Prisons that Held Gemechu Ayana Can’t Crush Self-Determination’s Spirit

Prisons that Held Gemechu Ayana Can’t Crush Self-Determination’s Spirit

By Worku Burayu (PhD), January 1, 2020

haasofsiisee ABODuring the times of apartheid, it was said that some prisons reached almost 200% of what the prison was built to hold. The exact copy of that prison is in Ethiopia’s capital city. The members of the Oromo society filled the prisons in Ethiopia like it had been the case in community of South Africa during apartheid. “No inmate came from other regional states except from that of Oromia’s Regional State,” Gemechu said.

Colonel Gemechu Ayana, commander of the 8th Mechanized Force, joined the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) abandoning the TPLF regime in 2006. When he was in Ethiopian Military Forces Gemechu was once arrested with his two friends, the now Ethiopian Defense Minster Lemma Megerssa and Commander Nemera Regassa on allegations of connection with Oromo Liberation Front. Gemechu secretively organized militaries with Oromo background in Ethiopian army forces until he finally flee his country with other high-ranking military personnel. After 12 years’ service in giving training to Oromo Liberation Army, he re-entered Ethiopia with other OLF members in September 2018. Two months after his entrance to Ethiopia, Colonel Gemechu Ayana was arrested on January 17, 2019 at the “Third Division of Police Station” in the Capital city on allegations of terrorism illustrates the Ethiopian authorities’ continued abuse of the country’s anti-terror laws. This prison station is the country’s most notorious center right now and is sharing the same fence with once the Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector, commonly known as Maekelawi. After the Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector (Maekelawi) closed, many of Ethiopia’s political prisoners—opposition politicians, journalists, protest organizers, alleged supporters of and high-ranking members of OLF, and many others—are first taken to this station. There, they are interrogated.  Today, prison at “Third Division of Police Station” is a maximum-security prison with a status of overcrowding, neglected conditions, and causing mental sufferings and physical deterioration to inmates. It is one of the several prisons of Ethiopia commonly referred to as a gulag where many Oromo political prisoners are under the circumstances of death due to starvation and maltreatment. My claim is substantiated by Colonel Gemechu Ayana’s interview and his physical appearance.

Although not of his own choosing, Colonel Gemechu spent almost a year in two prisons centers. After his release, Gemechu compared the prison center at the “Third Division of Police Station” with Robben Island, once a notorious prison center in South Africa. After one month in dark dangerous prison cell that has six secured gates, Gemachu was transferred to 24 m2 area where other 16 inmates were found. He spent seven months there and finally transferred to Qilinto Prison, from which he was released on December 24, 2019. Qilinto Prison Center, 11 km from Finfine serves as the main prison of the country equivalently called as “The Prison House of Oromo.” Gemechu estimated about 9,000 Oromo Prisoner of Conscience (POC) in Ethiopia. According to my information there are more than 20,000 Oromo Prisoner of conscience, or what Peter Benenson, called as “The Forgotten Prisoners” in official and hidden or unknown prison centers, spots, places or palaces. Tens of thousands of whereabouts are unknown. Oromos have been imprisoned and/or persecuted for the non-violent expression of their conscientiously held beliefs, because of their race, religion or political views. No single media in Ethiopia or outside of the country wanted to expose such horrific situation. Totally, it hasn’t been given local or worldwide attention.

Gemechu lost 24 kg during his prison time (from 76 kg to 52 kg).  Witnesses say Gemechu did not lose his dignity and moral value while imprisoned. The spirit of freedom still burns in his minds and hearts. When an American citizen, a well-known professor in one of the universities in USA visited Colonel Gemechu, the feeling was powerful, a professor recalled. “He brought more calmness over me as a person,” said professor, who met the prisoner before he was released. As a human being, many were in tears after listening to Gemechu’s interview on ONN, OMN, VOA, and BBC, particularly when he mentioned the heinous crime happen to other Oromo prisoners. My wife’s eyes filled with tears as she watched his interview on ONN asking me why such horrific situation happen to Oromo’s at this time. My friend’s wife who was supporter of Abiy administration cursed Abiy after watching Gemechu’s interview on OMN.

Belief it or not, currently, the worst thing is happening in Oromia.  Kids are mutilated, adults are castrated, houses and properties are burnt, women and girls are raped, crops and natural forests are destroyed, and generally genocidal act is on the making by the so-called Command Post. Prime Minster Abiy, the 2019 Nobel prize winner must think many times about peace, and his government must address the Oromo question or risk collapsing the entire country. Oromo people must fasten the struggle to exercise genuine self-rule as enshrined in the constitution. Prisons that Held Oromo political prisoners Can’t Crush Self-Determination’s Spirit. My next topic of discussion will be “NOBEL PEACE PRIZE: IT ISN’T ABOUT PEACE.”

Horaa Bulaa!

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you, Dr Worku Burayu, for pointing out that the ‘prisons that held Gemechu Ayana can’t crush the sprit of self-determination’. Indeed, no force of repression can crush the sprits of freedom!

    The uncivilized and extremely backward savages, anti-Oromo subjugators, who snatched the independence of the great Oromo people and other nations of Ethiopia in the 19th century, using foreign made rifles and foreign advisors, have tried cruelties in all manners, in order to suppress the struggles of our people to regain their freedoms. Nevertheless, our heroes and heroines, who have paid ultimate prices not only to keep our resistance against subjugations going but also to take our struggles to the next stages of development, securely, have shown that no force of evil can stop our struggles for just cause. The march towards achieving genuine self-determination for our nations and other historically subjugated Ethiopian nations has advanced beyond the power of the anti-Oromo inferior oppressors. The determination, unwavering willingness and strength of character we witnessed in the tone of Gemechu Ayana during his interview were remarkable. His commitment to give more to the cause he so believes in, despite the physical evidence of the hardship he was subjected to while incarcerated, attests to the fact that the Oromo struggle for self-determination has reached a point of no return. Neftegna and neo-neftegna colonizers have imprisoned, tortured, disappeared, killed, massacred, assassinated, blackmailed, and despised our freedom heroes and heroines so as to discourage us from demanding our freedoms and seek justice. However, their cruelty and inhumane treatments only did the opposite to their wishes. The more they have become inhumane oppressors, the more enlightened and encouraged we have become to regain our independence.

    What is more, historical and political records from ancient times to modern days, have evidenced the fact that inhumane acts on the parts of oppressors never have the power to force the oppressed to relinquish their quest for freedoms. This truth was captured in Nelson Mandela’s letter to the Commission of Prisons, from his prison cell in Robben Island, protesting the abuses of political prisoners. Mandela wrote: ‘It is futile to think that any form of persecution will ever change our views. Your Government and Department have notorious record for hatred, contempt and persecution of the Black man, especially the African, a hatred and contempt which forms the basic principle of the country’s laws”.

    As Mandela asserted in his letter, in spite of notorious hatred, persecution and laws based on those evil deeds, it was not possible to change the minds of South African freedom fighters. They defied to accept apartheid and to live under heinous repressions and segregations imposed on them by the regime, making lives hell for South Africans in their ancestral lands. The struggle, finally, culminated in dismantling apartheid and heralding freedom for South Africans. Similarly, the cruelty employed by Abyssinian successive governments, from the neftegna system to the military regime and TPLF/EPRDF fascist system have never broken the sprits of the great Oromo people. Their repressions have never extinguished the already ignited freedom torch. Thanks and eternal respects to our leaders and martyrs!

    Our heroes and heroines have carried the torch of freedom, passing responsibilities of taking the struggle to the next levels of developments, from generation to generation and registering incremental achievements. Our forefathers and fathers like the qeerroo and qarree generation were unbreakable in front of the neftegna regardless of the magnitudes of sufferings they were subjected to. Sadly, even todate, the neftegna and neo-neftegna have never changed their attitudes towards our people, and have continued to attempt to break us by imprisoning and torturing our bright ones. However, the Oromo struggles have come long way, and it is impossible to crush the sprit of self-determination by imprisoning or inflicting any form of sufferings. The Oromo people in general and qeerroo and qarree in particular are not at a stage of abandoning their just demands. This has been showcased by the sacrifices our bright brothers, sisters and children made, standing up to the repressive TPLF/EPRDF regime and paying ultimate prices. They brought the highly armed regime to its knees through peaceful protests. And Oromo quest for self-determination is at a no point of return! Period! I believe that the great Oromo people are capable of defending themselves, and the onus is on every Oromo to ascertain our self-determination.

    Kindly, Colonel Gemechu Ayana expresses his belief that what is really happening to the Oromo in Ethiopian prisons might not be known to the prime minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed. Since we have no way of knowing what information Dr Abiy may or may not receive from his subordinates, let us think that he may not know that tens of thousands of Oromo political prisoners are languishing in prison cells in Ethiopia, for merely supporting or being members of certain Oromo political organizations. Nelson Mandela in his letters to the Commissioner gave similar “benefits of the doubts”. He continued his remarks as follows: ” But I still believe that you as Head of this Department who holds the rank of General will not allow (or) condone these underhand methods, and until your actual decision on the matter proves me wrong, I shall continue to act in the belief that you are not aware of what is going on in this prison”.

    While we may give Dr Abiy the benefit of the doubts that he might be unaware of the plight of the Oromo people, his supposedly constituents, I believe that there are steps that the great Oromo people must take, decisively. The Oromo must accept that they cannot continue to allow rogue régimes to abuse them. It must stop! Our people must act in unison and defend themselves. Oromo: Demand the following, giving specific ultimatum to gain answers from Dr Abiy in particular and the Ethiopian government in general.

    1) All Oromo students in Amhara universities to be brought home with immediate effect;
    2) All Oromo political prisoners to be released without any delays and preconditions;
    3) Wars against the Oromo people in west and south Oromia (Walaga and Gujii) as well as other areas of the region to be halted immediately, and to negotiate political settlements with those with grievances, and
    4) Demand that the boundaries between Finfinnee/Addis Ababa and surrounding Oromia zones be demarcated and limited to the pre 1995 Addis Ababa city map, at least.

    Remember Oromo, qeerroo and qarree: You are under no obligations to support either Dr Abiy or his government if he continues to fail you. Your future is in your hands, and the sky is not the limit if you understand your immense potential and power and act with winning mind sets. By the way, the sky has seized to be the limit any more, thanks to the technological advancements. Therefore, the great Oromo people shall not be limited by the repressive government of Ethiopia.

    Truth, freedom and justice prevail!

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