Abbay Media News
Andargachew Tsige is a British citizen who is currently held in complete isolation and under horrible conditions in a prison cell in Ethiopia. He is a lifetime politician who has fought for justice against three consecutive regimes ruling the unfortunate people of Ethiopia.
Andargachew Tsigie aka Andy Tsige fled Ethiopia during the brutal communist erra to save his life from the ‘Red Terror’ perpetrated by the Derg military rule led by Colonel Mengistu Hailemarim. He later returned to Ethiopia to help the then new government of Meles Zenawi and briefly served as Mayor of Addis Ababa. Turned off by the divisive ethnic policy of Meles Zenawi’s government, he resigned from his position and went back to UK where he campaigned against the repressive government of Ethiopia.
The never giving up Andy was also very active during the doomed election of 2005 as one of the leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party. This was the election the citizens of Ethiopia and the western observers hoped will change the course of history and undo the injustices of the past governments that ruled the country. The opposition overwhelmingly won the election in towns and even in the countryside, where Meles proudly claimed has a solid base. To make the story short, the election resulted in the death of hundreds and imprisonment of the opposition leaders. Andy was arrested at his family’s house and badly bitten while his elderly father was watching. Andy, later in an interview with ESAT, said that he was very bitter about that bitting. At this point Andy has given up on peaceful forms of struggle for justice and democracy.
Andy once again returned to UK and resumed his political Campaign and together with Prof Berhanu Nega, formed Ginbot 7 (G7) Movement for Unity and Democracy in May of 2008. He was the first politician who saw Eritrea as the potential partner in the fight for freedom against the Ethiopian dictatorial regime even though many Ethiopians still considered Eritrea and its leader Isayas Afeworki as the worst enemy in the history of Ethiopia responsible for making Ethiopia a landlocked nation and for its role on imposing the TPLF regime on Ethiopian people. Andy set a training camp and formed the Popular Force, the military wing of G7. His move and success to form a formidable resistance opposition movement in the back yard of Tigray, the home base of TPLF, sent shockwaves in the ruling circles. As a result, Andy was charged for treason and sentenced to death in absentia by government apointed court in Ethiopia.
In June of 2014, he was traveling from UK to Eritrea when he stopped over Dubai and missed his flight. In an attempt to reach his destination on schedule, he adjusted his flight to pass through Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. On June 23, 2014 he was detained by Yemeni security officials, handed over to Ethiopian authorities and put on an Ethiopian aircraft specially brought for the purpose. This was unprecedented abduction of a foreign citizen in transit in a foreign country in Ethiopian history and was a severe violation of his human rights and a complete breach of international law. The Ethiopian intelligence and security officials have reportedly spent money to the tune of 23 million Birr for this operation.
Andy’s abduction shocked Ethiopians in diaspora who thought living in the West as western citizens granted them safety and protection. The diaspora protested angrily almost in every major capitals of the world. The abduction also gave such popularity to G7 movement that membership recruitment spiked significantly. However the British government did give the outcry the attention it deserved.
It still remains a mystery why the british government is not pressing, as firmly as it could and should, the Ethiopian government using as a leverage the billions of dollars it donates and the training of the police force it offers . Or is it because, as the honorable European parliamentarian Anna Gomez suggested, that such illegal operation of this magnitude can not happen without the knowledge or the tacit agreement of the British Intelligence services?
Since the abduction Andy there has a number of protests held, some are still held on a regular basis. There have been signatures collected and submitted petitioning the British government to bring Andy home. There are two websites dedicated for continuing the push for his freedom so his case is not left in the back burner. His two twin children, his oldest daughter and his siblings joined his wife Mrs Yemisrach (Yemi) Hailemariam. Yemi even run as a candidate for local election in 2017 challenging and competing against Theresa May, the current PM of UK. Yemi did so to highlight her husband’s case and was pretty successful in increasing awareness among the british voters.
The pressure is on the British FOC (Foreign Office Commission) commissioner Boris Johnson is mounting Human Rights activists and advocates have been writing letters urging the commissioner to be personally engaged and bring an end to this injustice. Reprieve UK, the human rights advocacy group that provides free legal service and investigative support to people like Andy, has been very instrumental bringing his case to the national and international podium.
This week 30 London MPs from both parties signed a letter asking Boris Johnson to bring the British father waiting on death row in Ethiopia. The 30 parliamentarians challenged the the commissioner to do, in his current capacity, what he promised to do when he was the Mayor of London. According to Yemi, Mayor Boris Johnson wrote a letter stating he regretted the fact that he could not directly intervene “with no foreign policy remit” but gave his full support for bringing the Londoner home to his family.
Whereas the human rights activists, his family, friends and the diaspora supporters are still pushing and the FOC is still acting half-hazardly for his release, in the end it may be the very people Andy dedicated his entire life that may set him free.