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Six Ethiopian Salesians Released from Police Detention, Placed Under Home Confinement

Provincial house of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in Ethiopia, Don Bosco Gottera (Addis Ababa). Credit: Courtesy Photo

Six members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) who were among those arrested when government forces in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, raided two of their premises earlier this month were freed from police detention and placed under home confinement, a source has told ACI Africa in an interview.

In the Thursday, November 18 interview, the source who did not want to be identified said seven SDB members were freed last weekend, but one was rearrested while going to one of the Salesian communities to get his documents.

“Seven of the Salesians who had been detained were released on Saturday (November 13). They were released following various interventions, including the Italian embassy in Addis Ababa and the Apostolic Nuncio in Ethiopia,” the source said.

It is not complete freedom, the source further said, and explained, “they were given instructions not to leave the Salesian premises; they are under house arrest.”

“Each of them was required to pay 10,000 Ethiopian currency (US$209.00),” the source disclosed, adding that two other Salesians remained in police custody when the seven were conditionally freed and placed under home confinement.

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The two Salesians were not freed alongside others probably because “they were in that region (Tigray) when the war started,” the source further said in reference to the events of 4 November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed-led government of Ethiopia ordered a military offensive against the authorities in Tigray region.

The military offensive was in response to the alleged attack on Ethiopia’s largest military base located in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, by forces loyal to the region’s government.

In an interview with ACI Africa November 10, Ethiopian-born SDB member described the November 5 raid as “mass arrests of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa” during which “two compounds of Don Bosco were raided by the police, one of them twice.”

“The police arrested 38 people, mainly Tigrayans; they were taken to unknown place,” Br. Dory Amene Yohannes told ACI Africa on November 10, making reference to the arrests that took place in Gottera and Mekanisa areas of ​​Addis Ababa.

He added that 11 SDB members were among those taken away by the police during the November 5 raid.

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Two SDB members, Fr. Ignacio Lavencture, and Fr. Chrys Saldanha were freedom a couple of days later. “The two were released because they are foreign missionaries; it was after an intervention of their respective Embassies,” Br. Dory said in reference to Fr. Ignacio and Fr. Chrys who hail from Uruguay and India respectively.

In the November 18 interview with ACI Africa, the source who spoke on condition of anonymity said SDB members in the Provincial House in Addis Ababa have been cautioned against receiving anyone in the premise.

“Apart from being under house arrest, Salesians in Don Bosco Gottera are not allowed to welcome anyone in their compound. Nobody is allowed to enter the residence of Provincial House of the Salesians in Addis Ababa,” the source said, adding that those who contravene the directive “are arrested and taken to prison.”  

“One of the released Priests, Fr. Johannes Menigistu was going to the Salesian Provincial house in Gottera on Monday (November 15) to collect his personal documents when he was rearrested,” the source said in reference to the Ethiopian Salesian Priest who is at the helm of Bosco Children in Addis Ababa who has been detained for violating the home confinement order.

In the interview, the source called for dialogue to end the yearlong violent conflict in Ethiopia saying, “My advice is to come and dialogue peacefully to end the conflict.”

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“I urge the international community to support the people of Tigray and save their lives,” the source further said, and explained, “for now, everything in the Tigray region is blocked. The international community needs to push the Prime Minister to open the region to humanitarian assistance.”

“People are dying for lack of food, for lack of medicine,” the source further said, underscoring the need for the international community to “put pressure on Ethiopia’s Prime Minister to allow humanitarian access to Tigray region.