“It is a Grave Where a Person is Buried Alive” Experiences of Oromo Political Prisoners under the Criminal Justice System of Ethiopia during the EPRDF

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Wario Wako
Obsitu Duba
Nega Jibat


This study aims to narrate Oromo political prisoners‟ lived experiences of imprisonment under the criminal
justice system of Ethiopia during the Ethiopian People‟s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime. It
mainly focuses on a political prisoner's narration about the system's handling practices. The experiences of
other prisoners obtained from different sources were also analyzed to supplement the narration. Using a
phenomenological research approach, primary data were generated through in-depth interviews with the
political prisoner from Borana who spent nine years in prison during the EPRDF ruling system. Moreover, a
review of secondary materials such as related literature and media sources was employed, and the data were
thematically analyzed. The findings showed that the treatment of Oromo political prisoners in the criminal
justice system during the EPRDF was unjust and the handling practices were excessively inhuman. The system
was oppressive and served as an instrument of oppression for the ruling party, not as a justice institution fighting
crime to ensure societal order. Also, the findings revealed that, apart from punishment, the Ethiopian prison
processes and practices do not take principles of justice and due process models of criminal handling into
account. The study concluded that there were challenges to due process of law and extreme violations of human
rights in the system. Finally, the study recommends that the criminal justice system should consider justice and
due process of law in handling political prisoners. Moreover, the criminal justice system should have forensic
social workers who provide social services, promote the improvement of social justice, and strive to minimize
injustice in the system.

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How to Cite
Wako, W., Duba, O., & Jibat, N. (2023). “It is a Grave Where a Person is Buried Alive”. The Ethiopian Journal of Social Sciences and Language Studies (EJSSLS), 10(2), 145-161. Retrieved from https://journals.ju.edu.et/index.php/ejssls/article/view/5136

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