Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kenya/Somalia: Spanish Aid Workers Mark One Year in Captivity

According to The Latin American Tribune, Spanish aid workers Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut in Kenya remain in captivity after being kidnapped on October 13, 2011,  from a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Somali border. The kidnapping occurred when their Doctors Without Borders vehicle was stopped by gunmen. 

Little has been reported in the news about the two aid workers and no organization has publicly investigated the case, though the prime suspects seem to be the radical Islamic group, al-Shabab, which operates out of Somalia and has links to al-Qaeda.

COMMENT: The last time that the Spanish government was able to confirm that the two kidnap victims were alive and well was on February 15, 2012.

In the past sixteen years, more than 50 Spanish aid workers have been kidnapped while taking part in humanitarian work, including the two workers of Doctors without Borders. 

Three members of that same organization were abducted previously, one in Colombia in 1998 and two in Somalia’s Puntland region in 2007 and 2008.

Although it is commendable that Doctors Without Borders is so devoted to its humanitarian efforts, yet I continue to emphasize that enduring a long-term kidnapping of a year or more may not be worth the anguish, sleepless nights and hardship that the victims and their families have experienced.

The fine line, of course, is knowing  when and where it is NOT safe to have aid workers operating in high-risk regions of the world.