July 14, 2014
Andargachew Tsige is an exiled Ethiopian-British national, who heads one of the strongest and possibly most feared – by the Ethiopian government- opposition Movements. He has played a key role from founding to firming Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy, which he leads as the Secretary General. Two weeks ago Andargachew disappeared. He was kidnapped by Yemeni authorities while he was transiting via Sanaa International Airport and was handed over to Ethiopia denying him access to counselor advice from the UK Embassy in Sanaa and despite his previous death sentences by Ethiopia. He is now possibly going through one of the harshest times of his life bearing the physical and psychological abuses that an Ethiopian security officer and prison could give to one of the country’s most feared critic and political rival. Ethiopians, international rights organisations, diplomats and concerned individuals are now voicing their concern and are calling for his immediate release with no success so far.
Andargachew received good though not very sufficient coverage in international media since his disappearance was made public two weeks ago.
Graham Peebles wrote on July 12, 2014-07-14, on mwcnews.net,
The arrest of Andargachew Tsige is part of a government strategy to undermine any movement for change, to create an atmosphere of fear amongst those who are brave enough to speak out against the regime, and cultivate a false impression, presumably aimed at Ethiopia’s principle donors (Britain, America, the European Union), that there is some kind of terrorist plot at work, and they are the righteous ones fighting alongside their Western allies against extremism.
He added and said,
Social revolution and collective action is often triggered by a catalyst, an event that demands action – a final straw that breaks the back of apathy and complacency. The arrest of Andargachew Tsige is such an event. Now is the time for the Ethiopian people to unite, and, overcoming the fear that has inhibited them for so long, demand an end to tyranny and their right to justice, freedom and fundamental democratic change.
Daniel Finnan of the the RFI radio did an interview with Ephrem Madebo, PR of Ginbot 7 Movement on July 08, 2014 and quoted the PR Head as saying “UK must ‘stand up’ for Ethiopia opposition leader extradited from Yemen.”
Martin Plaut wrote on the Guardian on July 4, 2014 a news story titled “UK stands accused over extradition of Ethiopian opposition leader.” The report begins with a sentence that focuses on the UK’s Home Office “The Foreign Office has been accused of failing to act to prevent the extradition to Ethiopia of an opposition leader facing the death penalty.” This is perhaps one of the first few news reports that may have led the UK to put pressure on the Ethiopian regime which led the regime to admit Andargachew’s capture and briefly show him on TV few days later.
Aljazeera also reported on July 05, 2014 quoting ‘agencies’ that an exiled Ethiopian opposition leader with British citizenship, who was sentenced to death in absentia, has been extradited to Addis Ababa.
The Economist’s news article “Justice and politics in Ethiopia: Snatched” posted on Jul 9th 2014 probably gave a detailed look into the current state of justice/injustice in Ethiopia and the case of Andargachew than other reports written in recent days on the topic by international media.
There are concerns that Yemen’s government did not follow the correct procedures for extradition. It is believed that Andargachew was arrested and flown to Addis Ababa without British officials being formally alerted. According to Anand Doobay, an extradition expert at Peters & Peters, a law firm, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations the British embassy should have been notified that one of its citizens was being detained and given the chance to visit him. “Sometimes there is no legal extradition process and then there is a risk that rendition can take place following informal contact between police forces,” he says.
The unnamed writer of the Economist cities similar cases of trans-border extrajudicial that the Ethiopian regime has embarked upon recently,
In recent years Ethiopia has conducted several extraditions with varying degrees of legality. Recently Okello Okuway, a Norwegian national, was arrested in South Sudan and extradited to Ethiopia. In June he was brought to court and faces terrorism charges. Prior to that Kenya detained and extradited two Ethiopian members of the Oromo ethnic group accused of having links to Oromo rebels, who were then sentenced to life in prison. One of them died in 2013 serving his term. Kenya also detained and sent a Canadian passport holder back to Ethiopia, where he faces terrorism charges for alleged links rebels from the Ogaden region. Human Rights Watch states that various other political refugees have been sent back from neighbouring countries.
The report quotes Andargachew’s wife Yemi Hailemariam, who is based in the UK,
Now that Andargachew is on Ethiopian soil, where he is considered a terrorist, his fate remains uncertain. His wife has called on the British government to step up their efforts. “If the British government allows Ethiopia to get away with kidnapping its citizen in international territory and stands by as they continue to torture, detain, and potentially execute my husband, then it sets a very bad precedent for the security of any Brit travelling abroad,” she says. British diplomats say they are demanding access to Andargachew, so far without success.
Agence France-Presse on July 7, 2014 reported that “An Ethiopian opposition leader with British citizenship faces the death sentence after being extradited to Addis Ababa” the report heavily depended on a statement that Human Rights Watch published on the same day.
BBC’s French Service BBC Afrique and BBC Africa also reported the disaperance, Ethiopia’s confirmation of his capture and the statement of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalgen on July 4, 9 and 11, 2014.
Europa Press,a privately held Spanish news agency, also reported on July 9, 2014 about Andargachew’s extradition from Yemen. The news report was written in Spanish language. The report covered the announcements of the Ethiopian government mainly quoting the state television, ETV.
On the same day, Reuters published news item titled “Yemen extradites Ethiopian opposition official to Addis Ababa –govt”. Most of the first paragraphs of the News report were direct translations of the government’s announcement that was aired on the state Tv, ETV, a day earlier. However, at the bottom the news an opinion paragraph is included. It reads,
Rights groups say Ethiopia regularly uses security concerns as an excuse to crack down on dissent and media freedom. The Ethiopian government denies the charge.
Associated Press reported on July 7, 2014 titled “Ethiopia urged to protect opposition leader”. The report heavily quotes HRW’s statement that was published the same day earlier. AP’s report was republished by other international media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Daily Mail UK and various other local media outlets.
In addition to the above titles, over a dozen of other regional, local and international media outlets have reported Andargachew’s case. To mention some the Voice of America Amharic and English services, the German International Broadcaster, Deutche Welle (DW) Amharic service have also reported about it. For example, during a radio discussion that DW Amharic held with opposition politicians, lawyers and human rights activists last night on the same topic, the journalist asked Dr. Tadesse Biru, the senior official of Ginbot 7 Movement, if he thinks the U.K. government was complicit in the arrest of Andargachew Tsige, as is being alleged. Tadesse said that it is very less likely since Andargachew stood for what the U.K. or the West in general stands for i.e. “Democracy, freedom and justice”.
As is the case of in many other issues, the international media had failed in providing balanced, detailed and follow up reports on the abduction and extradition of an Ethiopian- British politician. Has it got to do with the culture of media lacklustre or the origins of Andargachew? That will be left for time and researchers.