Ethiopia: 56 Abducted Children Released From South Sudan
The number of Ethiopian children released after being kidnapped by South Sudanese ethnic Murle last month has risen to 56.
The children were abducted by a group of South Sudanese Murle gunmen after they crossed the border into Ethiopia and attacked 13 villages in the Gambella Region. A total of 125 children were estimated to have been abducted during the raids and as many as 56 have now been handed over to the authorities in Ethiopia.
Children return home
The new figure suggests around half of the children abducted have now been returned to Ethiopia. However, that leaves roughly the same number of children still missing a month after they were carried away. Fear for their wellbeing continues to grow with concern that those unable to walk fast enough or too heavy to carry may have been killed.
Such fears make it difficult to know how many more children could return home and it’s still not known exactly how many were taken. Several batches of children have been released by their kidnappers after negotiations with the South Sudanese government.
Military intervention avoided
The Ethiopian army was ready to take military action against the South Sudanese Murle community in an effort to recover the children. However, the intervention was held back after South Sudan’s government promised to return them safely.
It leaves the two countries in a complex diplomatic situation and the next steps remain unclear. Authorities from both countries have insisted the only priority, for now, is to ensure the children are returned home. Then it will be a question of Ethiopia and South Sudan negotiating a means to settle the cross-border incident. The group of Murle attackers has no affiliation with the South Sudanese government, which is looking for a peaceful solution to the matter.