FEATURE ANALYSIS: BEHIND THE ARRESTS OF THOUSANDS & MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE IS THE SILENT SUFFERINGS OF PRISONERS’ FAMILIES
BY SIYANNE MEKONNEN @SIYAANNE
Addis Abeba, October 19/2020 – The June 29 assassination of popular Oromo artist and activist Haacaaluu Hundessaa marked the return of headlines that made Ethiopia a notoriously recognizable country before two years ago: mass imprisonment and trial of prominent opposition figures, journalists, academicians, activists and ordinary citizens.
Less talked about is the fact that some of these high profile individuals are among the political prisoners who were freed in February 2018, shortly before the abrupt resignation of Ethiopia’s former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalagn. Others are among the thousands of people who were arrested in Oromia regional state in connection with the unrest that took place in Addis Abeba and parts of Oromia regional state, and in Oromia Regional State Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne in the aftermath of the assassination of artist Haacaaluu.
According to a joint presser given between the federal government and Oromia region attorneys general offices, 488 charges were currently opened in which 5, 728 individuals are facing indictments ranging from terrorism to criminal to illegal possession of firearms. Some of these are cases involving high profile individuals such as Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba et.al, of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Eskinder Nega et.al of Balderas for Genuine Democracy, Lidetu Ayalew of Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), and a group of executive members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLf). As such, most are receiving both local and international media coverage; but an overwhelming majority of the indictments are happening outside of the media’s limelight.
What is not talked about at all is the sufferings of families who are enduring the social, psychological and financial crisis of having their loved ones, often the family breadwinners, locked away.
Addis Standard spoke to the families of some of these prisoners to highlight suffer the uncertainties and inconsistencies that currently pervade legal proceedings.