Mr. Bekele Gaba and six other leaders of the Oromo Federalist Congress have been released from prison today. Mr. Garba was thrown to jail in November 2015 right after the beginning of the second wave of Oromo protests which engulfed the whole region like wildfire. It seems the regime picked the calm and seasoned OFC leader in an attempt to make the movement leaderless. Regardless, the protests have continued to this day.
It is to be remembered that Mr. Garba previously served a four year prison sentence on trumped up terrorism charges.
Bekele and colleagues were released on the second day of market boycott which encompassed many towns in Oromia and Amhara regional states. According to the organizers the market boycott will last three days and the goal was to pressure the gov’t to release ALL political prisoners, remove federal forces from cities and towns, and bring to justice those who took part in the murder of peaceful protesters.
The names of those who were released are:
1) Gurmeessaa Ayyaanoo
2) Addisuu Bulaala
3) Dejene Tafa
4) Bekele Garba
5) Getu Girma Tolassa
6) Beyene Ruda
7) Tesfaye Liben Tolassa
It seems the unrest which is in its third year and periodic market boycott has hurt the pocket books of the gov’t, and many observers give credit to Qerroo (Oromoo Youth) for putting tremendous pressure on the chaotic EPRDF led government into releases some of the prisoners of conscience.
Even though the release of these leaders is a welcome news that should be cheered by all Oromos we should not lose sight by this little gesture since tens of thousands of Oromos are still languishing in gulags and underground prison cells. We should not fall for the divide and conquer tactics of the TPLF whereby they appease a small group in an attempt to buy loyalty while still hurting the majority. The struggle should continue until the last person unjustly incarcerated are set free.
Below is a poem by an activist cheering the release of Mr. Garba
Yaa Baqqee yaa Baqqalaa
Jabaa Leenca Daggalaa
Hidhamtee Dhugaa Dhabdee
Balleessaa malee cabde!
Kosii hin haane harki kee
Maalidharee yakki kee?
Dabaa tuffatte malee
Sabaaf dubbatte malee..
Afuuftuutu si Shakka
Biyya Oromummaan yakkaa!
Below is a Facebook post by an Oromo journalist Mr. Kumsa Burayu cheering the released of these prisoners of conscience and recommending the way forward.
The release of obbo Baqqalaa Garbaa and his comrades is a very good news! Congratulations to his family, the Oromo nation and to the entire freedom and peace loving Ethiopian people! I have full respect for all Oromo nationalists.
Although it is too little too late, this release can be viewed as a by-product of the popular movement our people have been engaged with. It is the result of ongoing protests and market boycotts, spearheaded by our fearless Qeerroo and Qarree particularly in the last couple of years.
Nevertheless, we should not lose sight by this little gesture. It goes without saying that the objective of our popular demand does not revolve around individuals. Individuals are important but they are not the entire destination of our struggle by themselves. We respect our individual nationalists born in any corners of our nation and serve in any political parties but our goal is much bigger than any individual person. Our struggle has clearly articulated our demands – the freedom of our people and our land. Our demand is to govern ourselves and our resources. Our demand is to decide on our affairs in all aspects. Our demand is to shape our future without any foreign interference. Our demand is to end internal cultural domination. Simply speaking, our demand is Freedom!
However, TPLF appears to continuously sabotage our demand by salvaging its old divisive strategies. One of these divisive strategies is to purposely create rifts between the Oromo nation on many factors such as region, religion and other backgrounds. Currently it is actively employing moving its machine on party lines. For instance, it releases some Oromos and keep the others behind bars nothing but for their political opinions. In particular, it exclusively categorises those members of OLF as its strategic enemies. The world knows that there are hundreds of OLF leaders who were disappeared by TPLF security agents and their whereabouts remain unknown. Thousands of young and brilliant OLF members were snatched from their work places and family homes and remained unseen. One of these young nationalist is my own brother Taakkala (Caalii) A. Wayyeessaa who was disappeared by TPLF security agents with many other friends at the end of 1994. We have no idea whether he is alive or dead. You see, we are not a nation that dances when a few of us are released and a large part of us are still languishing at TPLF torture chambers. We are a nation that demand freedom for all of us and for the people living with us and around us.
While keeping a large part of us in prison and at unknown destinations, TPLF is now preparing what it calls a draft agenda for the so called negotiation with opposition parties. By doing so, TPLF is practically testing who is prepared to work with them for minor political and economc gains and who would insist on popular demand of our people. They are trying to identify who stands with who at this critical juncture.
By the look of it, this is not a new tactic TPLF has crafted. If you have some memory left, you would remember that TPLF has acted on the same line of thinking in 1992. It co-opted some individuals and parties and turned them against the popular demand of our people at the time. It gave these individuals a voice to condemn the work of freedom and the price paid for liberation of our people. There are a lot of evidences out there in regards to the mess TPLF and the co-opted individuals/parties created in 1992. Unsurprisingly, after quarter of a century, in 2018, the shameless TPLF is trying to use the same divisive tactic albeit with some minor new paintings. So, the ball is in our court whether to succumb to their tactics or stand tall and solidify our unity to achieve our objectives once and for all.