Kenyan journalist detained in Ethiopia along with Jawar Mohamed, family accuses Addis Ababa of intimidation
ADDIS ABABA - The family of a Kenyan freelance journalist who was arrested over three weeks ago in Addis Ababa accuses the Ethiopian government of intimidation and now wants him to be released immediately without further delay, adding that "we can no longer afford a decent life".
Yassin Juma was arrested on July 3rd when protests broke out across the Horn of Africa nation following the assassination of Hachalu Hundesa, a popular singer who was shot dead within the capital, Addis Ababa. Hundesa's death triggered deadly protests especially in the Oromia region where he came from.
But it's the arrest of Juma which has plunged his family into mental anguish, following weeks of relentless tracing and phone contacts which haven't yielded any fruit. It is difficult to trace his whereabouts given that his only known contacts can no longer be reached.
Asha Mohamed, his wife, told the press on Sunday that it was difficult to trace Yassin's whereabouts, adding that "we don't know the cell he's being held in, his current health conditions, whether he's being tortured and his general welfare as a human being".
She added: "We are in total darkness, children are undergoing through hell. Things are no longer the same again since we cannot afford food and other essentials, he was everything to us. They should just let him go, they're holding him for no good reason."
Since his arrest, the wife said, only Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya Meles Alem who has tried to contact them. According to the envoy, the journalist was arrested with several others including leading opposition figure Jawar Mohamed and were presented in court on Saturday in Addis Ababa.
The suspects, he noted, were remanded for another 10 days to allow prosecutors piece together evidence for trial. The entire team is accused of among others, instigating inter-ethnic violence, causing the death of a politician and plotting for assassinations of senior Oromia region officials.
Ethiopia had accused Jawar Mohammed, the owner of Oromia Media Network, of inciting his supporters to protest over the death of Hundesa. The demonstrations leftover 240 people within Addis Ababa and Oromia region dead, police said in a report.
Both Juma and Jawar Mohamed are being represented in court by renowned lawyer Tuli Bayisa but he's yet to address the media over his clients' predicaments. Critics accuse the state of "hiding" in fictitious claims to antagonize government critics including Jawar, who played a major role in his ascendancy to power.
But Ms. Mohamed says her husband is being "blackmailed" by Ethiopian authorities, adding that "I don't think he committed any of such crimes". The freelance journalist first moved to Ethiopia in 2019 for greener pastures according to the family and he's yet to come back.
One of his sons, Hazif Yassin, who is in his teens, accused the Kenyan government of remaining mum about his father's predicaments. According to him, efforts to get assistance from the ministry of foreign affairs are yet to bear fruits despite launching complaints.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed has been pushing for reforms in his own country but the latest arrests could erode his reform credentials, which contributed to the Nobel Peace Prize award in 2019. He recently accused "funny elements" of instigating chaos in Ethiopia.
Since his ascendancy to power in 2018, Abiy Ahmed has also been supportive of peace efforts around the Horn of Africa. For instance, he ended Ethiopia's conflict with Eritrea which had lasted for two decades and is currently pushing for reconciliation between Somalia and Somaliland.
Kenya and Ethiopia have been having a cordial relationship since independence but they have often had boundary issues. It's not clear when Yassin Juma will be released from prison but the standoff could trigger diplomatic fallout between Nairobi and Addis Ababa.