By William Davison
Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia’s Federal High Court sentenced two senior Oromo politicians to as much as 13 years in prison after their convictions on charges of inciting a secessionist rebellion.
Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement was sentenced to 8 years in prison and Olbana Lelisa of the Oromo People’s Congress party to 13 years, Judge Kenate Hora said.
“It’s absolute injustice,” Bekele said to reporters outside the courtroom. Bekele and Olbana were accused of being members of the banned Oromo Liberation Front and inciting students to rebel, Kenate said. Seven others were given sentences of between three years and 12 years for getting training in camps in Kenya and being involved in gunfights with Ethiopian soldiers, he said.
The Oromo Liberation Front has been fighting for more autonomy for the Oromo, Ethiopia’s most populous ethnicity, since 1973, according to its website. The group was initially part of a transitional government after helping allied rebels oust the Derg military regime in 1991. The Ethiopian government silences legitimate Oromo opposition by branding them rebels, Amnesty International said in a report in January.