I’m not sure I will make it, Yassin Juma cries from Ethiopian jail

Yassin Juma
Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma in Ethiopia.[Photo The Star]

Kenyan journalist Collins Juma Osemo alias Yassin Juma now incarcerated in Ethiopia has written an open letter of his hard life in detention for the last 47 days.

He tested positive for coronavirus a week ago.

In his letter, he said that he has been detained at Aradar detention cell together with 68 other COVID-19 positive inmates.

With pessimism, he says he is not sure if he will make it alive citing that he cannot access a proper diet or medication.

“I am currently being held at block (W) with 68 other COVID-19 positive inmates with no access to medication in overcrowded cells, no running water and no diet to assist us with our condition.

“My health is failing with each passing day, and I am not sure if I will make it. It is 50-50 with coronavirus but the conditions in detention make my survival chances less,” he wrote.

Yassin who was arrested in a wave of protest following the assassination of Oromia musician Hachalu Hundessa said that Kenya has failed to secure his freedom even after two Ethiopia courts freed him last week on Monday.

He was set to return to court on Tuesday.

He says that after his release, he was rearrested and taken to Aradar Police where he has been held since.

“I was literally kidnapped by six armed men in civilian clothes, a minute after I was released on bail at Arada Police Station. I was beaten and forced into a minibus together with three others who had been freed too.

We were taken around Addis and later dropped at Arada Police and informed we had been re-arrested, this time not by the Federal Police, but by Addis Ababa Police,” he narrates.

Yassin says no charges have been preferred on him yet he has been in detention for 47 days. He has been denied to communicate with his family too.

With his arrest, he says he is not sure how he will fend for his seven children and grandson who are in the care of his ex-wife.

“All I am asking the Ethiopian government is to either charge me or set me free. They have failed to bring evidence in court to charge me,” he pleads.

By his own account, Yassin says he travelled to Ethiopia on June 6, 2020, for an assignment with UK-owned Sky News. He has been working with the media outlet as a freelance journalist and as a producer.

He was working on a series highlighting Ethiopia’s culture through his firm, Horn24 Media. He was later assigned by the Oromo Development Association and Oromos in North America Association to produce a documentary for government-affiliated TV station OBN.

Horn24 Media has a footmark in East Africa and is contracted by international media to offer services in conflict-struck areas within the Horn of Africa.

Hitherto, the firm has bureaus in Nairobi, Mogadishu, Djibouti, Khartoum and Juba.

“The documentary was about a project funded by Ethiopians in the diaspora that introduces e-learning to at least ten secondary schools in the Oromo Region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received our delegation before and after completion of establishment of servers in the ten schools as a pilot project. I was still in the process of interviewing, travelling and editing at the time of my arrest,” he adds.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry has written to Ethiopia demanding the immediate release of the Kenyan journalist.

In the letter, the Foreign Ministry says it is perturbed by the continued detention of Yassin Juma who was freed last week by both a Lower and higher Ethiopian court.

“The Ministry is deeply concerned that despite the decision of the court, Mr Osemo is still in police custody,” it says in the letter dated August 12.

“The continued detention of this Kenyan national despite the decision of the court and payment of bail is highly regrettable and has caused immense anguish and anxiety to him, his family, the people and the government of the Republic of Kenya.”