Ethiopian Airlines hijacking: Why co-pilot might have taken extreme steps to leave By David Blair

February 17th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

Desperate migrants go to extreme lengths to leave their homelands, but only a select few resort to hijacking. The Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot who landed his plane in Geneva joins a club that previously consisted of nine Afghans who forced an airliner to fly to Stansted Airport in 2000.

In reality, the co-pilot’s choice might not be as inexplicable as it sounds. At least 620,000 Ethiopians live abroad, including 10 per cent of all those with a university degree, according to the World Bank.

Ethiopians with marketable skills are highly likely to seek their fortunes abroad: the country’s emigration rate is 30 per cent for doctors and 17 per cent for nurses. A qualified pilot would fall into the category of those most likely to leave.
Two key “push factors” lie behind this outflow: repression and poverty. Ethiopia is a de facto one-party state, dominated by a small autocratic elite. Under the previous prime minister, Meles Zenawi, elections were shamelessly rigged and the opposition simply closed down. Many Ethiopians believed that Mr Meles favoured his own Tigray-Tigrinya ethnic group, who comprise less than seven per cent of the population, for the most powerful and privileged positions in the land.

The new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, took over when Mr Meles died in 2012. Although a less authoritarian figure, Mr Hailemariam has inherited a state which imposes stifling restrictions on political freedom.

The government trumpets the fact that Ethiopia has achieved economic growth of about 10 per cent every year for the last decade. But the benefits have yet to reach most of the country’s 90 million people. Ethiopia’s national income per head is only $400, making it one of the poorest countries in the world.

All this means that many skilled people do their utmost to leave. The government has made this difficult by imposing draconian restrictions on emigration. Many Ethiopians are simply banned from leaving the country.

Three years ago, 60 technicians working for Ethiopian Airlines were given jobs by other carriers based in the Gulf. Their employer simply passed their names to the Immigration and Nationality Affairs Department – and all were prevented from leaving the country.

The co-pilot who flew to Geneva might have had no legal avenue for leaving Ethiopia permanently. He appears to have decided that hijacking a plane was his only option, even if the price is spending time inside a Swiss jail.

  1. Idris
    | #1

    While rare, a pilot hijacking an airline is not unheard of.
    In 1998, an Air China captain, reportedly disgruntled with life in China, hijacked his passenger jet to Taiwan.

    Source:http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/17/world/europe/ethiopian-airlines-hijacking/

  2. TRUTH
    | #2

    Mr. David Blair,
    Thank you and God bless you. You are one of the very few people in the world that is well aware of what is going on in Ethiopia. Ethiopia/ns need more people like Mr. David Blair to be the voice for the voiceless Ethiopians that are suffering needlessly.

  3. Worku tesfaye
    | #3

    Ethiopia is a poor country and relatively some gdp growth hv been registered last 10 year.
    It is credible to reason out wy copilot was hijacking ze ethio air craft.more zan 30% of pop is under poverty line.he was highly paid comparatively in Ethiopia.
    And he had opportunity to ask asylum wz out did zis action.c.
    I think he has mental or psych problem

  4. wedinakfa
    | #4

    Thansk to the great USA who supports despotic leaders and preaches democracy, honestly the US admistration never mind the past, but the present led by MR No Hope Obama has trampled on humanity and he has got the audacity to preach as democracy, Mr President I beg you to ask your own conciouseness!!

    The same goes to the so called free press who hide behinde nice words and supprt the despotic leaders and cry foul when they are toucched.

    For the ills of the Horn is the admistration at Washngton responsible, I say to them take your democracy and leave as along.

    David you need to think critical, this young copilot was living at least a comfortable life comparing to his compatriots for your information people not only hijack a plane they die for freedom too so, for this young courageouse guy is sending to the world a message of oppressed people hence your free press has decided to side with brutal killers his only option andhis tool is to hijack a plane and make a statment, again your assertion to say that he is feeling because of better job or else is another stupid assertion of western media who sift and sanitize news inorder to force fed the reader.

    Davis Blare Ethiopians are subject to humulation and your brother at white house are supporting for this despicable actions!!

  5. DANNY@SEMERE.DIASPORA
    | #5

    WHY IS EVERYBODY STARTING SH***ING NOW ? FROM INDIVIDUAL HEWEHAT
    FOOT SOLDIER TO ORGANIZATION TO GOVERNMENT.DIDN’T YOU KNOW THIS
    WAS COMING ON ? WHAT DO YOU THINK THE REASON WHY WE WERE YELLING
    AND TELLING EVERYONE THAT THIS WAS COMING………?
    BECAUSE WE FORESAW THAT THIS WAS ON THE WAY AND COMING SOME DAY
    WE WERE TELLING YOU TO CORRECT YOUR WAYS AND PATHS AHEAD OF TIME
    BEFORE YOU COME TO A STUCK AND SUDDEN STOP ?
    THIS IS NOTHING UNEXPECTED TO ME AND MY FRIENDS AT OUR UNIVERSITY.
    IF IT IS SOMETHING UNEXPECTED TO YOU
    SORRY ABOUT THAT.THERE IS NOT MUCH WE
    CAN DO ABOUT IT !

  6. Merhawi
    | #6

    The naive woyanes were futily hoping to avoid the inevitable
    by living on a day to day quick fixes and postponements hoping
    the the problem they are in will vanish into thin air or some-
    hevenly force will intervene to save them.
    Sad they wasted their time and the people under their rule in
    this way getting into more tighter and tighter rope under their
    neck.
    May be they were seing our diaspora advice for their way out as
    childish talk. kkkkkkkkkkkkk…..Lij Le Enatua…….min Astemarech?

  7. TRUTH
    | #7

    wedinakfa,
    I suggest, you need to reread the article carefully.

  8. Danny
    | #8

    why is this man doing this when he have a schengen visa and leave the country as he pleases. he must have been paid to do this by Egypt and Eritrea. there must be an interpol investigation. phone calls have be traced and evidence must be scrutinized. hopefully after he served 20 years in EU. he will be sent to ethiopia for more prison time.

  9. Angel
    | #9

    Danny,
    TPLF always jump out of their seats to blame their godfather, the hatemonger and racist dictator Essayas. Why do you people always shamelessly, blame the very subhuman that created TPLF?
    Lets hope, in less than 20 years, the brutal TPLF mafia regime will be history — TPLF will be remembered for generations to come like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin’s ugly and shocking history. It is obvious that the brave copilot had no intention to harm others and he didn’t harm a single soul. He did what he did to expose PLF’s crimes on peaceful Ethiopians and Ethiopia.

  10. derbi kejela
    | #10

    Who is this so called David Blair, the island monkey from England.
    This very usless Muzungi can go hell. Shame on him!!
    How on earth he claimed that the co-pilot has done this act to escape of poverty ? This cahrlaten isn’t a journaluist.
    He is indeed a scoundrel.Piss off! The truth of the matter that the puppet TPLF regime in Addis Ababa is installed and supported by Westerners spear-headed by Washington und London adminstrations. They wine and dine with the most brutal and corrupt Bantustan aparthid regime in Africa.

    @Wedinakfa and Angel bravo! Both of you did superbly good job.
    Thank so much.

    Co-pilot Haile Medhin Abera is an Ethiopian patriot.
    We love him and wish him all the best.

    Anyway he will be soon free. We shall do everything possible to get him out of prison.

    TPLF will be burried.
    Ethiopia will prevail!!

    Derbi Kedjela
    Son of Wobera
    Hareghe, Ethiopa

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