Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed is making history. His magnanimity is unprecedented in recent history. Not only did he set most political prisoners free, he has even shown the courage to host some of them in his office. What happened this week is even more startling. The PM was confident enough to release Andargachew Tsige, the second in command of the outlawed opposition party Ginbot-7, who vowed to dislodge the TPLF/EPRDF government by all means possible.
And to make it clear that the release was whole hearted, the two discussed and got time to pose for a camera which actually made the rounds across the social media. Asked about the subject of the conversation by VOA Amharic, Andargachew declined to go into details but said it was extremely “positive.”
Andy, as supporters affectionately call him, was kidnapped from Yemeni capital on June 24, 2014 en route to Asmara. Whether it was a well organized operation by the security in Addis or a case of somebody selling him for 30 pieces of silver was largely a mystery. But he told VOA that his focus on the cheapest flight through Sana’a might have compromised his security. He thinks people might have easily recognized him and tipped the authorities in Addis. Other than that he doubts any conspiracy against him.
While the government spokesperson at the time, the infamous Getachew Reda, promised Andargachew will have his day in court, that didn’t materialize. He was in a state of solitary confinement for the better part of his incarceration. He told VOA he spent one year in an unknown villa and the rest in Kaliti prison with two murder convicts who made his life unbearable. It is only with the change at the helm of the government that he was finally able to have access to television.
A Brit without a visa
His release understandably made TPLF fanatics mad. They couldn’t see any point why he was kidnapped in the first place. They can not help but admit Andargachew has become a role model for young activists who camped outside of his father’s house waiting for his release. The international media coverage, the pressure of the British government and his family’s appeal for his release created a completely different Andargachew than the terrorist persona the government wanted to paint.
When the wind of change is sweeping the nation, and the case for dialogue is taking center stage, the old order is trying to hold on to the myth it created, though time is running out. And the arguments they present are absurd if not outrageous. TPLF media is decrying breaking of the country’s immigration law, where by a British citizen is in the country without a visa. They suggest he was supposed to be deported within 24 hours let alone having the PM’s ear. What they don’t mention is how did he enter the country in the first place. Was a visa issued during his entry?
Those criticisms echo the sinister undertakings the security hacks are known for. Confiscating passports and citing technicalities on travel documents are a well-traveled path of sabotaging dissidents. Eskinder Nega’s passport has been seized at the airport just a couple of weeks ago.The bottom line is they just want Andargachew to get the heck out of the country and vanish. He may leave the country for thousands of reasons but disappearing doesn’t seem to exist in his vocabulary, at least for now.