After he was accused of being an insurgent, prisoner Gammachu Garomsa was reportedly beaten to death by Ethiopian security forces and his body thrown into the bush at Yubdo Kebele in Oromia.
The district government said he was shot dead as he attempted to escape, though a photo of him sitting with his hands tied around his back and surrounded by Oromia regional police carrying sticks found its way onto social media.
Ijara Taddese, in his mid-twenties and a father of one, said he was assaulted with sticks and wires after being taken to a detention camp in Dembi Dollo in western Oromia. “Three soldiers forced me to lie on the ground with my back and two of them stepped on my hands and the other poured water on my mouth and nose from a full jerry can that holds 20 liters.” he told Ethiopia Insight. “That almost killed me.”
Such horror stories are familiar from Oromia over at least the last three decades after dissent was de facto criminalized and opponents of Meles Zenawi and Hailemariam Desalegn’s governments were routinely jailed as alleged members of the then-banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Under reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the OLF was invited home from Eritrea to partake in a liberated Ethiopia, and the jails were emptied—or so the standard narrative goes.
In fact, for many Oromo, the struggle did not end and the abuses did not stop: both Ijara and Gamachu’s ordeals occurred just a few months ago, in September. Ijara, an employee of Oromia Credit and Saving Association who said he was arrested twice under Abiy’s predecessor, was released on September 23.
The government Human Rights Commission told Voice of America (VOA) that the killing of Gammachu in Ayira Woreda of Western Wellega Zone was a human rights abuse. Ruling party Oromia spokesman Taye Dendea said to Ethiopia Insight that elements in the regional police were paid to defame the government by engaging in violations and then circulating evidence online.
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