May 4, 2016
The US Department of State has publicly expressed its concern for the imprisonment of Bekele Gerba, Vice-Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), on charges of terrorism. The human rights violations committed by the Ethiopian government towards the Oromo community have been covered by international media, but this condemnation emphasises the worrying situation in the country. This is not the first time Mr Gerba is imprisoned, which proves that the living conditions of the Oromo have been difficult for the past few years, as well as that the Ethiopian government is trying its best to keep these incidents unnoticed.
Photo courtesy to www.bilisummaa.com
Below is an article published by JP Updates.
The White House said Monday it is “deeply concerned” by the Ethiopian government’s filing of terrorism charges against Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) First Vice-Chairman Bekele Gerba and others in the Oromia region arrested in late 2015.
According to the Oromo Federalist Congress official website, the OFC is a political party representing the Oromo, one of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups. With a population of around 30 million, the Oromo comprise a third of Ethiopia’s population.
“We again urge the Ethiopian government to discontinue its reliance on the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation law to prosecute journalists, political party members, and activists,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “as this practice silences independent voices that enhance, rather than hinder, Ethiopia’s democratic development.”
Gerba was arrested in 2011 after meeting with Amnesty International officials, and was released from prison this Spring in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to Ethiopia in July. In court, Gerba said he is “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 has described the terrorist charges against him as “trumped up,” according to the OFC website.
In a press release, the State Department urged the Ethiopian government to respect due process of detainees by “investigating allegations of mistreatment, publicly presenting the evidence it possesses against them, and by distinguishing between political opposition to the government and the use or incitement of violence. We reaffirm our call on the government to protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of its citizens, including the right to participate in political parties, and we urge the Government to promptly release those imprisoned for exercising these rights.”