Untold Stories of Oromo Political Prisoners: The case of Ashenafi Birru AKA Bonsa

2013617113813366172_8Name: Ashenafi Birru Aka Bonsa

DOB:  May 23, 1970 in Addis Ababa. 

Secondary School:  1975-1986.

Trained:  Health assistance institute in Harar (1986) for almost two years.

Worked:  In a small town clinic in small town named Bereda in the East Hararge zone from 1989-1994.

Arrested: In 1995, by an EPRDF armed military soldiers for being a supporter of the O.L.F. (Oromo Liberation Front) and was tortured, harshly beaten for about six months.

Arrested Again: In 1997 with the same allegations

Released: October 24th 2007 after 10 years of captivity.

 

He became infected with HIV virus in Prison: He puts it as follows. 

They chained my hands and legs for three years that caused me to develop tetanus.  I asked for the removal of the chain from my hands and legs and the jail officers denied my request. He said, “It is the least punishment for you’’. Then by the year 2002, I decided to force them to remove the chain by charging a hunger strike.

After a 13th day of hunger strike, I collapsed and became unconscious. What happened to me during this time was beyond imagination. As I am still struggling to put my ordeal together here is what transpired that day, armed-force came to where I was restrained and took me to the hospital where the HIV and TB patients were confined. I was admitted among these patients. Here, when my health improved a day later I saw myself under stress and sick. I requested to be checked by the health workers, then I realized that something went very wrong. I cried a lot and asked them to perform a blood test for HIV/ADIS but they refused and discharged me back to the underground jail. It was this time the information disseminated to different journalists and the news spread to the Dutchwelle and American Radio.

Finally, the vice political officer of the American Embassy known as Madeline Ollino Seiden striker visited to investigate the reality and what happened to me. After her visit, due to the influence of other humanitarian groups, they allowed a blood test to be conducted for the HIV virus, this was 2003, and unfortunately, the result came out positive.

 

Family Members under Arrest and Harassment:

The Ethiopian security agents units harassed my family members. My younger brother Tadele was kidnapped from his work and arrested in Ziway prison; he was imprisoned for three months with false allegation and pretenses and finally released on bail of $$1000 Birr.  In addition, my elder brothers Gezahidge Bayessa also fell under additional daily scrutiny. In 2004, another instance occurred where he was terminated from his job for almost two years due to false allegations, which was part of the original suspicion.

Shot and Wounded in the Kaliti prison in 2005:

It was an election period and the EPRDF was prepared to manage the election results and retaliate to those who opposed them. The time was May 2005, I was sleeping at my home where they found me, they fired and wounded me by three bullets; one remains in my right arm and two others were removed from my chest. During this period, there were a number of prisoners were killed while others were wounded.

Here is report by UNPO:

October 24, 1998 E.C student Alemayehu Gerba was shot in his bed and died of gunshot wounds.

November 1, 1998 E.C. Gadisa Hirpasa, a student and a prisoner was tortured to death by prison administrators and policemen.

October 24, 1998 E.C. a police officer of the prison opened an automatic fire on a cell in which Amin Kelil, Idiris Awel, Lamessa Tasissa, Zekarias Tariku, and Ashenafi Biru were heavily wounded while in their cell and sustained incurable bodily injury.  (Link: http://unpo.org/article/5016)

Report by Sudan tribune-

October 24, 1998 E.C student Alemayehu Gerba was shot in his bed and died of gunshot wounds.

November 1, 1998 E.C. Gadisa Hirpasa, a student and prisoner was tortured to death by prison administrators and policemen.

October 24, 1998 E.C. a police officer of the prison opened an automatic fire on a cell in which Amin Kelil, Idiris Awel, Lamessa Tasissa, Zekarias Tariku, and Ashenafi Biru were heavily wounded while in their cell and sustained incurable bodily injury. Many have become mentally deranged due to police torture. Tolera Tadesse, Umar Shek Kedir and Temam Amede are losing their conscious due to this torture in which they are also denied medical attention by prison officials.  (Link http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article16635)

After Release:

In the year 2010, I joined Adama Science and Technology University.

During the 2011 Christmas celebration, as all university students community celebrate the holiday, I also celebrated the holiday by wearing the Oromo traditional wear. Unfortunately, the armed government soldiers came inside the university arrested me at students lounge and took me to their office then followed by severe beating. I sustained damaged to one of my ear after lots of bleeding. They destroyed my cell phone.  As I was terrified and thinking of what will happen to me next sweating like a dog, finally they took my dresses and let me go to dormitories only with my underwear. A day later, they called me again to investigate me by saying that I was celebrating the OLF New Year’s celebration and not Christmas.

At last by the help of Professor Ochily, the Dean of the University all these problems solved and we were left alone.

Graduation:

In 2012, while working on finalizing my 3rd year courses, I have manged to return back school by the grace of God. I was able to finish my courses and graduated from university. After taking some rest and maintaining with positive attitude toward life, even though I was carrying the HIV virus and a hardship of continuous harassment by the government security agents, I was prepared to look for a job.

Job:

By June 2013, I had gotten a job in one private tour and travel agency in the position of tour operator and tour guide. After I worked there for a while, I decided to get a private guide license from ministry of cultured tourism but it turned to be harassment.

Harassment:

It was 2013, the year where the Addis Ababa master plan was being introduced and presented to the masses, Oromo Students from Universities and across the country were protesting. In addition, there was a strong opposition and demonstration against the government plan. In the consequence, the government security agent started looking and searching for me.

On a different occasion, they arrested my younger brother Tadele, holding him as a ransom. At this time, his wife called and told me on what has occurred. Immediately I decided to change my residence and went to Welliso nearby my mother’s birthplace. I stayed there for almost eight to nine months. Again, in late 2014 the armed forces of EPRDF were still pursuing me in trying to connect and associating me to the pre-election process of 2015.

Finally, I changed my settlement to Nazret for a certain period by renting a different residence. A month had passed and the owner of the house pushed me to report to the nearby government body. Therefore, I returned to Addis Ababa in disguise, changed my appearance for almost one month, and finished all my pre-condition to leave Ethiopia and on December 28, 2014 due to great care and keeping everything secret, I was able to depart Ethiopia through the main airport.

 

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