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Opinion: The Oromo and the War on Terror in the Horn of Africa

The following opinion piece appeared on AlJazeera.com; and it’s authored by Amb. Akbar Ahmed and Frankie Martin – both at American University in Washington.

In August 2011, Bekele Gerba, an English teacher at Addis Ababa University and prominent politician, met with a delegation from Amnesty International to discuss the human rights situation in Ethiopia. Gerba, a vocal activist on behalf of his largely Muslim Oromo people, was deputy chairman of the opposition party Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) and a member of the executive committee of Medrek, the country’s main opposition coalition.

To the Ethiopian government, however, Gerba was a terrorist. Four days after the meeting, he was arrested. In November 2012 Gerba was convicted and imprisoned under Ethiopia’s 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation for association with the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which the government has asserted is linked with al-Qaeda affiliated entities.

According to organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, however, Gerba was guilty of being Oromo and talking of the plight of his people. Shortly before his arrest, Gerba had described the challenges facing his community, telling Voice of America “Anyone who speaks the [Oromo] language and does not belong to the ruling party is a suspect and can be taken to prison any time.” Gerba and other incarcerated Oromo (Oromo rights groups estimate there are around 20,000 Oromo political prisoners in Ethiopia) continue to spark protests in Ethiopia and across the global Oromo diaspora.

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1 Comment

  1. mohamed houssein:

    July 17, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

    Dear Ambassador Akbar Ahmed
    Thank you for your Oromo cause, you wrote about what happened to Oromo’s who live in Ethiopia. They are majority but the Ethiopian government is putting them down no democracy, freedom of speech , freedom of writing ,freedom of opportunity and they count on them as second citizen if you are Oromo only by name they arrest you and they said you are a terrorist if you dont support the federal government. EPRDF (wayane)
    For example in the prison of Ethiopia right now more than 50 000 Oromo’s are in jail.
    More than 100 000 are refuges run out of the country because no democracy
    If you wanna get a job you have to be member of EPRDF (wayane)
    in general they want to eliminate Oromo’s people by killing them and kicking them out from their land.
    I am asking to help us by voicing our problem to the world.
    TO MAKE JUSTICE BE SERVED
    long live AlJazeera

    Mohamed Houssein (Goalkeeper)