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Topic of the Month

In an attempt to make sense of beyond winning (and losing) elections in Ethiopia, in the last two pieces, Tsegaye R. Ararssa of the University of Melbourne Law School embarked on the exploration of the growing pulse of societal disenchantment with the imperial system, especially in the 1960s. This disenchantment reached its climax and eventually found its expression through the 1974 popular uprising. In the third part of this thought provoking article, Tsegaye takes it up from there to wrap up his reflection on the past and point out some of the outstanding current issues that are itching contemporary Ethiopia as its citizens go to the ballot this coming weekend.

Born in 1961 in West Wollega region of western Ethiopia, Bekele Gerba 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 Addis Abeba, 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 AUU 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. A father of four, Bekele was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to eight years in prison suspected of allegedly belonging to the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). 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. A few days after his release Bekele agreed to sit down for his first extensive interview with our Editor-in-Chief Tsedale Lemma. Excerpts:  

More than 10, 000 street cleaners are scrambling to clean a city that produces 200,000 tons of waste annually; but their job is a Sisyphean task

Kalikidan Yibeltal

In one uncharacteristically dry late morning in July of this year, three women with straw hats, waterproof safety jackets and plastic boots walk at their own speed alongside Roosevelt Avenue at the heart of Addis Abeba. They are wearing the thick latex gloves they use while sweeping the streets; the empty pushcarts and the idle broomsticks, however, are being pushed, thankfully, by their colleagues who are a little ahead of them. The three women look slightly fatigued, but they seem to be enjoying the less demanding hours and less daunting weather. When they arrived at the place around 5:00 am, leaving their houses an hour earlier, it was drizzling. As it is the rainy season this time of year, sometimes the day breaks with a downpour, making it unbearable to move, let alone deal with the garbage thrown overnight on the streets of a city, which six years ago was dubbed “the sixth filthiest in the entire world” by a Forbes Magazine rating. But they can’t afford to be late. They have to grapple with the most arduous parts of their tasks before the hustle and bustle of life seizes the day.