is gone and their time is going. But the young generation must think about its own future. And that future should be based on the idea that all should respect one another. We should respect one another. The right of one group or one ethnic group or one community depends also on the right of the other ethnic group. If there is injustice somewhere it will affect justice everywhere. When the Amharas are attacked the Oromos, the Tigraians, the Sidamas, the Somalis and so on must act. That’s what I believe in.

 

Photo: Addis Standard

http://addisstandard.com/bekele-gerba-speaks/