Couple despair at lack of support after mob destroys their holiday lodge

PUBLISHED: 11:22 02 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:54 02 September 2020

The couple's burnt out car, destroyed by mob at their lodge in Ethiopia.

The couple's burnt out car, destroyed by mob at their lodge in Ethiopia.

Archant

A North Somerset couple feels they have been left unsupported by the British Embassy after a mob ransacked and destroyed their holiday lodge and set fire to their car in Ethiopia.

Mike Russell and his Ethiopian wife Selas, who are of Christon, near Banwell, built a lodge in the Ethiopian Rift Valley to help people in the area from 2008-2015.

The project was funded with profits from Mike’s 20-year hobby of growing Christmas trees.

At the end of June, an Oromo singer and political activist was assassinated in Addis Ababa, the Capital of Ethiopia.

This created a wave of rebellion and disturbance within the Oromo region, resulting in a mob moving through the small town of Ziway - now called Batu.

This resulted in all non-Oromo businesses were destroyed including the couple’s lodge which was 166km from Addis Ababa, which was burnt down and looted.

Mike said: “We were doing quite well, it was a paradise, until a mob moved through our small town destroying all non-Oromo businesses and our lodge was destroyed.

“We were left shocked, angry and in despair.

“My wife remained out there and was scared, after her initial call to the British Embassy, there was no contact.

“They knew she was isolated and alone.”

Selas had planned to build a free clinic for the town’s poor; while Mike worked for the UK Tree Aid and Dutch IDH, in planning the reforestation of a degraded area.

Their aim was to improve the environment, provide work to nearby communities which could act as a model to be expanded into other locations.

Selas, who recently returned to the UK, said: “I was told to leave to be safe, but they had no driver and the roads were blocked.

“I witnessed a lot of destruction and saw the mob put my car on fire. The British Embassy could have checked how I was coping, and if I was still there.”

Mike added that he is calling on people’s support to help them start again.

He added: “We are hoping the Federal Government will pay compensation and establish security, allowing us to rebuild, but we cannot be sure of this.

“If we do have the confidence to start again, it would be great if anyone who is interested in helping us could get in contact.”


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