June 6, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopian officials on Monday said that most of the Ethiopian Nuer children kidnapped by a South Sudan’s Murle militia group have been rescued and have returned home safely.
On April 15, 2016, thousands of members of a South Sudan’s militia group armed with machine guns, crossed into Ethiopia raided 13 villages in Nuer and Anyuak zones of Ethiopia’s Gambela region where they killed over 200 people and snatched over 100 children.
The tribal fighters further carried off with over 2,000 livestock during the cross-border raid. According to Gambela regional officials, more children have been recovered on Tuesday, raising the total number of children released to 88.
The children are being transported to Ethiopia’s Gambela region from South Sudan’s Boma state by Ethiopia Air force helicopters.
Minister of federal ministry of women and children affairs, Alemitu Ubong, said the success achieved so far in safely returning the kidnapped children is an indication of Ethiopia’s sound foreign policy.
She said Ethiopia has vowed to hunt down the gunmen but the Ethiopian forces which remain deployed inside South Sudan haven’t yet carried out military action in a bid to give chance for the ongoing negotiations with kidnappers.
The negotiations have been directly between the President of Gambella region of Ethiopia, Gatluak Tut, and the governor of Boma state of South Sudan, Medan Baba, who promised the Ethiopian authorities to peacefully recover the kids from his Murle abductors.
Officials told Sudan Tribune that regional administrators and clan leaders have continued with the negotiations with the abductors and the remaining children are expected to arrive home in one or two weeks’ time.
It is not yet clear on whether kidnappers are trading the children for ransom, or simply threatened to face action if they will not cooperate.
Ethiopian military officials also said returning the 2,000 looted livestock will be the next step after all the abducted children are recovered.
Addis Ababa said the Murle militia groups have no links with the South Sudanese government under President Salva Kiir or the opposition forces under the leadership of current First Vice President, Riek Machar.
The international community, including the African Union, the United States and the European Union, has condemned the massacre of over 200 Nuer villagers and the abduction of the children.
Although cattle rustling and violence involving Murle tribesmen from South Sudan’s Jonglei and Upper Nile regions is common in the remote region, the scale of the latest attack is unprecedented.
Gambella region is a shelter for more than 280,000 South Sudanese refugees who fled to Ethiopia to escape the conflict in their home country that broke out in December 2013.
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