No Clear Information on Abducted University Students: PM Abiy Ahmed

By Staff Reporter

Abiy-Ahmed-HPRFebruary 3, 2020 ( -- Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said his government does not have clear information if students of the Dembi Dolo University were taken hostages in western Ethiopia. This is the first time that the Prime Minister broke his silence and addressed the issue currently in the minds of millions of Ethiopians.

The abduction issue has motivated tens of thousands of Ethiopians to go to the streets in many Amhara cities, as we as in some foreign capitals. More are planned in Addis Ababa and other cities. It is also the subject of massive online campaigns.

Responding to questions from Members of Parliament on Monday, Abiy said there is no organized force in the area that claimed responsibility for the “alleged abduction” of students of the Dembi Dolo University.

“In a rigorous search and operation conducted by the defense forces in all districts and localities of the area, no person was found hurt, dead or taken hostage,” the premier said.

“As we try to examine the information at hand, we learned that there were persons whose names were included in the list of students who were reportedly held captives. The list also consists of names of students who were proved to have existed in other places. The search by the defense force in the area has proved that there was no person who was taken hostages,” Abiy said.

According to the Prime Minister, the government did not want to rush into a conclusion that the students were not taken hostages because there are students whose whereabouts are unknown as reported by their families.

One of the students who managed to escape from the kidnappers two months ago disclosed that the captors selected 18 ethnic Amhara students including herself from a passenger bus at a place called Sudi and drove them into the forest.

Last month, Prime Minister Office Press Secretariat Head Nigusu Tilahun said the government had helped the release of 21 students who were taken hostages by the undisclosed force through mediation which was facilitated by elders, youth and members of the defense forces.

In today’s explanation, Abiy also confirmed the release of other students who were taken hostages by the undisclosed group.

If what the official said was true about the released students through mediation, it is clear that those elders, youth, and members of the defense force who facilitated the mediation know about the captors.

Abiy said although his government is keen to free the alleged captives through negotiations, the offenders so far did not listen nor speak, making the matter more complicated.

He said no concrete evidence has been found about the abduction. But, a task force led by the Deputy PM Demeke Mekonnen, is following the situation closely with the necessary precaution.

In an earlier statement, Nigusu said the students had been kidnapped in Anfilo district at a place called Sudi while they were heading to Addis Ababa from the violence-hit Dembi Dolo University.

Federal Police Commissioner Endeshaw Tassew said the police have information about the whereabouts of the Dembi Dolo University students who he said were taken hostages by gunmen in western Ethiopia.

According to the police commissioner, the police inflicted damages on the armed group and took control of strategic positions in a series of attempts to free the students and other people from the grip of kidnappers.

The myriad of information supplied by government officials, often in conflict with one another, has bewildered and saddened many Ethiopians. The explanation given by the Prime Minister is expected to heighten the anger and anxiety, not reduce it. It is unknown why the government is not acknowledging some basic truth with one voice. People are asking: The students were kidnapped at gunpoint at a known place in full view of the locals; how is that no one really knows about it?

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