Ethiopia: Abducted, Held For Ransom, Octogenarian Eritrean Hostage Released

After being held in captivity for more than 14 months, Mr. Yohannes Shoba’a, a 90-year old Eritrean, was released last week.

The octogenarian was held in a residential building in Addis Ababa by Eritrean abductors believed to be members of an opposition group.

Mr. Yohannes Shoba stated that during his captivity he was treated well but several times he asked his captors to get him a doctor but he was never provided with one.

The octogenarian victim does not know the names of his captors because “they were careful not to call each other by their names and, if they did, someone will be Abraham one day and Mehari the next.”

But he remembers their leader whose colleagues addressed him as “Wedi Ze,” (no first name, but last name is an abbreviation for common Eritrean names which begin with Ze.)  Another characteristic of the leader, Wedi Ze, is that he walks with a limp.

Last week, the old man was transported to the Eritrea-Ethiopia border and handed over to a man named Semere-Ab who received him properly and apologized for what happened to him. Semere-Ab is believed to be a military commander or a leader of sorts of an unidentified opposition group.

Mr. Yohannes Shoba stated that he never saw any Ethiopian official during his abduction and he is not sure if the Ethiopian authorities were aware of his abduction. But Gedab News had informed the Ethiopian authorities when news of his abduction surfaced and it questions if any Eritrean opposition group would dare to operate in such a callous manner, abducting and holding for ransom an octogenarian inside a sovereign state, without any local cover.

Mr. Yohannes Shoba was released in the surrounding of the Belessa region and told to walk to Eritrea; he did and finally arrived in Asmara where he was taken to hospital due to fatigue and pain in his legs. He is now back in his home with his family.

During his abduction, his captors repeatedly asked him if he was sent to Addis Ababa by his son Lt. Colonel Gebrihiwet, a security officer of the Eritrean regime, who allegedly operates in the southern part of Eritrea bordering Ethiopia.

According to relatives, the captors of  Mr. Yohannes Shoba wanted to force his son to speak to them and insisted they will keep the old man in captivity until his son replies to their telephone call. One of the captors told him, “If your son had responded, you would have been set free a long time ago.”

Late last year, Gedab News had informed a senior Ethiopian official of the incident and asked for clarification. The senior official did not respond to repeated telephone call and e-mail queries.  Earlier this year, Gedab News reached out to a senior Ethiopian intelligence officer who promised to look into the matter but failed to provide information.

On January 23, 2012, Gedab News published the abduction of  Yohannes Shoba and since then, all attempts to locate the old man were not successful.

The abduction of an octogenarian Eritrean in Ethiopia by Eritrean opposition elements to get to his son who is a security officer in the Eritrean regime enraged many Eritreans who oppose the Eritrean regime. The Eritrean regime demands of parents whose children escape the country to pay fifty-thousand Nackfa (approximately a 100-month salary of a forcefully conscripted youth).  The two practices, juxtaposed, confirm the cynicism of many Eritreans who believe that elements within the opposition are no better than Isaias Afwerki, the only difference being that they are not in a position of authority.

Reached by phone to explain such a heinous crime, a senior Eritrean opposition figure told Gedab News that he “expects the Ethiopian authorities to investigate the matter and bring the abducting gangs to justice.”  He added, “The Eritrean opposition must also investigate the abductors who have sullied the name of the opposition groups who struggle for justice and human rights. Some Eritrean elements within the Eritrean opposition in Ethiopia have become a liability to the Eritrean struggle acting like warlords with no rein whatsoever.”

Gedab News will update you on any investigation results if they are conducted, but it will keep on digging to find out the circumstances that led to the abduction and release of the old man after more than fourteen months.
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