Press "Enter" to skip to content

Imprisoned Oromo opposition leaders are on the verge of death

Senior leaders of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) who have been held in police custody for more than 3 years despite repeated court orders for their release are currently on the verge of death.

Tuli Bayissa, a lawyer representing the leaders, told the Voice of America (VOA) that the leaders were in good health when they were first taken into custody. However, “they have been exposed to many illnesses as a result of abuse and terrible conditions in prison.” Kenasa Ayana, Dr. Gada Oljira, and Gada Gabissa, in particular, are in critical condition right now, the lawyer said.

People close to Kenesa Ayana have shared his medical certificate on social media, which shows that his health may worsen unless his prison circumstances are improved.

Jaal Kenasaa Ayaanaa
Kenasa Ayana receiving treatment at Bethzata General Hospital.

“The government has not provided funds for their food, medical care, or transportation. When the prisoners offer to pay for these services, the authorities occasionally refuse them access,” Lawyer, Tuli Bayissa adds.

According to the lawyer, all seven senior leaders of the OLF are currently being held in prison without due process. Abdi Ragassa, Lammi Benya, and Dawit Abdata have been acquitted by the Federal Supreme Court; Michael Boran, Kenasa Ayana, and Gada Gabisa’s case has been closed due to a lack of evidence; and Dr. Gada Oljira is being held without any charges against him, he said.

The OLF issued a statement on April 11, 2023, reiterating its earlier call on the government to release the suffering leaders immediately.

“The leaders of our party who have been tortured in prison for years and exposed to various diseases have reached a life-threatening stage. They have committed no crimes except being members of the OLF. They are political prisoners,” the OLF said.

Furthermore, the OLF urged regional and international human rights groups, as well as the international community, to put pressure on the Ethiopian government.

Kenasa Ayana’s malnourished photo has sparked outrage on social media. “This is a political strategy to eliminate [the leaders] by keeping them in prison, denying them justice, medical treatment, and gradually letting them die out of illness and mistreatment in prison,” one Oromo activist said. “Arresting people without due process is a crime,” the activist added.

The Oromo Liberation Front is a legally registered party in Ethiopia, and one of the two major political parties in Oromia.