ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopians are expressing anger and frustration over several university students, most of them women, who remain missing after their kidnapping two months ago.
A growing social media campaign echoes the BringBackOurGirls activism in Nigeria over the mass kidnapping there of scores of schoolgirls in 2014. Ethiopians across the world are pressuring President Abiy Ahmed for answers in the abduction in the Oromia region.
In Washington DC, and the U.S. states of Maryland and Virginia protesters to the streets condemning the government over silence in connection with the abduction, which happened in the Oromo region of Ethiopia.
“We condemn the abduction of university students” and “Justice to those who are attacked by extremists” are few of the placards that protestors were carrying.
Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Fitsum Arega, received a letter written to prime minister Abiy Ahmed. Abebe Belew, the coordinator of the protest, personally handed over the message to the Ambassador.
“We are confident that the Ambassador will hand over the letter to the prime minister,” Abebe Belew is cited as saying in the DW Amharic report.
Ambassador Fitsum discussed with protestors, and he said that he would present the message to the Ethiopian government and follow up with it.
“Why is government silent about the abduction?” and “where are the students” are the crucial questions that Ethiopians are asking.
Prime Minister Ahmed’s government has been praised for appointing women to prominent positions “but with regard to the abducted girls, in its silence, it is violating a tremendous number of their human rights,” Yared Hailemariam, director of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, said in a statement Monday. “Ethiopian authorities have failed to protect the victims of the abduction and to take necessary measures to bring them back.”
It is not clear how many of the students remain captive. The prime minister’s press secretary, Nigussu Tilahun, disclosed on Jan. 11 that 21 students from Dembi Dollo University were released while six remained captive.
But family members say they haven’t heard from their loved ones.
“The last time I heard from my daughter was a month ago. She said youths from the local area took them to the forest. I don’t know what happened to her since,” Yeneneh Adugna, who lives in Central Gondar in the Amhara region, told The Associated Press. “We are living in an anguish every day. We are crying every day. We want to know whether they are alive or dead. No one is giving us any information.”
The Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia says 18 university students, 14 of them female, were seized while returning home from university.
No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but Oromia regional officials have blamed the armed Oromo Liberation Army, which is clashing with government forces in the Western Oromia region. The armed group has denied the accusation and said the government itself was to blame for the kidnapping.