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Parents of hijacking victims still in limbo

Parents of hijacking victims still in limbo

Anguish and frustration continues to persist as parents of 27 hostages taken captive a month ago ask authorities for an answer that has become elusive by the day.

"I was told my daughter (my only child) was released by a word of mouth, heard on television and we all gathered and celebrated but she still has not come. We have heard nothing since and no information is forthcoming and it has become an anguishing wait," a mother complained asking like all the families not to have her name published for fear of retaliation. 

A month ago, 21 students of Dembi Dollo University, who had escaped a potential conflict, were coming to transit to Addis Ababa and then home, when they were allegedly hijacked and have not been heard off since, except one that has managed to escape and return home giving an eye witness account of what had happened.

The student who is now in seclusion told AFP what had transpired when the kidnapping took place. She was said to describe the kidnapping as having been masterminded by the Oromo Liberation Front on December 4th by armed militants. 

This has brought much tension on the families of the kidnapped in the village of Addis Zwemen, on the outskirts of Gonder, who are mostly female and in various stages of receiving their education, including those set to graduate this year.

Parents seat ideally not knowing who to believe, as some refuse to eat, cry and console each other for something that seems to be out of their control.

Last Saturday, the Office of Prime Minister through its Spokesperson, Nigussu Tilahun had announced the successful rescue of 21 of the students and a further effort to rescue six more, delighting some parents, hopping theirs were part of the rescued students.

"We are working with local elders, religious leaders and security forces to secure the release of the students peacefully," he had said.

However, there has been little information given to them, on when the children would return home.

“We sent our children to school, in a faraway place, hopping through their education; they get to live a life that is fulfilled. We did not for a moment fear, they would be in harm’s way, in a conflict that they have no hands in, but are now becoming its victims. We do not know if our children would ever return, but we hope the government would have a heart to tell us, update us of the situation and be truthful,” a father told The Reporter. “We do not want to second guess what the government tells us and live on rumors,” he added.

Some parents have turned to the Amhara regional government; however, there have been various explanations to what has happened, confusing the community.

According to various media reports, the abduction is said to have occurred in November, after the school was closed due to potential conflicts among students, which has been a uniform-like problem across the nation.

Abebe Geresu (Col.) Deputy Head of the Oromia region Administration and Security Office had also announced their release last week and claimed they were in the hands of the Oromo Liberation Front military wing (Shane).

However, that also proved otherwise with little follow up information coming to the families.

Another parent dreamed off his son graduating as an Engineer this year, and now, he does not know if his son, who would be the first to graduate with a degree is ever coming home.

“My home has become a funeral. His mother refuses to eat. She has lost weight, seldom speaks and we have no idea where to turn. We lived many years, hopping we would attend his graduation, but now, it seems that has become a farfetched dream. All we want is to see is our son alive and be reunited with him,” he said, adding: “Why has that become hard, to come to me and to my community?”

The Reporter reached out to The Office of Prime Minister but instead was re-directed to the Ministry of Education and despite many attempts, was not able to get a reply as of press time.