Parents Fear for Missing Students as Universities Close

ADDIS ABEBA – Amnesty International has called on the Ethiopian authorities to disclose measures it has taken to rescue 17 students in Western Ethiopia as universities across the nation close to avert spread of the COVID-19 virus, .

The students of Dembi Dolo University, who were abducted by unidentified people, have been missing since November 2019.

United Kingdom-based rights group, which claims to have spoken to several families of the missing students, said they have expressed mounting desperation and helplessness as their children remain unaccounted for.

This is despite an announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen on 31 January 2020 that a task-force had been formed to locate and facilitate the safe return of the students to their families.

Girmanesh Yeneneh, a third-year biotechnology student, was one of those who was abducted on her way home in November.

Her father Yeneneh Adunya told Amnesty International: “We packed and sent our children to the university so that they can have a better future”.

“Now we don’t know where they are or whether they are alive. We have been mourning since the day she told us she had been abducted,” Yeneneh said.

“She told us to pray and, as a priest, I have been going all over the place praying. But her mother is devastated and (is going) crazy, and not a word from the government.”

While the alleged abductors had initially allowed the students to call and speak to their families, it has now been more than three months since any of the students’ families heard from them.

The last time any of the students spoke to their families was on 18 December 2019.

The shutdown of communications networks and services in Western Oromia has made it difficult to get information about the missing students’ families to easily access information, according to Amnesty.

The 17 students were abducted on various dates in November 2019 as they fled fatal ethnic clashes in the university, according to Amnesty.

One of the students, Gebresilassie Mola, told his uncle that he and a few other students had been abducted on 28 November by a group of Oromo youth while on their way to Gambella and had all been taken deep into a forest in the area.