Oromo political prisoner, Bekele Gerba, Speaks Out

Just months after the highly criticized general election in Ethiopia, recently released political prisoner and human rights activist, Bekele Gerba visits the United States and speaks about conditions in Ethiopia and his hopes for a peaceful liberation movement for Oromo people.

Mr Gerba’s political career began in 2009 when he joined the opposition party, Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), as a member of the executive committee and head of the public relations department.

Bekele participated and lost in the 2010 parliamentary elections in which the ruling EPRDF claimed more than 99% of the seats in parliament.

A father of four, Bekele was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to eight years in prison suspected of allegedly belonging to the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Upon appeal to the Supreme Court, his sentencing was reduced to three years and seven months with a right to parole. After the merger in 2012 of OFDM and Oromo Peoples’ Congress (OPC) that became known as the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) Bekele was appointed as First Deputy Chairman while he was still serving his sentence. Although he was paroled and was eligible to be free in 2014, Bekele was released in the first week of April 2015 only after he finished his sentencing -(Addis Standard, May 2015)

This past June (2015), Ethiopia held its elections and faced harsh criticism over the ruling party’s purported “100” percent victory.

  1. Just weeks after the sham “democratic election”, President Obama visited Ethiopia in July, praising the Ethiopian government for its fair elections. Mr. Obama faced criticism from many Oromos living in Ethiopia and in diaspora for his statemements.
  2. Just days after Obama’s visit to Ethiopia, and his controversial comments on democracy in the country, Dr. Bekele Gerba came to the US to speak at the annual Oromo Studies Association Conference held at Howard University July 29-August 2,2015 to speak on his own experiences in Ethiopian jails as a political prisoner. His position, a first hand account, contradicting what Mr. Obama had to say about Ethiopia’s flourishing d democracy. +


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