Published: 7 November, 2014
by ANDREW JOHNSON
THE partner of a British man kidnapped by the Ethiopian government in June and facing execution has accused Prime Minister David Cameron of not doing enough to free him because of the African nation’s central role in the fight against terrorism.
Andargachew “Andy” Tsege, 59, a father of a 15-year-old daughter and seven-year-old twins who lives in Upper Holloway, was “rendered” by the Ethiopians while travelling through Yemen on his way to Eritrea in the summer.
He has not been seen since, except in a brief appearance on Ethiopian television in July in which he confessed to crimes. According to human rights organisation Reprieve, screaming can be heard in the background of the video.
Mr Tsege, a naturalised British citizen who has lived in London since 1979, is a respected and outspoken critic of the Ethiopian regime and a member of the exiled opposition group Ginbot 7. He has spoken about Ethiopia’s poor human rights record in front of the US Congress and the EU’s Committee on Human Rights.
The jazz fan was on his way to an opposition conference in Eritrea.
The UK Foreign Office has established that, after being taken in Yemen, he has since been removed to a prison in Ethiopia, but his exact location is unknown. The Ethiopians have so far denied any consular access to Mr Tsege, except for one visit.
His partner, Yemi Hailemariam, told the Tribune that she believes the UK government is not putting enough pressure on Ethiopia, a key ally in the war of terror.
“He came here in 1979 as a political refugee from the military dictatorship,” she said. “In 1991 the government changed, so he went back and was working with them for a couple of years. Then he realised they were no better so he returned to the UK.
“He was going to Eritrea transiting through Yemen on June 23 when he was kidnapped at Saana airport and rendered to Ethiopia. We are very, very worried about him.”
She added: “The UK has bilateral agreements with Ethiopia, which receives more UK aid than any other country. The UK doesn’t want to upset Ethiopia as it is the only ‘friendly’ nation in that area. The Ethiopians passed the death penalty in absentia in 2009, and in 2012 sentenced him to life in prison. There is no clemency, there is nothing at all.
“Ethiopia is an elected dictatorship, a repressive regime, but a staunch ally in the UK and US war on terror. It’s next to Yemen, next to Somalia. The UK is not applying the right kind of pressure. They are not outraged. They are just politely asking for consular access.”
A spokeswoman for the Ethiopian embassy said that Mr Tsege had been charged with terrorist offences for trying to overthrow the government. But Reprieve countered that Ginbot 7 is a “peaceful political opposition organisation dedicated to the promotion of democracy”.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We remain deeply concerned about Andargachew Tsege’s welfare and our lack of consular access to him since August 11. We continue to seek consular access, and are raising this at the highest levels.”