Bekele Gerba et al project description
After coming to power in early 1990’s, the Government of Ethiopia unfortunately took an extremely repressive and authoritarian route of governance. Oromo people, being the targeted ethnic group over the successive regimes over the past several decades, once again, became the direct target under the ruling regime. The Oromo became the victim of systematic and widespread violation of their human rights under series of Ethiopian government’s policies, laws and machineries. For the last 25 years, the government systematically targeted the Oromo Students, farmers, teachers, women, children and all Oromo persons from different walks of life resulting in several thousands of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, unlawful arrests, detentions, torture, as well as the disregard for many civil rights including their rights to assembly, fair trial, education, opinion, religion, culture, education and others. International human rights organizations including Oromo American Citizens Council (OACC), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Advocates for Human Rights and many more have documented the government’s violation of Oromo people’s international and domestic human rights. See recent Report here https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr25/006/2014/en/
Bekele Gerba, age 56, is one of Oromo thousands enduring all kinds of sufferings and persecution in Ethiopia. A Professor and highly respected political leader of the Oromo people and all other ethnic groups in the country of Ethiopia, Gerba is a Professor of Foreign Languages at Addis Ababa University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He has long been a political leader of the Oromo, and in December of 2015 when he was arrested, he was the First Secretary General of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), a political party.
Mr. Gerba was previously arrested and imprisoned for his political views and his opinions on the human rights abuses of the Ethiopian government. In 2011, he was arrested and later charged under “terrorism” after meeting with and giving information to researchers from Amnesty International. While he was charged and convicted under Ethiopia’s oppressive Anti-Terrorism Act, his only “crime” was to speak out courageously for the rights of the Oromo and all other Ethiopian people. He was sentenced to eight years imprisonment and served four, being released shortly before the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to Ethiopia in July of 2015. While in prison, he translated Dr. Martin Luther King’s book “I have a Dream” into an Oromo language (the third widely spoken language in Africa).
In August 2015, Gerba was invited by Oromo Studies Association (a US based multi-disciplinary and non-partisan scholarly and academic association of Oromo and non-Oromo) as guest speakers where he addressed conference participants of over 700 in Washington D.C. Following his speech, he was invited by several US medias including NPR (National Public Radio), congressmen, think tanks and other organizations to speak about his experiences in prison and future vison for the country. After returning to Ethiopia in mid September, Mr. Gerba and twenty-one other, some of them members of the OFC, were arrested by the Ethiopian government at approximately the same time and are currently imprisoned .
On December 23, 2015, Bekele Gerba and Dejene Tafa, the assistant secretary of the OFC, were arrested. Similarly, Ashebir Beri was taken from his parent’s house in Ambo town where he lived. That month, a total of 22 OFC members (including Gerba and Tafa) were arrested and detained in the notorious central prison in Addis Ababa, Ma’lkelawi. The government claimed these leaders were arrested for terrorist acts, but no evidence of such activity has ever been put forward. The charge document brought forward by the Federal Prosecutor is essentially based on the governmental allegation that Gerba et al mobilized Oromo people against the government with the motive to force the government to suspend the so called “Addis Ababa Master Plan”, a grand political scheme of the government that, according to the Oromo people, is designed to transfer the possession of land from Oromo to non-Oromo person, and further clear out the physical, political, and cultural identity or presence of the Oromo from Addis Ababa and surrounding rural areas and small cities.
Oromo American Citizen Council is particularly dedicated to advocating for Gerba et al as they represent the face of repression and violation of God-given rights under the current ruling government.
THE OBJECTIVE OF THE PROJECT
- Trial Monitoring: We are engaged in monitoring the trial process of Mr. Gerba and his compatriot Oromo political prisoners
- Detention monitoring: we are committed to closely following up the daily and weekly detention and health situation of Mr. Gerba with a view to get first hand news and information out to the world.
- Legal Representation: Mobilizing and providing resources to enable the legal representation of Mr. Gerba before regional and international tribunals and all available legal platforms including before African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights located in the Gambia with a clear aim find solution for Mr. Gerba and his Oromo compatriots in the same situation.
Bekele Gerba et al International legal Defense Counsel
As a non-profit Organization, OACC is committed to establishing Gerba’s Legal Defense Fund and henceforth, works with Oromo and non-Oromo lawyers to provide the required legal defense and representation at international level.
 See http://oromostudies.org/images/osa/osa-2015-annual-final-conference-program.pdf last visited May 10, 2016