31/03/07 (B389) Communiqué en Anglais de la communauté AFAR – AFAR FORUM / The kidnapped foreigners are freed and the Afars continue to struggle to regain their kidnapped rights

The recent
kidnapping in remote Afar region has attracted enormous media attention, and
many things have been said about the Afars as result. Some News Agencies like
Reuters depicted our people as barbaric and we only deplore this kind of misinformation.

The Afars to the contrary are people very known among their neighbours for
their hospitability and for even dying to defend their guests. It is now becoming
clear that the kidnapping was not motivated by ransom or robbery as have been
speculated by some observers, but a politically motivated act aimed at sending
a signal to the Tigrean ruling parties who are in control of state power both
in Ethiopian and Eritrea that marginalize the Afar people and use their natural
resources for their private gain.

The freeing of the five Europeans kidnapped at the beginning of this month
is a relief and good news. The Afar community in Diaspora was suffering with
both kidnapped ones and their relatives during their hard times. It’s
why some Afar organizations in Europe appealed for the immediate release of
the hostages. We are now very concerned about the eight Ethiopians who still
remain hostage, and call upon ARDUF to release them without delay.

We would like also to express our appreciation for the Afar elders who successfully
negotiated the release of the kidnapped Europeans, and request them to continue
their engagement until all remaining hostages are released. We would also
like to use this opportunity to call upon Ethiopian and Eritrean governments
to release all prisoners of conscience (hostages) without any preconditions.

Root causes of the problems in Afar areas that cause popular wrath

The marginalization of the Afar people in terms of basic development and services,
while their resources are exploited by Tigrean elites in both Ethiopia and

Repeatedly broken promises by successive Ethiopian rulers, the latest of which
is denial of the self-government granted by the constitution of the Federal
Republic of Ethiopia

The forced upon partition of Afars between Ethiopia and Eritrea which also
resulted in dismantling of Assab Autonomous Region

High-handedness and micro management by the ruling party through appointed
puppets by conducting fake elections hailed at times as progress of democracy
by some Western countries.The current puppet regional government that was
hand picked by TPLF officials has been imposed upon the Afars for more than
a decade (13 years)

Confiscation of thousands of hectors of fertile land along the Awash River
which have tremendous consequence on their livelihood. The Sugar Plantation
and Sugar Factory on 200 000 hectares in the lower Awash Valley, and grabbing
of Afar land in Upper Awash Valley for similar purpose are some examples

Continuous appropriation of fertile Afar land for the benefit of high ranking
TPLF officials and merchants of Tigray origin

Monopolization of the Afar salts concessions in places like As’ale and
Afdera mainly by Tigray merchants

The sustained military campaign by Somali-Issas against the Afars to which
the ruling party turns a blind eye or encourage at times

Confiscations of Afar land along the Red Sea coast by Shabia officials and
control of the fishing business by the government officials and their relatives

Arbitrary detention of hundreds of Afar politicians, intellectuals, and merchants
in Eritrea who have now been detained for more than a decade

The Afar Forum which is mad up by Afar Diaspora calls upon all the
human right organizations, the international community, all the peace loving
people and specially upon the countries of origin of the hostages that were
freed by Afar rebel group to put pressure both on Ethiopian and Eritrean governments
to respect the basic human rights of the Afar people in both countries and
stop immediately atrocities against the Afar people.

Stuttgart, Germany