Photo: Bekele Gerba in USA after he was released from prison; he was invited by Oromo Studies Association(OSA) as a key note speaker at OSA annual conference held at Howard University in May2015
Bekele Gerba, the Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), an opposition party representing the ethnic Oromo in Ethiopia, has been detained by the Ethiopian government security forces on 24December2015. He was at his home in Adama, a city located 80km to the south east of the capital city, Addis Abeba. The security personnel searched his house for long hours and took him with them to Maekelawi, a crime investigation center in Addis Abeba.
Bekele Gerba is a professor of English at Addis Abeba University and joined OFC in 2008 and competed in the parliamentry election in 2010 that the government claimed victorious winning 99.6% of the seats at the parliament. In 2012, he was detained and imprisoned for four and half years accused of terrorism charges and only released from prison in March2015 after finishing his prison terms. Bekele, advocated a peaceful and non violent means of struggle to enable the Oromos, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, to claim back the political, social, economic and cultural rights that they have been denied under the current regime of Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary and Democratic Front (EPRDF).
Along with Bekele, another member of OFC, Dejene Tafa, the Secretary General and legal counsil of OFC has been detained on the same day. There are reports that many of OFC members are being detained in different parts of Oromia. The ERDF government is arresting politicians, intellectuals, businesspersons, university lecturers, farmers and students for taking part and supporting the #Oromoprotests that swept the country for more than one month.
The protests were against the Addis Abeba and Oromia Special Zone Integerated Master Plan that aims to expand the capital city to towns and counties into the Oromia regional state of Ethiopia and eventaully evict millions of Oromo farmers from their ancestral land. The protests were not against development, but against land grabbing by investors and government officials in the name of development leaving millions of farmers in extreme poverty.