- A group of scholarship holders from Guinea-Bissau, studying in Russia, has taken hostage of their Ambassador, his relatives and three diplomats. The 46 student claim not to have received their payments for the last thirteen months and say they "are fed up" with living in misery.
The group of Bissau-Guinean students invaded their country's embassy in Moscow yesterday and immediately tool control of the premises. They are demanding a payment of their outstanding scholarship from the Bissau government to let the Ambassador and other hostages free.
Pictures of the drama at the embassy were shown on national television. It showed a large number of students all over the premise while the Ambassador was kept seated in the secretariat. One student announced that they expected a solution "within 48 hours."
If nothing had happened within that deadline, the student threatened that the atmosphere at the embassy "will become ugly." In that case, he promised that the group would give the Ambassador "a beating".
Bissau-Guinean Ambassador Rogério Hérbert, in telephone declarations to the press, said that he did not have the means to solve the problem. He was therefore waiting for instructions from the government of Guinea-Bissau.
Mr Hérbert added that members of his family and two other diplomats were being held captured in an apartment at the embassy's disposition and is also used as residence for diplomats from Guinea-Bissau. The flat, located in the southern part of Moscow, had been cut off from contacts with the embassy and other Bissau authorities.
The Ambassador confirmed that, until now, there had not been any aggressive acts by the scholarship holders directed at him or at the other diplomats. "Until now, we have not eaten anything," he added when asked about the condition of the abducted diplomats.
- We are not aggressors, emphasised Ismael Sadilu Sanha, Vice-President of the Association of Bissau-Guinean Students in Russia. "But imagine," he continued, "how people must feel after living on God's mercy for 13 months."
The scholarship holders say that they have informed Guinea-Bissau's Secretary of State for Education, Besna Fonta, about their action and had placed their demands with her. The group was now expecting an answer from authorities in Bissau.
This is by far not the first time that desperate actions are caused by the lack of payments by the virtually bankrupt government of Guinea-Bissau. A failure to pay off former Bissau-Guinean peacekeepers that worked for the UN in Liberia caused a mutiny on 6 October last year. During the mutiny, Guinea-Bissau's army chief-of-staff was killed.
The former peacekeepers are only now receiving their payments for their services in Liberia. Authorities in Bissau were enabled to pay the soldiers after the UN earlier this month donated the outstanding sum of US$ 909,000 to the government.
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