Bekele Gerba is a former English professor at Addis Ababa University and a prominent leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), a registered political party in Oromia, Ethiopia. He was arrested on December 23, 2015, in the midst of a crackdown on ongoing protests against government development plans for Addis Ababa and surrounding municipalities. The government responded to the protests, which began on November 12, 2015, with force and mass arrests; in mid-December government officials called the protestors "terrorists."
Mr. Gerba was arrested under the Anti-Terrorist Proclamation and reportedly charged with belonging to the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a charge that is regularly used to silence ethnic Oromos who are critical of the government. While he was originally taken to the notorious Maekalawi prison, in April 2016 he was transferred to Qilinto prison. As a human rights activist Bekele has been subject to repeated threats, intimidation, periods of incommunicado detention as well as torture and ill treatment by government-backed military forces. In July, Gerba and several other senior members of the OFC went on a hunger strike to protest their treatment in detention.
In September, at least 23 people were reported to have died in a fire that broke out in this prison. Bekele Gerba’s whereabouts after the fire are unclear.
Advocate: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)