Kidnapped British embassy staff reported safe in Eritrea

March 10th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

PAUL WILSON SM : DIPLOMATS were today urgently checking reports a group of British embassy staff kidnapped in Ethiopia last week are safe in neighbouring Eritrea.According to the reports, a community leader said the group was “unharmed and safe” and being held by Afar separatist rebels.The group, all of whom are connected to the British Embassy in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, went missing on Thursday last week while on a tourist trip to northern Ethiopia to visit geological sites and learn more about the Afar region.

Foreign Office officials were keen to stress the reports were unconfirmed.

A spokeswoman said: “We are looking into these reports at the moment. We can’t confirm anything at present.”

She also said today that the five missing embassy staff include three Britons, one Italian/Briton and one French person.

On Tuesday, two bullet-ridden and burnt-out vehicles belonging to the group were found abandoned after diplomats reached the remote north-eastern village of Hamedali, where they were thought to have disappeared.

The vehicles – a Toyota Land Cruiser and a Land Rover Discovery – still had luggage, shoes and mobile phones inside.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said yesterday she was still concerned for the group.

“I and my colleagues in government remain deeply concerned. Obviously, this has been a very difficult time for the families of those who are missing”, she said.

“We are in the closest possible touch with the government of Ethiopia, including with Prime Minister Meles (Zenawi), who is offering us every assistance.

“We are also in close contact with other governments in the region and grateful for all the co-operation we are receiving. This includes Eritrea, and I would like to thank President Isaias (Afwerki) for his government’s support and help.”

Hamedali is a popular staging post for intrepid tourists willing to withstand temperatures of 50C to venture into the unique geological formations of the Danakil Depression, including the area’s famous salt lakes. Visitors are warned to travel in convoy with armed guards because of rebels and bandits.

According to witnesses, 50 men burst into the village, some of them armed, and marched a group towards the Eritrean border.

The kidnapped group is also thought to include a number of Ethiopian drivers and translators. British Ambassador to Ethiopia Bob Dewar has said the group may have been the victim of mistaken identity.

Eritrea has dismissed claims its soldiers snatched the group. Information minister Ali Abdu said the claims, were fabricated by Ethiopia to make Eritrea look bad. Relations between Ethiopia and its neighbour have been strained since Eritrea gained independence in 1993 following a 30-year guerrilla war.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s official spokesman said the Government was still trying to “establish the facts” concerning the reports. “It is important that we take this very carefully for the sake of all those involved,” he said.

The accusation and counter-accusations coming from Ethiopian and Eritrean government officials about the kidnapped persons in the Afar region is also part of a larger and more tragic history of the region’s people.

One of the untold stories of this region is that the Afar people are ruled by not just one, but two totalitarian rulers (Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Isayas Afeworki of Eritrea) who are fighting over a border that the Afar themselves refuse to recognize as it divides their traditional homeland between two states.

The Afar are in some ways like the the Kurds.

In 1993, Meles Zenawi and the TPLF militarily assisted Isayas’s Eritreans People Liberation Front (EPLF) to violently incorporate the northern part of the Afars’ homeland into the Eritrean state against their wishes. The Afar had not supported the Eritrean secession movement that Meles and TPLF did. They did not want their homeland divided between Ethiopia and Eritrea as they wanted to remain united as one people in a united homeland. Thanks to Meles Zenawi, the Afar- like the Kurds-have become an oppressed minority in three countries (Djibouti, and Ethiopia and Eritrea).

Having divided their homeland between Eritrean and Ethiopia, Isayas and Meles proceeded to embroil their respective countries in a devastating war in 1998 over over a border dispute in the Tigray and Afar Regions. Such is the ludicrous and harmful leadership Ethiopians and Eritreans have had to put up with for so long. For the Afar in particular, the border dispute has made the area where the Ethiopians and foreigners were kidnapped an insecure and dangerous war zone.

Furthermore, many Afar have been recently displaced and pushed out from Eritrea into Ethiopia where they continue to languish in refugee camps under horrible conditions. (see earlier post here). This particular atrocity against the Afar people shamelessly did not get the attention it deserved from the Ethiopian people, international agencies or from anyone from the local or international press. In fact, the news reporters from Ethiopia have done a poor job explaining the dire history of this region and seem determined to portray the Afar region solely as a home to a people that are “bandits” and “rebels”. There is also more to the Afar region than just Lucy.

  1. Tigist
    | #1

    I think Mr. Wilson’s analysis would help to bring daylight on the serious problem that the Afar people have been going through and the very essence of Meles and Issayas. I copy and past the following paragraph for weyane supports, if it helps them to understand how Meles has been using them to support Shabia. Take a look and be the judge to your self:

    In 1993, Meles Zenawi and the TPLF militarily assisted Isayas’s Eritreans People Liberation Front (EPLF) to violently incorporate the northern part of the Afars’ homeland into the Eritrean state against their wishes. The Afar had not supported the Eritrean secession movement that Meles and TPLF did. They did not want their homeland divided between Ethiopia and Eritrea as they wanted to remain united as one people in a united homeland. Thanks to Meles Zenawi, the Afar- like the Kurds-have become an oppressed minority in three countries (Djibouti, and Ethiopia and Eritrea).

  2. | #2

    Oromos today, it would be you tomorrow
    What do you think of the subject? Do you care for a country called Ethiopia? Do you think you can build Ethiopia when Oromos are targeted because of any alleged association with OLF. Reasonable minds cannot shun such a declaration. Such attitudes are at the core of the current problem in the opposition. But remember it is Oromos today, it would be you tomorrow.
    Melese and the opposition claimed victory and the prime minister called in the security forces to quell unrest. Several thousand suspected government opponents were arrested after demonstrations in Addis Ababa in 2005. Thousands of members of the Oromo ethnic group (or `nationality’) are currently detained in Ethiopia without charge or trial on suspicion of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which is fighting the ruling coalition government led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). In recent months there have been several peaceful demonstrations against the government’s decision to move the Oromia regional capital from Addis Ababa (which is known as Finfine in the Oromo language, and has a large Oromo community) to the south eastern city of Nazareth (known as Adama in Oromo). Oromo students at Addis There have been numerous reports of torture of political prisoners in Ethiopia in recent years, particularly in certain police stations and security centres in Finfine (Addis Ababa). Prison conditions are generally harsh, medical treatment . we the oromo people must fight this dictator government for once and for all for our freedoms .
    Victory for the Oromo People!

    Yared urgessa feyisa
    Getreidespeicher 23
    53359 Rheinbacha

  3. Mesfin
    | #3

    Well Mr.Yared, I agree with you about Woyanne’s regime being oppressed one. I intend to believe that one of the main sources of Woyanne’s problem is that it is ethno centric ideology. That is a treat for Ethiopia unity and I don’t think any Ethiopian from any ethnic group would benefit from that narrow minded set up. Woyanne started as TPLF, and TPLF can’t be big and fair enough for the whole Ethiopia. I would say the same thing about OLF. Personally, I don’t see that much of a difference between TPLF and OLF. The obvious difference that they have is that TPLF is on power and OLF is not. Now, if the OLF leaders are up to something good, they should show some leadership and be inclusive and come up with genuine solution for the complicated Ethiopia problems. None of the LFs brought peace and democracy in Ethiopia yet. Actually the LFs are the once that makes our problems even complicated. You can easily learn that from EPLF. Now after 15 years of the so called “Eritrean independence” there is still blood shed with in Eritrea and it has no peace with pretty much with none of its neighbors. Especially, the Eritrea’s problem with Ethiopia is far from over. No one knows for sure when the blood shed would stop. All the LFs are curses for Ethiopia unity, peace and democracy. They have nothing good to offer, and they don’t believe in democracy. They don’t care about individual rights. Speaking of individual right I can mention one good example. I am half Oromo, and I love Ethiopia. Now, just because I have Oromo blood the OLF guys want me to second guess my being Ethiopian. They are telling me that I am not an Ethiopian just because I have Oromo blood. That really upsets me. I don’t want any one to tell me whether I am an Ethiopian or not. I am an Ethiopian, and I am very comfortable with it.
    Interims of equality, I believe there with a lot work to be done in Ethiopia to make sure that each and every Ethiopian is treated equally and gets equal opportunity.
    We also have to work to not only respecting all Ethiopian ethnic groups’ culture and language, we need to celebrate them. We need to work together to make sure that our languages, cultures and customs became the source of our pride and unity not hatred and division.
    In my opinion if the LFs leaders had some kind of self confidence and peace with themselves, they would not mind to work and to love others. I personally notice that those who called themselves LFs leaders have some sort of identity crises and any one that would take those guys seriously would end up in the same position.

  4. Tigist
    | #4

    I agree with you Mesfin! There is no good coming out of the LFs. If they get their way, they would oppress torture and kill. Those Libration front leaders need to be librated from their own egos first. Look what Issayas has been doing to Eritrea. He is one a hell of a dictator, and he thinks he is the only one who knows it all for all Eritrean. The same thing can be said about Meles. Meles thinks if he is not there, there is no Ethiopia, the Tigray region people would be in trouble and so forth. I don’t even understand why any reasonable person believes such a crap. Look how much blood has been shed because of Meles and Issayas in the last many decades. After all that blood shed, did they deliver what they said they would do? No No No, they are still butchering, torturing and killing. The others LF’s leaders are the same. They are incapable of being inclusive. They are up to no good. Following them is following misery and chaos. We Ethiopians should learn a major lesson from what Issayas and Meles has been doing in our country in the name of libration of this people and libation of that people. Now, what we need is libration from these so called “Libration Fronts” What is good for us is love, respect, unity, law & order, justice and a real democracy. If we are rational and civil, Ethiopia is big enough for all of us to live in peace and harmony.

  5. Dem melash
    | #5

    If the kidnapper are Earitrean armey acording the woyane’s claim let we ask the following question
    1-How do they new the foreiners cane be find at that plase and at that time 50 kilo meters away fromt their border ?
    2-whey they sened their armey with uniform ?
    3-whey they relised the two Ethiopians after they show them the kidnapers
    are Eritreans and after they show them where the foreiner are taken ?

    There for my conclusiton is that is woyane’s teater I do not think they
    lie to british lick ther tieing for the rest of the worled that easey.

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