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NEBE calls for parliamentary inquiry into detention of Oromo Liberation Front leaders

The seven imprisoned OLF leaders (Photo: Social Media)

Addis Abeba – The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has called upon the House of Peoples’ Representatives’ Legal, Justice, and Democracy Affairs Standing Committee to investigate the detention of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) leaders, who are being held by government security forces despite court orders for their release.

The NBE’s request follows a letter from the OLF dated 14 April, 2024, which stated that party leaders Abdi Regasa, Mikael Boran, Kenessa Ayana, Lammi Begna, Dr. Geda Gebisa, Dawit Abdata, and Girma Tiruneh remain in custody.

The letter alleges that these leaders are being held in life-threatening conditions by government security forces, in violation of national laws.

OLF issued the letter following the killing of Batte Urgessa, a political officer of the party. Batte was fatally shot, and his body was discovered by the roadside in his hometown of Meki, situated in the East Shewa zone of the Oromia region.

Following Bette’s death, the OLF called for an impartial investigation into what they described as the “tragic incident.”

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and several international entities, including the United States and the European Union, also urged for a prompt and thorough investigation into the killing.

However, the EHRC later revealed in a letter to the Oromia regional state government that it was “compelled to suspend” its investigations in Meki City, just three days after its team began gathering witness testimonies that implicated government security forces in Bette’s death.

According to the NEBE, this letter is the latest in a series of complaints from the OLF regarding the detention of its leaders. On 30 January, 2024, the NEBE wrote to the Standing Committee expressing concerns about the indefinite detention, unknown locations, and conditions of the detained OLF leaders.

The NEBE sought the committee’s intervention, acknowledging its own inability to resolve the issue. However, the NBE has not received a response from the Standing Committee to date. 

In light of the repeated complaints from the OLF, the NEBE is now urging the Standing Committee to address the matter promptly and investigate the party’s claims regarding the detention of its leaders. The NEBE emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the rights of political party members are protected and that all parties can participate freely in the democratic process.

The senior members of OLF have been held by Oromia police since 2020 and 2021, despite multiple court orders ordering their release. The detainees’ locations were frequently changed, with some being held at a former poultry farm outside Awash Melkassa, utilized by the Oromia Special Forces. AP

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