It is now nearly two months since it was first reported by the Ethiopian government and the local media that a group of students, mostly girls, from Dembi Dollo University were abducted under circumstances which still remain unclear but generally believed to be while travelling by bus from Dembi Dollo. The abducted students were reportedly returning to their respective hometowns following recent conflicts and widespread unrest across universities in Ethiopia. A couple of weeks later, the press secretariat of Prime Minister’s office acknowledged publicly the abduction and reported to national and international media that most of the students were released while a few others remained still in captivity. Yet, there have been conflicting reports as to when, if at all, this so-called “release” took place and how many students were involved. The only credible fact on which there is consensus is that more than a dozen students from Dembi Dollo University were abducted and that they still remain in captivity.
This is a new, exceptional and disturbing development in this country and an incontestable criminal act that cannot and should not be tolerated.
We, African Child Policy Forum and AfricaWide Movement for Children, find the abduction of the students and the circumstances surrounding it to be deeply concerning. We condemn it unreservedly. We condemn the perpetrators of this atrocious and criminal act. We profoundly sympathize with the victims, their parents and families and share the pain and agony they are going through. We also express our solidarity with ongoing social media and other campaigns calling for the release of the students. Equally, and perhaps even more important, we are alarmed by the lack of urgency and transparency on the part of the government to an act so brazen and criminal and of far-reaching implication for respect to the rule of law, human integrity and human dignity in Ethiopia.
We acknowledge that the situation is still unfolding. But we remain extremely worried and taken aback by the lukewarm response on the part of the Federal government and Oromia Regional State to ensure the release of these students. In spite of apparent ongoing actions to secure the students’ release, we are deeply worried that weeks have gone by without any end in sight to this saga. This incident contravenes international human rights law and is a glaring manifestation of the failure of the Ethiopian government to live up to its responsibility.
In light of the above, we:
- Call on the Ethiopian Federal and Oromia Regional governments to condemn unequivocally this and similar criminal behaviour.
- Urge the Government of Ethiopia and Oromia Regional State to take all necessary measures, as a matter of utmost urgency, to secure the safe release and return of all abducted students.
- Demand that the Federal and Oromia Regional Governments bring the criminals to justice.
- Appeal to religious, traditional and community leaders to exert maximum pressure on all concerned and secure the safe release and return of the students.
- Appeal to the UN, the African Union and other human rights bodies and defenders to put pressure on the Ethiopian Government and the Oromia Regional State to ensure the immediate release of the abducted students and bring the criminals to justice.
We demand action, and we demand it NOW