Ethiopia: Cries of joy after abducted child reunites with parents

Biniyam was only 5 when armed men abducted him from a traditional gold mining site in Gambella, Ethiopia and taken to war-torn South Sudan.

His mother tried to stop the kidnapping but was shot by the abductors. Both Biniyam's mother and father, who was absent during the April 2017 attack, had never expected they would see their son again. But this family's story has a happy ending.

After the kidnapping, Biniyam's mother was living in a state of shock. Her husband explained that "she could not sleep and eat well. She could not talk to anybody, when she did she was talking to herself. It was very disturbing." Both the mother and father tried to find their son; the father even travelled to Khartoum, but they found no hint of Biniyam.

In early August, five months after the abduction, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in South Sudan was informed of the whereabouts of Biniyam. The ICRC tracing team in Ethiopia then located the parents of Biniyam.

"When the parents heard the news they couldn't believe that their son was found alive and even doubted how he would be brought back to them. Especially the mother, who had suffered traumatically from the pain of separation, was doubtful of the news," said Salih Bashir, who is part of the ICRC team that reunites separated family members.

Extreme joy overtook both parents when they saw their son again on October 1 at the family home in Dima Woreda, Gambella.

"His mother could not stop her cry of joy, and nobody attempted to separate mother and son from hugging each other that seemed to last forever. There is nothing more gratifying for the ICRC than to see separated families unite again," said the ICRC's Bashir, who traveled with Biniyam to the reunification.

The ICRC strives to restore family links (RFL) between members separated by conflict and violence around the world. In Ethiopia, RFL activities focus among others on reestablishing links between South Sudanese refugees sheltered in Gambella, and their families living both in South Sudan and abroad through the exchange of messages and free phone calls.