Who will be the parents of child Feven, Meskerem and Bethelem when they will come to Ethiopia after twenty years?
This is interview is about child trafficking. The basis for this interview is the complain received by our production team from certain people against Better Future Adoption Services. We tried to discuss the issue with Mr. Assefa Demie who is the current representative of Better Future Adoption Services. However, he responded to us that since the problem which is said to be created has happened before he was employed for his current position, he could not answer such questions. And, he also told us that the person who know about this matter is the previous head. The production department sought for the person who is said to know about the issue and made him is said to know about the issue and we made him to be today’s interviewee.
He is called Mr. Abebe Tigabu. He earned his first degree from Addis Ababa University in 1997. He worked for four and half years in a position of a prosecutor up to head of a department in Justice Bureau of Oromia. He taught Law in Rift Valley University College. He is also deployed in private Law Practice besides these activities.
He worked in a position of deputy Country Director for Better Future Adoption Agency until recently. We wish you good reading.
By Fanuel Kinfu.
Sendek: How did you get into Adoption Agency related works?
Mr. Abebe: I entered in to this field by chance. While I was practicing Law in private, one of my client asked me whether I could handle a new file or not. I became willing and started to handle the issue of the file. The matter of fact of the file is concerning children who were being transported from Addis Ababa to Arsi Assela who were seized by Shashemene Police with their guardians based on the information it obtained.
The children were sent to an orphanage which is found near to Shashemene. And the guardians were made to stay in prison.
Sendek: What was the reason behind transporting children from Addis Ababa to Shashemene? What was the name of the organization who gave you this responsibility? What the contract you entered with the organization to solve this case?
Mr. Abebe: I didn’t know at that time why the children were made to be transported to Arsi Assela. However I saw from a document that Addis Ababa Police Commission had confirmed that the children were foundlings and gave them to Betezata Children Home Association.
I think that is why Shasheme Police Commission filed an action by suspecting the child trafficking crime at that time. Therefore, I received this responsibility from Better Future Adoption Agency colleagues so that I could solve the problem in a legal means. And, the problem was solved by making the guardians to be free from prison as they were only obedient workers and were not required to be liable for the matter. And the children were also made to be returned to Addis Ababa.
Sendek: What I want you to elaborate for me is who was behind the transportation of the children from Addis Ababa to Assela. Why not such a body was not made legally liable?
Mr. Ababe: I think I told you me work. I am a lawyer. Accordingly, I don’t need to get in to any other thing else except defending my client. I think it is the responsibility of Shashemene police concerning who sent those guardians. The file that I was handling was also closed by court.
Sendek: How did you enter in to the Adoption Agency work position from your profession as a law year?
Mr. Ababe: I think Mrs. Agitu Wodajo delighted with the solved legal matter in the above stated manner. Accordingly, she pressurized me to join the Agency which she leads as a Director. I was mainly needed to make the work processes of the organization to be based on better legal frameworks.
After considering the invitation from all angles, I joined the agency as deputy director.
Sendek: What is giving a child in adoption, could you explain it based on the law and also the work position that you were holding?
Mr. Abebe: We can see about children who are given in Adoption from two angles. The first angle is if either the father or mother of the child is alive, it is proper to get the consent of such a parent before giving the child in adoption.
The live parent of the would be adoptee should stand in front of court and give ones consent concerning the adoption for the adoption to be approved.
The second angle is concerning the foundlings who are abandoned but found by people who brought them to police. Then the police shall notify the case to the nearby Women’s and children Affairs office. Then, the Women’s office shall write a letter to an Orphanage that could receive those children.
Then, the process shall be investigated step by step and be brought to the court for approval after it is presented to the Women’s Affair Office.
Sendek: What is the relationship between the agency and the orphanage?
Mr. Abebe: The Agency is the agent of the prospective adoptive parents who are residing abroad. It is the institute which completes the process by appearing in front of the court. Orphanage is a staying place of the would be adoptees if is seen with adoption perspective.
Sendek: Can an adoption agency have an orphanage?
Mr. Abebe: Never, The Ministry of Women’s Affairs prohibits this. However, an adoption agency may support some Orphanages. Especially, unique support might be given to the Orphanages that have work relationships with the specific adoption agency.
Sendek: What are the pieces of information that are recorded in the profiles of the foundlings?
Mr. Abebe: The time and place where they were found and the date shall be recorded. They shall be given names and certificate of birth shall be issued to them. The court files and other needed documents shall be included in their files.
Sendek: Based on the information received by our newspaper production department, child Feven was given to the Agency by her mother Mrs. Fozia Mohamed who brought her from Nazareth and delivered her to the agency. However, she was sent to USA without the knowledge of the mother. And, this happened while you were serving as a deputy director of Better Future Adoption Agency. What do you know about this matter?
Mr. Abebe: Of course, Mrs. Fozia Mohammed came from Nazareth and handed over her daughter to Mrs. Agity Wodajo. This happened as Mrs. Fozia didn’t have the financial capacity to bring up her daughter and requested the agency to receive her daughter Feven give her in adoption. At that time, the Agency received the child after confirming her health condition.
Fortunately, at the time an American prospective adoptive mother requested the Agency to give her a child in adoption. She was by chance in Ethiopia at the time for her business affairs and while she was told that a child is found for her, she came and visited this child in the Agency. The American was happy with Feven and expressed her willingness to take Feven.
Sendek: However, the family of the child is complaining that the child was sent in an unlawful manner. They say that the child is sent as a foundling while her mother is alive.
Mr. Abebe: You know, the mother of Feven handed her daughter over to the Agency at the house of Mrs. Agitu Wodajo. And Mrs. Fozia Mohammed was told also to bring evidence from the Kebede that confirms she was a pauper. And she notified to the Agency at that time that she was processing the documents from the Kebede. However, Mrs. Agitu Wodajo was not happy with this. It was said that long time was given to Mrs. Fozia Mohammed to bring those documents and as she failed to do so and the adoptive mother of Feven needed her, another option was sought and the matter was done in that manner.
Sendek: I don’t understand what you said “another option?”
Mr. Abebe: Even the incident was not also clear to me at the time a document was produced as if the child and abandoned and found in Jimma and the document was made in Jimma and sent to the Agency. Even she was given a name Feven Jimma.
Mr. Abebe: this matter disturbs me. Of course, if Feven comes to Ethiopia after 20 years, her profile in her adoption file says she is a foundling. Therefore, she doesn’t know her biological mother.
Sendek: Is this not destroying the identity of Feven?
Mr. Abebe: I don’t want to enter in to blind argument. It is correctly destroying her identity. First of all, I told you why I joined the Agency. It was to make their works done based on legal frameworks. But I couldn’t. Accordingly, I have got conflict with the Agency.
Sendek: Not only this case, but we have information that says the children of Mrs. Frehiwot Tarekegn were also sent in this manner. Don’t you know about this matter?
Mr. Abebe: Of course, I know the matter. However, I was not a deputy director at the time. But, this happened while Mrs. Frehiwot came to Ethiopia as a refugee. I know that I sent a document abroad which says child Bethelhem and Meskerm were foundlings who were abandoned and found in Jimma. Mrs. Frehiwot was repeatedly requesting the agency to know about her children.
Sendek: How can documents are issued to the children from Jimm
Mr. Abebe: I can’t respond a sure answer for this question. Of course, most of the documents concerning the said foundlings are issued from Jimma.
This can be answered by Mrs. Agitu Wodajo and the Orphanage to which a letter would be issued to receive such children know about this matter.
Sendek: Therefore, don’t you have any part in this?
Mr. Abebe: Yes. Anybody that investigates the matter can get the fact. There is no any document which is produced by me in this manner. If such documents are found to be done by me, I can be legally liable.
This manner of process was not wanted to be known either by me or other staff members. That is why I was made the seventh head of the Agency with in a time period which is less than three years.
We discussed this issue with the parents of the said children Mrs. Frehiwot Tarekegn and Mr. Tesfaye Gidebo
Mrs. Frehiwot Tarekegn came to Ethiopia as are refugee from Asmara. She came to Ethiopia with her husband. However, they were separated after some period time, she became responsible to up bring their children Meskerem and Bethelhem. Sine this responsibility was a heavy burden to her, she requested Future Adoption Agency Services for assistance.
Then the director of the Agency, Mrs. Agitu Wodajo became willing to receive the children of Mrs. Frehiwot to assist them. Mrs. Frehiwot was also employed by the Agency. Eventually she was asked to give her two children to adoption in the name of helping those children to adoption in the name of helping those children. Mrs. Frehiwot was in a great problem to make decision, as she could not stand the yearning for her children, if they go abroad in adoption. Eventually she gave her consent.
Sendek: How the children were sent in adoption?
Mrs Frehiwot: Nobody told me anything about the matter after I gave my consent. I was told on Thursday about the flight of my children, which would happen on Friday. Since I was shocked with the news, I could not do anything at the time.
Sendek: Were you not asked by the court to give your own consent by the court?
Mrs. Frehiwot: Never.
Sendek: then, in whose name were your children given in adoption
Mrs. Frehiwot: it was in the name of foundlings that they were given in adoption.
Sendek: How could you confirm about this?
Mrs. Frehiwot: After my children were sent to USA, I was dismissed from work. Then I directly went to Better Future Adoption Agency to obtain certificate of work experience. Fortunately, I saw the photocopies of the passports of my children. It was written on their passports that they were born in Jimma. Then I was shocked and went out with it.
Sendek: Then, where were they born?
Mrs. Frehiwot: It was in Asmara
Sendek: Was their father’s name written?
Mrs. Frehiwot: There father’s name was also changed they were registered as Meskerem Jimma and Bethlem Jimma. But their biological father is called Mr. Tadesse.
He is called Mr. Tesfaye Gedebo. He is the brother of Mrs. Fozia Mohammed. After we asked him about child Feven issue, he responded to us. These all happened as I was a university student at that time, I was not able to support my sister and her daughter. The only options that we had at that time was to give child Feven in adoption. Fortunately, we were told by one acquaintance that Better Future Adoption Agency could assist us. Then, this person connected us with Mrs. Abebe Tigabu who was the deputy director of the Agency. Then he told us to bring Feven to Addis Ababa. Then we brought her to Addis Ababa.
“Then I and Mrs. Fozia went with Feven to the house of Mrs. Agitu Wodajo which is found in Gergi. Then Mrs. Agitu Wodajo and Mr. Abebe Tigabu received us. They asked us about the health condition of the child. Then she was made to undertake medical examination. Then Mrs. Agitu Wodajo and an American Woman received Feven from our hands. Then we were told that we had to obtain a document which shows that Mrs. Fozia is a pauper who doesn’t have financial capacity to upbring her daughter.
Sendek: Then did you get the said document from the Kebele?
Tesfaye: of course we obtained a document that proves Mrs. Fozia is a pauper who did not have financial capacity to upbring her daughter Feven and we got this document from Kebele 11 Social Court.
Sendek: Did you submit this document to the Kebele at that time?
Tesfaye: While we want to the Agency to do so, Mrs. Agitu Wodajo had already evacuated from her first accommodation place which was found in Gergi. Even the telephone number we were given by the deputy director of the Agency Mr. Abebe Tigabu was not working. And Mr. Ermis Hailu who connected us with the Agency was not in Nazareth at that time because of business. And we had not adequate finance to come from and go to Nazareth again and again to investigate the matter.
Sendek: Then, was your relationship terminated in this manner?
Tesfaye: No. after Mr. Ermis Hailu came to Nazareth, we went to Better Future Adoption Agency headquarter with him. They told us another thing. They informed us that since they could not find us, they got evidence for the child from Jimma. We tried to investigate the matter and we confirmed that the child was sent to USA. Then we confirmed that our chance to get the child was narrow. Finally, we gave on the matter to God.
From the producer
We tried to discuss this matter with the Ministry of Women’s Affair Public Relations Directorate Director Mr. Abiy Ephrem. He responded to us that he knows about the matter and he could not give us any response about it since the matter is under investigation.
If any stakeholder is willing to give response about the issue, our newspaper production department is opened to interview him/her/it.
The Translator’s Notice:
This piece of writing is translated from the Amharic Newspaper called Sendek, 5th year, No. 258 published on August 18, 2010 on page 12.