Ethiopia’s Missing Students: Families’ Pain and the Unsolved Mystery (BBC News)

Belaynesh has been missing since December. (BBC News, Amharic)

BBC News

By Firehiwot Kassa

Ethiopia’s Missing Students: Families’ Pain and the Unsolved Mystery

“We are grieving. I can’t stop thinking about her. The entire family can’t eat,” a visibly pained Mare Abebe told the BBC.

She is worried about Belaynesh Mekonnen, a first-year economics student at Ethiopia’s Dembi Dolo University, who was kidnapped last December, along with 17 of her colleagues.

As Belaynesh’s guardian, Ms Mare is distraught for the girl, whom she said she had raised despite many challenges.

“We are in pain. She is a good girl, so caring, but now we don’t know where she is. We don’t know whether she is alive.

“I never thought this could happen to her, even in my dreams,” she said, her voice cracking.

On 4 December last year, an unknown group of people blocked a bus and kidnapped students on board who were leaving for home from Dembi Dolo University in western Ethiopia.

The students, mostly ethnic Amharas, were fleeing ethnic violence and threats in the university that is located in Oromia region.

A total of 18 students – 14 women and four men – were ordered out of the vehicle at Sudi near Gambela city, about 100km (60 miles) from Dembi Dolo.

Belaynesh was among the 17 who had been reported missing, after one of the students, Asmira Shumiye, managed to escape.

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