July 4, 2014
In a very rare type of transcontinental kidnapping, Yemeni has kidnapped an internationally known Ethiopian originating activist, naturalized British citizen, Andargachew Tsegie, and handed him over to Ethiopia when he departed Dubai and transited via Sanaa, Yemen on board a Senna bound Yemania Airways plane flight Number 853 on Monday June 23, 2014.
Andargachew, who has been in opposition to successive governments over the past 40 years, has been the Secretary General of the Ginbot 7 Movement since it was founded in 2008.
He was the top most wanted Ethiopian opposition leader, who has been sentenced to death in 2009 for plotting a coup, organizing one of the most strongest opposition networks inside and outside the Country. His arrest, however, seemed to have united the Ethiopian mass that has been divided along ethnic and political lines. Tributes and support has been pouring from Oromo, Ogaden, EPRP (the party that groomed Andargachew in his teens) and even his former party mates, who quit Ginbot 7 due to disagreement over strategies.
The news gave the Ethiopian opposition and diaspora who live outside the country and found a bit of protection, the shock of their life. Despite the fact that Andargachew was an exiled human rights defender with a U.K. citizenship, he was not saved from extradition. It is not clear if few Yemeni securities have acted upon their private deals or if it was a coordinated act between the securities of the two nations.
Yemen has been under pressure from the Ethiopian community all over the world since the news of his arrest was made public this week. In a phone conversation with De Birhan yesterday, a Yemeni Diplomat in the U.K. said that they have been handling several phone calls, emails and call ins for the past three days regarding Andargahcew. He said “I did not know he was that popular. I want to join his Party. And he is in the opposition, so he must be an honest guy.”
The U.K. Foreign Office has not spoken about the issue since. Andargachew lived for the past few decades in the U.K. When he was arrested in 2005 in Addis Abeba, the U.K. government had intervened.
Ethiopia has remained quiet since abducting Andargachew last week. Getachew Reda, the PM’s spokesman, without admitting that Andargachew was already in their own hand told AFP news agency yesterday that it would be “the right thing” if Yemen extradited Tsige, accusing him of plotting terror attacks in Ethiopia.
Ginbot 7 has been labelled a terrorist organisation under Ethiopian law, and has called for the overthrow of the ruling party, but the US-based group insists is fighting for democracy and freedom in the country.
The Chairman of the Ginbot 7 Movement, Dr. Berhanu Nega, last night confirmed a large audience in the U.S. that Andargachew had been detained in Yemen inside the airport and has been transferred to Ethiopia. Berhanu said “I know Andargachew, even if they chop his fingers he would not reveal anything at all. He would die smiling on their face.”
He said the effect of the Ethiopian regime’s intercontinental kidnapping on the struggle for freedom is immense. Dr. Berhanu said if the regime thinks that by arresting the key leader of the Movement, it can kill the struggle, it is quiet wrong. “Andargachew had completed his work in the filed and had been living back in the U.K.” he said.
“The Woyanes (ruling party) have declared that anyone that opposes them and threatens their regime is their legitimate target. They have chosen the face of the struggle. They chose it. We won’t be victims anymore. From now on, we will fall wrestling, we won’t simply die as they kill us but kill them and die. Our efforts to be peaceful and play a civilized game have not payed back.” Berhnau stressed.
A supporter of the opposition, who lives in the U.S. said that there is a lot of anger among Ethiopians after learning the extradition of an exiled opposition leader. ”People are so infuriated both by the acts of the Ethiopian regime’s international crime of abduction and the indifference of nations like the Yemen and the U.K.. I think this will change the face of the struggle.” he said in an online voiceroom discussion where over 500 people gathered to discuss the issues ahead. I am sure most of you are now sacred of what will happen to you even if you reside in the most “secure and protective West”, I advise you that you are the only ones who could save and protect your own-self, he told the crowed.
The activist continued and said “Ethiopia has so far been relatively peaceful and stable not by the firm grip and securitization of the regime, it was also because of the civility of the opposition. The opposition chose to take the high road of patience and defensive struggle for the sake of their nation. However, the government had never recognized that. This will immediately change the face of the struggle and I have a huge fear where the nation will head to.” he added.
Ginbot 7 uses an “all inclusive” type of struggle which includes civil resistance. Andargachew often traveled to Eritrea to rescue Ethiopians oppositions who fled from the Ethiopian regime. He offered them a hand and organised to better oppose the regime, a source within the opposition said.
It is not immediately clear where Andargachew is arrested in Ethiopia. Ethiopian securities are known for using torture on political prisoners, records of Human Rights Watch (HRW) show.
Fearing what this tension could transpire into, many are advising a comprehensive national dialogue and mediation process to save Ethiopia from falling into another chaos.