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Kidnapped UN staff free after 107 days

December 14 - 2009 ZALINGEI

(By Radio Dabanga reporter Mustapha Siry)

The two kidnapped peacekeepers in Darfur of UNAMID are free since today [Sunday] after 107 days of captivity. The stories about their release or escape are contradicting. The regional government claims it has not paid a ransom to the kidnappers and doesn’t know who the kidnappers are.It declared that the kidnapped peacekeepers “had escaped” their captors. But Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Muawiya Osman, said the peacekeepers “were released after negotiations and mediation by local administrations”. According to the governor of West Darfur Abu Al Gassim Al Haj the two abductees — a Nigerian man and a Zimbabwean woman — were able to escape. He told Radio Dabanga that the authorities had tightened the siege around the compound where the hostages were held. According to the governor, the UNAMID staff escaped and walked to a nearby camp for displaced people. Their health was “very poor”, according to the governor. He added that his “government or any party did not negotiate with the kidnappers, because they are criminals and their main objective is to disrupt the peace and to destabilize security and the humanitarian situation in Darfur”. However the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Muawiya Osman, did not mention any attempt to escape. According to him, their release was a result of “negotiations and mediation by local administrators”. No force was used, he explained. Osman said the group which carried out the kidnapping was “unknown in Darfur”. Radio Dabanga spoke recently to the kidnappers. They revealed their identity stating that they were members of a militia previously supported by the government, but angry about the fact they were neglected by the authorities. Only ten days ago the Zimbabwean hostage told Radio Dabanga that her Nigerian colleague had become very ill. The spokesman of UNAMID, Noureddine Mezni said that the release of the two staffers “was the end of a long nightmare”. He said both had already contacted their families by telephone upon their release. “They are now talking to security services about their time in captivity. They will relax for a while before heading home to their countries,” the UNAMID spokesman told the press-agency Reuters. Earlier this month, UN chief Ban Ki-moon phoned President Omar al Bashir to seek help in freeing the two detained peacekeepers.

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