News: Gardula zone in Southern Ethiopia region condemns kidnapping of 285 laborers in Amhara region, urge their safe return

Video footage showing the daily laborers being taken to unknown locations guarded armed men have been widely shared across social media since last week (Photo:Screeshot)

Addis Abeba – The council of Gardula zone in the Southern Ethiopia region has condemned the kidnapping of 285 laborers by armed groups in the Amhara region, and called on relevant authorities to work towards their safe return.

According to the Council, a group of 285 laborers from the Gardula and Ale Zones in Southern Ethiopia region were kidnapped by “extremist armed groups” in the Amhara region while traveling to work on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. 

Chairman of the Council, Birhanu Kunalo said in a statement that the incident occurred after the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation issued a tender for forest clearance works, which included cutting trees in the area designated for the artificial lake of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The tender was awarded to Nikotka Construction and Trading Pvt. Ltd., a private company that subsequently signed an agreement with the Labor and Social Affairs Office of Derashe District located in Gardula Zone to hire employees for the tree-cutting tasks.

Based on this agreement, a total of 285 laborers, comprising 246 individuals from Derashe district and 39 individuals from Ale Zone, were assembled and provided with 6 public transportation buses by the organization to travel to the worksite while reaching the Amhara region.

However, upon reaching the Amhara region, the group of 285 laborers was kidnapped on the road by “extremist armed groups” operating within the region, the council said. The exact location and circumstances surrounding the kidnapping remain unclear at this time. 

The Gardula Zone Council has strongly condemned the incident, stating that the “laborers were innocent citizens who were simply traveling to contribute their labor towards the development of the crucial Renaissance Dam project.”

The council said workers have the right to work and generate wealth in any part of the country and travel as laborers, and that they “do not have any specific mission” apart from labor employment.

The council neither stated when the recruitment was conducted nor the time of the kidnapping, but video footage showing the daily laborers being taken to unknown locations guarded by fighters from the Fano militia have been widely shared across social media since last week.

The zonal Council also denounced the spread of misinformation and “irresponsible claims” made on social media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, suggesting that the workers have different missions and were being held as captives. Such statements were described as inappropriate by the Council.

In response to the incident, the Gardula Zone Council has called upon all relevant authorities and parties to work towards ensuring the safe return of the kidnapped citizens to their home villages through peaceful means. AS

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