ADDIS ABABA – “I prefer death to detention at Maekelawi,” prominent opposition leader Bekele Gerba has told a court after enduring appalling conditions in one of the chambers of hell at the notorious Maekelawi Prison in the Ethiopian capital.
The prison cell is sardine-packed: 30 prisoners in a 10×10 meter area. Because it is too crowded, respiration coupled with body heat drips back onto the prisoners from the ceiling. No need to divulge details of the hell-on-earth place called “Maekelawi” prison, where prominent political prisoners from the recent protests in Oromia are being held.
The horrible conditions led Bekele and other top OFC leaders to lauch a hunger strike, and on the fifth day on Sunday, when most of them were in critical health conditions, a small change was introduced: the number of occupants in Bekele’s cell was cut down to 17. Better than before but still brutal.
According to OFC Deputy chairperson, Mulatu Gemechu, prominent Oromo individuals who are at Maekelawi are Bekele Gerba, Dejene Taffa, Desta Dinka, Gurmesa Ayano, Addisu Bulala, Dereje Merga and Alemu Abdisa
This small area was so crowded not only with the human occupants but also personal belongings as well as sanitation goodies for the occupants who are not allowed to get air except very short timeouts at dawn and dusk.
Political prisoners suffer not only for torture or life in extremely appalling prison conditions. They are also handed lengthy appointments so that they would break down psychologically. The court has adjourned the prisoners case for another 28 days.
In another development, Mulatu said an unprecedented crackdown on Oromo people was in full swing throughout Oromia, and the mass arrests came in despite Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s recent speech sounded promising for the suffering majority. However, on the ground, a brutal massive crackdown is under way as the following list shows:
1. Shashemene, Western Arsi – Close to 1200 people have been taken away as prisoners and no one knows their whereabouts.
2. Chiro, Western Hararghe – Between 800 to 1000 people were hauled away by nine trucks. No one knows their whereabouts.
3. Gujji Zone – 150 people taken away.
4. Ambo, Western Shoa – 103 people taken away
5. Gimbi, Western Wellega – 60 people were arrested and taken to an unknown destination.
6. Qelem, Wellega – 54 people taken away.
7. Horo Gudru, Wellega – 39 people were taken away in one night.
8. Burayu (near Addis) – Two individuals taken away to an unknown destination.
Though Ethiopia is hemmoraging from the political crisis, the government is trying to use the prevalent “drought and famine” as a cover to wipe out dissent in Oromia and beyond.