A statement issued by the US Embassy in Addis Ababa on September 18, 2018 regarding a planned demonstration in the city on September 19, 2018 and advising its employees to stay home have puzzled Addis Ababans since the speculated protest hasn’t taken place in the capital today.
On its website, the Embassy stated, “Out of an abundance of caution the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa is suspending operations on Wednesday, September 19 in light of expected large scale demonstrations in Addis Ababa”.
Therefore, all visa and scheduled American Citizen Service appointments were cancelled by the Embassy. “American Citizens should make a new appointment via the Embassy website. Immigrant visa applicants will be contacted shortly to reschedule. Non-Immigrant visa applicants should visit the Embassy website to schedule a new appointment,” the statement said.
Americans requiring Emergency assistance should visit the U.S. Embassy website for contact information, reads the statement.
“Additionally, the American Center in Addis Ababa and the Satchmo Center at the U.S. Embassy will be closed down tomorrow,” it details further.
And finally, “We encourage all those involved in the demonstrations to express themselves peacefully,” it added.
But, there has not been any demonstration in Addis Ababa on the said day. Responding to inquiries from The Reporter regarding the said security alert, the Embassy Spokesperson Nick Barnet said that, “we received reliable information regarding a protest and even if it is not specific, we have to make a decision. So we made the decision as we received the information which indicated a demonstration in Addis Ababa on the said date.”
He also indicated that they are required by law to publicize such information and security alerts.
“What we are seeing is people looking for hidden messages or agendas- we do not really do that. What we said is what we meant,” Barnet told The Reporter.
He also argued that even if the demonstration was peaceful, it could have had an impact on the movement of people and employees could have been stack in between their homes and their work place unable to move to either places. In such cases, the Embassy would not be able to provide the required services.
“The safest thing to do is to advice our employees to stay home,” he said.
Nevertheless, the British Embassy in Addis Ababa issued a statement saying, “ The British Embassy is aware the US embassy is closed today, as is the International Community School. British embassy open as usual until further notice. All staff to take care coming in and if any issues should remain at home.”
But, in another statement this morning, the Federal Police Commission countered saying that there has not been any planned demonstration in Addis Ababa in the said day, and downplayed the statement by the Embassy and different other international organizations in Addis Ababa as being “totally false”.