Bekele Gerba: Ethiopia’s Mahtama?[Awol Kassim Allo]

Bekele Greba photo-NPRHe speaks of equality, freedom, and justice. He wants democracy to realize these ideals. He not only preaches peace but practices it by scrupulously sticking to the principles of non-violent struggles. He has the integrity, courage, and tenacity that a non-violent struggle against a violent state demand. He has endured unbearable treatments – from long term prison in squalid conditions to torture and other forms of authoritarian abuses.

None of this outweighed his supreme responsibility to liberate his people from the yoke of subjugation. He had every opportunity to avoid this current round of imprisonment and make a comfortable life for himself and his family. He chose to fight on and finish the job. Rather than abandoning this heavy burden, Gerba demonstrated his commitment and dedication to peaceful struggle by translating MLK’s book,posthumously published as ‘I have a Dream:,’ into Afaan Oromo.

Gerba is facing charges of terrorism. According to the charge sheet, he is accused of, among other things, opposing the Master Plan, meeting with OLF leaders & prominent Oromo activists, and for speaking at various platforms, calling for a non-violent mass uprising in the spirit of Martin Luther King.

The state puffed out his visit to the USA in 2015 into a vast and clumsy chimera concocted to slander the integrity of the man and the peaceful nature of the movement (‪#‎Oromoprotests‬). There is no evidence whatsoever to support the allegations of the state except the assertion itself – and this is all you need to secure a conviction from a purpose-built judicial institution. As we have seen time and time again, it is not evidence that matters. Evidence will be manufactured on a case by case basis to suit the government’s policy of elimination.

For a while, perhaps for a long while, TPLF’s charade might succeed, as it has done in previous political show trials. The spectre of the OLF can be raised over and over again, and the peaceful protest will be the subject of state-sponsored scorn and vilification. However, these fraudulent charades would not last long and it is a harbinger of something to come. Sooner or later, the trial will acquire a life of its own and will become a cultural artefact, independent of the narrow questions of guilt and innocence. It will become a reservoir from which we draw our inspiration to walk the “long walk to freedom.”

Gerba’s statements express the near unanimous frustration and indignation of the Oromo and other oppressed people of Ethiopia: jail us all or free us all. He has the stature and the profile of a leader that can unite his people for the goals of democratization. This is why TPLF wants to keep him behind bars. Clearly, he is considered more dangerous to the status quo than other leaders of the opposition. Like Mahatma in India, the ‘terrorist’ being subjected to Ethiopia’s judicial theatre may well be more important than the leaders outside.

He is inspiring and real!

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