Are British Lives More Valuable than Ethiopian Lives: The Curious Case of Andargachew Tsige


By the Strathink Editorial Team

I raised the case of Andargachew Tsege in my meeting with the Prime Minister, making it clear that while progress has been made, with regular consular access now in place and a transfer to a federal prison, further steps are required. I have now received a commitment from the Prime Minister that Mr Tsege will be allowed access to independent legal advice to allow him to discuss options under the Ethiopian legal system.

Britain does not interfere in the legal systems of other countries, any more than we would accept interference in our judicial system. Our consular role is to ensure well-being and access to legal advice.

At my request, a senior Foreign Office official travelling with me, was given access to Mr Tsege in prison today. Following that visit, I am satisfied that he is not being ill-treated and that he is receiving regular visits from family members in Ethiopia.

Mr. Phillip Hammond

Foreign Secretary

Government of Great Britain


In 2015, Mohamed Rehman and his wife, Sana Ahmed Khan, were convicted in Great Britain of plotting a suicide bomb attack on a popular London shopping mall or the subway system. A U.K. court declared the married couple guilty of terrorism and they are awaiting sentencing.

Two British university students have been convicted of “wanting to kill on London’s streets in the name of Islamic State in what counter-terrorism officials believe was the most significant jihadi plot targeting Britain in a decade.” [1] The two Britons targeted police, soldiers and civilians for a drive-by shooting from a moped, having acquired a gun, silencer and ammunition from a London-based criminal. Tarik Hassane, 22, pleaded guilty to having directed others in the plot through encrypted social media programs. He was a medical student. His friend, physics and prize-winning student Suhaib Majeed, 21, was also convicted of the terrorism.

Andargachew Tsige, a British citizen of Ethiopian origin, was convicted of plotting and training young Ethiopians to make bombs and set them off in crowded areas of Addis Ababa, including shopping malls and places of worship. Andargachew Tsige is a leader of Ginbot 7, labeled a terrorist organization by the Government of Ethiopia and supported materially and militarily by the Government of Eritrea.

Ginbot 7’s stated mission is to overthrow the Government of Ethiopia “by any means necessary” and has its army based in Eritrea. Berhanu Nega, the chairman of Ginbot 7, has stated that these means include violence, diplomacy and public insurrection. In its press releases, manifestos and public statements—all are available online at and archived on its affiliated internet media channels.

Andargachew Tsige, preceding his extradition from an airport in Yemen, was residing in Asmara, Eritrea. There, according to his own admission, he organized an armed terrorist wing of Ginbot 7, called Ginbot 7 Popular Force. He trained members recruited from the Ethiopian Diaspora—including the United States, Great Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa and Kenya—in terrorist tactics.

In November 2009, a court convicted Andargachew and 39 others under the criminal code on terrorism-related charges. Andargachew was tried, convicted and sentenced in absentia. It is important to note that a number of European countries recognize convictions in absentia, including Italy. The United States recognizes trials in absentia if the defendant has fled sometime during the trial. In Ethiopia, the legal system supports trials in absentia.

Andargachew has become a cause celebre for the international human rights community, some officials in the governments of Great Britain and the United States, and the media. Yet, his celebrity status is based on a foundation of false information. The international community, always the arbiter of “right” and “wrong,” has created a narrative that belies the basic facts about Andargachew and his organization, Ginbot 7.

Andargachew is portrayed as an opposition member who is being persecuted by the Government of Ethiopia. There are no details about his methods of opposing the government. In Ethiopia, there are many people who actively oppose the government and they are not in jail. Andargachew opposed the government through violent means—which is illegal in Ethiopia and in every other country.

The international community fails to acknowledge his leadership in an organization committed to overthrowing the Ethiopian government “by any means necessary,”—including violence, terrorism and public insurrection. The international community fails to acknowledge Ethiopia’s judicial process that convicted Andargachew along with 39 others under the criminal code. The international community fails to acknowledge the threat Andargachew and his organization poses to the safety and security of ordinary Ethiopian people strolling through the shopping centers or attending their houses of worship.

Why is no one raising questions about the conviction and incarceration of Mohamed Rehman and his wife, Sana Ahmed Khan? Why is no one protesting the conviction and incarceration of Tarik Hassane and Suhaib Majeed? Has the international community raised the point that the British government might be biased in its judicial review based on the fact that Mohamed, Sana, Tarik and Suhaib targeted British citizens on British soil?

Are British lives more valuable than Ethiopian lives?

This kind of thinking—where the West knows best—is a remnant of colonialism that should best be left in the waste bin of history. Why is it so difficult for western institutions, such as human rights organizations and the media, to understand the message this sends to the developing world? What is the message sent to Ethiopians about the value of their lives versus the value of British lives?

These western institutions have no respect for Ethiopia’s sovereignty. They have no respect for Ethiopia’s laws or judicial process and demonstrate a callous disregard for the safety and security of the Ethiopian people.

The Strathink Editorial team has noted the legal brief filed by Andargachew’s nine-year old daughter. It is unfortunate that a child must suffer the absence of her father. Sadly, however, Andargachew Tsige made that choice seven years ago when he decided to move to Asmara, Eritrea. His daughter has been without her father much longer than his two years of detention—again, a fact that is ignored when the international community shouts their objections with their righteous indignation for detaining a man who is a father.

Unfortunately, Andargachew Tsige is not one of the good guys. Instead of playing a constructive role in building his country, he chose violence. If he had succeeded in his plans to assassinate Ethiopian government officials and to detonate bombs in high traffic areas of Addis Ababa, would the west continue to portray him as simply an opponent of the Ethiopian government?

Let’s set the record straight here. Below please find facts about Andargachew Tsige and Ginbot 7.

  1. Ginbot 7 is committed to the violent overthrow of the Ethiopian Government. To that end, it has formed Ginbot 7 Popular Forces, housed in Asmara, Eritrea.
  2. Ginbot 7 is now headquartered in Eritrea and supported financially and militarily by Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki.
  3. Andargachew Tsige was charged and convicted of plotting acts of terrorism against the Ethiopian people.
  4. Andargachew Tsige has admitted to training Ethiopians—many from the global Diaspora—in making and detonating bombs in high traffic areas such as shopping malls, churches and mosques.
  5. Andargachew Tsige, according to the British Foreign Affairs Secretary, has not been mistreated and looks healthy.
  6. Andargachew Tsige has access to family in Ethiopia, who visit him regularly.

There are a large number of good, honest people in Ethiopia who oppose their government but do so with integrity and dignity. These are the people who should be saluted—not Andargachew Tsige.

[1] The Guardian, March 23, 2016.

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