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Some opposition leaders freed as protest in Oromo region of Ethiopia enters second day

Oromo Federalist Congress Party Secretary, Bekele Gerba, released with his colleagues

Bekele Gerba _ Protest in Oromo region _Ethiopia
Bekele Gerba

February 13,2017

Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, state media, reported this afternoon that Bekele Gerba, Oromo Federalist Congress Party secretary, is released from prison after president Mulatu Teshome signed proposal by the Federal Amnesty Board.

Bekele Gerba’s court case is dropped as part of regime’s pledge to release political prisoners in the interest of broadening the “democratic space” in Ethiopia. But Bekele Gerba was sentenced to six months in prison due to court contempt after government announced move to release political prisoners.

Gurmessa Ayana, Adissu Bulala,Dejene Tafo,Getu Garuma,Tesfaye Liben and Beyene Ruda, all Bekele’s collegues, are also released today.

There was expectation that Bekele Gerba release would come late due to the court contempt sentence but is released because of, apparently,mounting pressure on government due to protest in Oromo region of Ethiopia.

Last week, activists called for a three days of strike across Oromo region of Ethiopia to demand the release of Bekele Gerba and other political prisoners. The protest is in its second day today.

State media reported today that business activities in many towns across the region are halted. Stores and government offices remained close, some in support of the strike and some, as analysts say, fearing the negatives repercussions of opening stores and business as the angry mob could turn violent on them.

The protest was stronger in the adjacent towns to the capital city, Addis Ababa. No passengers’ buses were allowed into or out of Addis Ababa. According to social media reports,there was a price hike for some goods due to road closures and alleged lack of supply.

Protesters have partially attained some of their demands which is release of political prisoners. But Bekele Gerba told Voice of America that the number of released political prisoners is insignificant compared to those who are still behind bar.

Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage were due to be released on grounds of “amnesty” but government was hesitant to release them as they were demanded to sign false confession which they refused to.

Federal prosecutor announced that they will be released by tomorrow along with more than 700 prisoners at the Federal and regional level.

Releasing political prisoners too feeble to appease protest against government

Although government is demonstrating some signs of willingness to engage protesters by way of addressing some demands, releasing Bekele Gerba and Merera Gudina,for example, these measures now seem to be too weak to appease the popular protest which evolved to a point of demanding an end to Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)government, as many Ethiopians call it.

Yet, the regime is also sometimes employing brutal responses to the popular demands. Two days ago, several protesters were killed when government forces opened fire at protesters in Hamaressa, Harar, in eastern Ethiopia.

Apart from that, TPLF is also now pursuing a secret deal with Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels which political analysts say is the beginning of TPLF’s contingent plan ; seceding Tigrai from the rest of Ethiopia while entrenching in place lasting problem to Ethiopia.

Despite in power for more than twenty seven years now, TPLF failed to transform itself as a national party in a way to broaden its support base. Rather the party pursued to build what critical voices in the opposition say is an apartheid like system creating wealth and power for ethnic Tigray, its political base, with a motive to sustain it by protecting its divide and rule policy.

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