Three Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) employees who were kidnapped near the Aluto Langano geothermal project, located about 17 kilometers from Ziway city in the Oromia region of Ethiopia in late September, have reportedly been released.
A DW Amharic report published yesterday stated that three of the kidnap victims have been released, while three remain in captivity. In early October, the EEP disclosed that six of its employees had been kidnapped by “unidentified” men and that efforts were underway to secure their release.
Moges Mekonnen, EEP’s head of public relations, confirmed that three of the employees have been released, one of them being a Kenyan citizen.
Following news of the kidnapping, it was reported that the “unidentified” kidnappers had demanded a ransom of ten million Ethiopian birr, and negotiations with the kidnappers were reportedly conducted by Aba Geddas, an ethnic Oromo religious leaders, to secure the release of the employees.
However, the DW Amharic report indicates that the ransom demand was much higher. An employee of the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity to news sources, mentioned that the kidnappers had demanded 60 million Ethiopian Birr.
When asked about the status of the remaining kidnapped employees, Moges Mekonnen stated that efforts to secure their release are ongoing, without specifying whether a ransom was paid to secure the release of the three employees or why the other three were not released. It was indicated that Mr. Moges declined to address this question due to safety concerns for those still in captivity.
Employees of the project and the families of the kidnapped individuals also declined to comment, citing similar safety concerns, as highlighted by DW Amharic in its report.
Ransom kidnappings have become increasingly prevalent in the Oromo region of Ethiopia and are linked to radical ethnic Oromo nationalist group, referred to by the government as OLF-Shane but self-identified as the Oromo Liberation Army. Whether these ransom kidnappings are economically motivated or driven by political motives remains unclear.
The issue is not abating; in fact, it is worsening. There was a report this week of people in some parts of the Oromia region evacuating.
DW Amharic reported that it reached out to Ethiopian Federal Police spokesperson, Jeilan Abdi, to inquire about the government’s knowledge of the kidnappings and whether there are plans to combat them. The spokesperson stated that public participation is needed to address the issue fundamentally.
Last week, eleven employees of the Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Institute were kidnapped during fieldwork in the same Oromia region.
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