Diaspora

Wabe Haji : Innocence is not a defense for Oromo Political Prisoners in Ethiopia

WabeHaji
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Recently, Ethiopia’s Kangaroo court handed down an unfair verdict for innocent civilians accused of being members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Many of those who were sentenced have already spent years of incarceration in TPLF’s concentration camps. Tigabu Yilma, a former class mate for one of the victims of TPLF’s ethnic cleansing policy, recounts his time at Addis Ababa University Law School with Wabe Haji Jarso.

By Tigabu Yilma*

As might be the case for millions of Oromos and other Ethiopians, it was a shocker for me to learn that the Tigre Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) regime of Meles Zenawi has sentenced leading Oromo intellectuals (political leaders, lawyers, engineers, professors and students) and business people to death, life sentence, and long years of imprisonment. This is the second time in less than three months that the TPLF regime issued such a verdict after the regime sentenced the leaderships of Ginbot 7 and their alleged supporters to death and life imprisonments.

After I saw the news headlines on Gadaa.com and Ethiomedia.com, quite instinctively I went on to see the names of these people. I was barely half way. I was shocked. One of my former classmates, Wabe Haji , was among the list. Wabe Haji Jarso is an Alumni of Addis Ababa University (AAU) Law School, class of 1993/4. Wabe is an Oromo from Arsi region of Oromia State in Ethiopia. Before joining AAU Law School, Wabe served in the Ethiopian Air Force. He was quite, apolitical, farsighted and very considerate member of our class. He was voice of reason and magnanimity. For these noble qualities, we all love, respect and admire him.

As if I am writing my own obituary, flashback of memory took me back to Addis Ababa University Law School. I started recounting the five years we spent there. We learned, ate and played together. We shared, debated and argued on issues, views and beliefs. We were very close to each other, faculty and the staff at the Law School. We were ONE family, the Law School family. We knew each other very well. Our small size (fifty students for the entire batch) and isolated nature of the Law School at the Sidist Kilo Campus of the AAU made us very close.

I tried to recall every one of them by name. Our years of idealism and innocence clouded my memory. At this point, I realized most of us have left the country. And most of us are leading successful life, alas outside Ethiopia. We are dispersed around the world. Most of us now live in Europe and the United States. I also thought of why we left Ethiopia in drove, and so few remained behind. We all made calculated decision to leave or stay in Ethiopia. For those of us who decided to leave, the human instinct of survival and the desire to stay alive — at least for ourselves, outweighed all the rest. I could classify those who decided to stay in Ethiopia into two groups. The first group consists of my Tigre friends who found out that in the era of TPLF it is their time and season of power. They are right. All of them are now in position of authority. They are the judges, prosecutors and propaganda chiefs of the TPLF regime— the most barbarian and cruel regime the world has ever seen. Wabe was sentence to thirteen years imprisonment by one of them.

Wabe Haji belongs to the second group, those who remained in Ethiopia due to the love of family and country. Don’t get me wrong. We all love our country and family. But we gambled with the risk to save our lives. After graduating from the Law School, Wabe started working for the Ethiopian Insurance Corporation (EIC) until he later joined the Ethiopian Commercial Bank . He worked for the bank until his detention in november 2008. Both corporations are government owned, i.e. under the control of the TPLF. Despite the odds of working for TPLF controlled company, Wabe was one of the most successful attorneys both at the Ethiopian Commercial Bank and the Ethiopian Insurance Corporation. He was content and happy with his life and legal practice.

A day before I left Ethiopia, I had a coffee with Wabe. I told him my decisions. He didn’t object. I asked him what his plans are. His response was crystal clear. He said he has old, young, and poor family members who look up to him. He said he is the only breadwinner not only for his family but also for his extended family members. He told me the young looks up to him for guidance and the old needs his support. He stated, even if he wants to leave to pursue his master’s degree in Europe or the United States, he could not. He has to work and support his family.

Before we parted, I asked him one last question which I still recall. I asked him if he has any fear because the TPLF was targeting the Oromo people particularly the intellectuals, students and business people. He said he has no fear. He saw no reason why he will be targeted. He said he is not a politician and have no interest to become one. He reminded me of his apolitical stand during the Derge regime. But I pushed him further, and told him most Oromos’ I know who are in prison are neither politicians nor politically involved. He agreed, insisting “innocence is not a defense for Oromo political prisoners in TPLF Ethiopia.”

Now, innocence is not a defense for Wabe Haji. He is behind bars in one of the world’s most brutal dungeons. As for his poor relatives and family members, TPLF will get rid of them without being accused of killing them. I was once told by a TPLF operative about the TPLF Oromo policy after heated party night in Addis. Don’t be surprised. TPLF has a policy for each and every ethnic group. In this operative’s  own words TPLF’s Oromo policy is “to kill them whenever and wherever they can.” Doubting my ethnicity, the operative didn’t tell me TPLF’s Amhara policy or others. But he affirmed to me that they got one.

Now what remains is whether the Oromos and the rest of the Ethiopian people will defend themselves against the TPLF fascist regime or continue to be killed in vain.

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* The author, Tigabu Yilma, can be reached at TigabuYilma@gmail.com.

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