18 November 2017

Ethiopian Authorities Deport Prominent Scholar René Lefort From Airport - No Explanation

Reliable sources tell Addis Standard that René Lefort, a prominent scholar known for his critical observation of Ethiopian politics, was deported by Ethiopian authorities up on arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Abeba on Tuesday November 14, 2017.

According to sources familiar with the matter and who want to remain anonymous, René Lefort arrived at the airport on Tuesday with a valid visa. However, as soon as he arrived, his French passport was confiscated by Ethiopian immigration officials at the airport before he was subsequently expelled with the next flight to Paris, France the same day.

René Lefort, who is now in Paris, confirmed the news and said the immigration officials "refused to tell me why I have been evicted". "I have been blocked at the airport, my passport has been confiscated, the immigration service obliged me to [fly] back to Paris the same night," Mr. Lefort said in an e-mail sent to Addis Standard. According to him, he arrived at Bole airport "with a business visa, delivered by the Ethiopian embassy in Paris, after having got the green light from the concerned services in Addis Abeba, following the normal process. I had planed to stay three weeks in Ethiopia."

An observer of Ethiopian politics since the 1970s, René Lefort is known for his in-depth analysis regarding the nature of political events in Ethiopia. He is also known for his frequent articles on Sub-Saharan African countries published in respected publications such as Open Democracy, Libération, Le Monde, Le Monde diplomatique and Le Nouvel Observateur.

His articles on Ethiopia often appear on Open Democracy. His latest article, published on October 22, 2017, and was titled "Ethnic clashes" in Ethiopia: setting the record straight" delivered a critical analysis into the recent deepening political crisis in Ethiopia. The "four scenarios" he discussed in the article were a topic of wide range discussions among Ethiopia observers and the Ethiopian social media space.

Mr. Lefort, who is believed to maintain a cordial relation with a few senior government officials in Ethiopia and who often travels to Ethiopia to asses political events firsthand before writing his articles, says he was informed by a senior official in an e-mail that it could only be a "misunderstanding". "This expulsion came as a surprise for many observers," he said, adding, he was "deeply frustrated" that he was now "prevented" to asses firsthand a changing political dynamic, which "in my view is one of the most important in the contemporary Ethiopian history."

Addis Standard has made several attempts to reach out to immigration authorities in the airport, but all were to no avail. And its e-mail sent to the visa section of the Ethiopian embassy in Paris has not been answered as of the publication of this news. AS

ED's note: this news will be updated if and when the response to our email sent to the Ethiopian embassy in Paris is answered.

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