News analysis: OLF calls for an end to torture of jailed members as senior leaders protest in hunger strike

Addis Abeba – The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) accused the ruling party of torturing its jailed members. In a statement released today, the party detailed the conditions of its senior leaders who are currently detained in detention centers in the Oromia special zone surrounding Finfinee. The leaders are on a hunger strike for over a week protesting prolonged unlawful detention, according to the statement. Subsequently, their health conditions have deteriorated over the last couple of days and family members are prevented from visiting them the statement said. 

The public relations head of the OLF told Addis Standard that the party’s jailed members including senior leaders like Mikael Boren, Kenessa Ayana, Dawit Abdeta, Lemi Begna, Geda Gabisa, and the former PR Bate Urgessa were detained in several informal detention centers in towns like Mojo, Awash Melkasa, Gelan, Sebeta and Burayu over the last several months. “Some of our members were detained in solitary confinement in Oromia Special Forces camp called Sololia in Gelan town. Most of them are held in terrible conditions and denied family visitation,” Lammi said. 

The statement issued this morning listed the names of three journalists who are held in Sebeta police station alongside 27 other members of the party. The chief of the prison guard in Sebeta police station denied Dechassa Wirtu, Bikila Amenu, and Dessu Dula, journalists who work for the TV channel affiliated with the party, Oromo News Network (ONN)  are denied food for the last two days, according to Lammi. 

The PR also disclosed that the OLF pleaded with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to address the human rights violations while in detention. “We sent several letters to the commission last year regarding the forced disappearance of our members from different detention centers but we never got any response,” he said. Lammi recalled that the party wrote consecutive letters to the commission in May, June, and October last year. The commissioner of EHRC Daniel Bekele and the commission’s spokesperson couldn’t be reached for comments. 

Lammi, who put the total number of OLF members and supporters jailed across Oromia ‘in tens of thousands’ expressed frustration with the suffering of the party members at the hands of the ruling party. 

The statement concluded by calling on the international community and human rights advocates to speak for the jailed OLF members. The party also called on the Oromo people to stand in solidarity with them and their families. AS 

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