Demand for Return of 17 Abducted University Students in Oromia, Ethiopia 


  • The whereabouts of the missing students are still a mystery.
  • Families want answers but the government has kept silence on the situation.
  • More than two million people have staged marches and demonstrations across the Amhara region.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Ethiopia’s Amhara region turned out Tuesday to urge the government of Ethiopia to rescue the seventeen kidnapped university students, fifty four days after they were taken from Dembidolo and hauled away at gunpoint in the western Oromia region of Ethiopia. Nearly two million people in more than ten cities of the Amhara region marched to voice outrage at the ongoing horror the hostages are experiencing and the agony their families are going through. The demonstrators under the slogan “Bring back our students,” are calling for the release of seventeen abducted students still being held by their armed captors in Oromia region, including OLF Shene.

Amhara Protest over abducted university students in Bahri Dar City, on the 28th of Jan 2020 (Photo:Social Media).

The government of Ethiopia, which eventually confirmed the abduction of students, is not doing enough to return these students to their homes and to bring those responsible to justice. The Press Secretary of the Prime Minster’s office, Mr. Nigusu Tilahun, told the the public broadcasting Ethiopian National Television that the government has rescued twenty one students disappeared in Dembidolo, Oromia region of Ethiopia.

However, the comments made by Nigusu Tilahun has now been widely discredited as it ignored lines of evidence that contradicted the fact as told by one escapee Ms. Asmara Shume and by the families of the hostages as their children still remain missing and are still being held captive.

According to unverified local media reports, the militants have repeatedly raped the girls (14 of them out of 17 were women), cut-off the breasts of six students and beat all those who disagreed with them and/or refused to follow orders including but not limited to cooking and cleaning for insurgents among others. Considering the array of contradicting information from federal government officials and Oromia regional authorities, some of the demonstrators suggested that the government had a hand in the horrific affair of the disappearance of the seventeen Amhara university students.

Asmera Shumye speaking to the local Asrat Media about how she managed to escape and what happened.

Nearly two months after they were abducted and dragged off to a forest hideout, the abduction of students sparked national outrage. In Ethiopia, angry citizens contend authorities are not doing enough. They took to social media using hashtags #BringBackOurStudents and #BringBackOurGirls to demand more from the government, and petitioning for the interventions of United Nations agencies, international human rights group and governmental bodies to pressure the government of Ethiopia, a move that appears to have inspired many to sign on it from across the globe demanding a global call for action towards the immediate release of the kidnapped students.

Amhara Protest over abducted university students in Waldia City, on the 28th of Jan 2020 (Photo:Social Media).

Today’s demonstrations took place across the Amhara cities of Bahir Dar, Woldia, Debre Markos, Debre Birhan, Finote Selam, Injibara, Kobo, Burie, Dangila, Wadla, Durbetie, Woreta, Adet, Dejen, Shewarobit, Anded, Chagni, Lumamie, Amba Giorgis, Bechena, Addis Kidamie, Quarit, Chuahit, Feresbet, Merawi, Gimjabet, and Mahlgenet among others, all calling for the urgent action from the Government of Ethiopia towards the immediate release of the captives Amhara students and to apprehend the perpetrators.

They are calling on international human rights groups and United Nations agencies to give the necessary attention to the kidnapped students who are being dehumanized at the hands of their captors including but not limited to the notorious Oromo militant group of SHENE, one of the factions of the Oromo Libration Front (OLF).

Religious leaders joining the protests and demanding the release of the students in Debre Markos (Photo: Social Media).

In the US capital, Ethiopians gathered today in Washington in front of the Ethiopian Embassy to protest and to raise awareness of the hostages still held by the Oromo militants as well as to denounce the poor response of the government of Ethiopia to rescue the abducted university students.

Despite the public outcries, the Nobel Laureate Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed kept silent about the issue and his government has been unable to summon any government action to the incident.

Some also worried and raises questions about the impact of Ethiopia’s gender unbalanced cabinet into this tragedy where many young women students are suffering.

Protesters holding the pictures of the captives denounced the Prime Minster & the suspected militants in today’s demonstration in Shewa Robit (Photo:Social Media).

On January 26, 2020, the Vice President of the Amhara regional state, Mr. Lake Ayalew, told the AMMA (the region’s government owned media “Amhara Mass Media Agency”) that he himself is getting very little information about what the federal government is actually doing to mobilize a search for those missing students. As their whereabouts ire still a mystery, no one in authority will give a direct answer about the kidnapped students. To make matters worse, their families were subjected to an array of conflicting statements and harassment from the government.

The kidnappings have embarrassed the Nobel laureate Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed’s government, and are seen as a test of his administration’s ability not only to restore peace but also to combat security threats in the volatile Oromia region that has been wracked by lawlessness since the end of 2018. The recent Amhara students’ abduction also occurred in the Dembidolo city inflicted by the broken rule of law in the regional state of Oromia.

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KIDUS MEHALU

Kidus Mehalu is passionate about advancing the philosophical, moral, economic foundations, & policies of human development; while blogging, inspiring, encouraging, and mobilizing young people in terms of appropriate policies and information. Kidus’s work is mainly focused on the intersection of economics, entrepreneurship, governance, & policy.
http://www.turningpointafrica.org

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