Bekele Gerba, 54 and a father of four, went to elementary school in Boji Dirmaji and completed his high school in Gimbi senior secondary school. Bekele was graduated with BA degree in foreign language and literature from the Addis Abeba University (AAU) and taught in Dembi Dolo and Nejo high schools in western Ethiopia, among others. He finished his post graduate studies in 2001 in teaching English as a foreign language at the AAU and went to Adama Teachers’ College, 98kms south of Finfinne (Addis Ababa), where he taught English and Afaan Oromo. Suspected of allegedly supporting students’ riot that took place a year before, Bekele was dismissed in 2005 by the college. He then came to Addis Abeba where he taught in two private universities for two years until he was employed in 2007 as a full time lecturer by the AAU where he continued teaching English.
Bekele’s political career began in 2009 when he joined the opposition party, Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), as a member of the executive committee and head of the public relations department. Bekele participated and lost in the 2010 parliamentary elections in which the ruling EPRDF claimed more than 99% of the seats in parliament.
Bekele Gerba was first arrested on 27 August 2011 along with Olbana Lelisa, senior member of the Oromo People’s Congress party (OPC), who is still in jail. Both were arrested after having a meeting with representatives of Amnesty International (AI), who were expelled soon after.
Both Bekele and Olbana were then charged under the country’s infamous anti-terrorism law on a specific charge of being members of the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and inciting a secessionist rebellion. In Dec. 2012, Bekele and Olbana were sentenced to eight and thirteen years in prison respectively.
Upon appeal to the Supreme Court, his sentencing was reduced to three years and seven months with a right to parole. After the merger in 2012 of OFDM and Oromo Peoples’ Congress (OPC) that became known as the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) Bekele was appointed as First Deputy Chairman while he was still serving his sentence. Although he was paroled and was eligible to be free in 2014 Bekele was released in the first week of April 2015 only after he finished his sentencing.
Bekele represented OFC in the so-called Ethiopian election in May 2015, but the government refused to count the ballots in fear of losing the election. Instead it declared itself, blatantly, a winner with 100% voting count and became laughable around the world.
By the invitation of Oromo Studies Association, Bekele Gerba arrived, this morning, in Washington DC to take part in OSA’s annual conference, which starts on August 1, 2015. He is a keynote speaker of this year’s OSA.
Many Oromos in Washington DC Metro region will have the opportunity to meet the man who went to jail for speaking the voice of millions of Ethiopians, in particular Oromo.