Abandoned by the FO's Finest; EXCLUSIVE: REVEALED: How Pampered British Diplomats Kidnapped in Ethiopia Left Their Local Staff Behind When Rescued - and Returned to Luxury Compound with Golf Course and English Pub
Byline: BARBARA JONES
THE chandeliers in the grand drawing room of the Ambassador's Residence sparkled overhead.
Swathes of tartan were draped round the room and a bottle of whisky stood at the centre of every table as guests arrived to the sound of bagpipes.
Held last Friday at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, this was a most unseasonable Burns Night.
But then - as the Ambassador Bob Dewar confided to one guest - back in January when it should have taken place, there had been 'a little bit of trouble from the local Somalians'.
Still, the three-month delay did nothing to curb the lavish entertainment or high spirits on the night. The lights blazed from the wisteria-covered residence, illuminating the manicured lawns outside.
Beyond the 90-acre embassy compound, on the southern slopes of the Enoto hills, past the sixhole golf course and densely wooded gardens, leopards prowl and poverty pollutes.
But the world outside the compound was of little interest that night to the privileged few who knew with smug satisfaction that they were being indulged in the loveliest embassy in Africa. Theirs is a world coloured by the blossom of bougainvillea and shaded by fig trees. A fantasy of expat life where the compound's own pub, the Addis Arms, serves roast beef on a Sunday and has warm beer on tap.
And it is ringed with walls and protected by 35 armed guards whose gaze is fixed forever outwards to the dust and suffering of the city of Addis Ababa.
It was into this far less hospitable realm that, the day before the Ambassador's sumptuous Burns Supper, eight bedraggled Ethiopians had returned.
While the guests at the embassy partied, these men and women struggled to adjust to their first day of freedom after 52 days in captivity. And they hoped, quietly, that just one of the senior British Government officials whose folly had placed them in danger in the first place, just one of the embassy staff, might acknowledge their return. They waited in vain.
The capture of five British embassy officials working out of Addis Ababa by the Eritrean military last month made international headlines and their rescue was the subject of fervent diplomatic endeavour. But it was the fate of the embassy party, and not the eight locals, that seemed to matter.
Missing were Peter Rudge, First Secretary; his 25-year-old French-born girlfriend Laure Beaufils, a working-group leader for the British Government's Department for International Development; Jonathan Ireland, administrative officer at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa; Malcolm Smart, a personnel officer for DFID; and Rosanna Moore, wife of the head of the British Council.
A Foreign Office team of ten had flown to Addis Ababa to secure their release, the Finnish diplomatic mission had been pressed into setting up a field hospital and military helicopter cover and the SAS had been placed on standby across the Djibouti border.
The eventual release of the five Europeans, after 12 days, was presented as the 'happy ending' to the incident - but until now nothing has been known of the fateful trip that led to their abduction nor of their conduct during captivity and, more pertinently, their behaviour following their release.
But now The Mail on Sunday can reveal the truth about the life of careless ease enjoyed by these servants of the realm.
We can reveal the utter folly of a journey that saw them place not only their own lives, but those of the local guides and staff who accompanied them, in mortal danger - when just a glance at the Lonely Planet guide would have provided stark warning of the dangers at their planned destination.
Their arrogance was compounded by the decision to travel in white 4x4 vehicles bearing easily recognisable diplomatic plates and marking them out as a prime target.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Abandoned by the FO's Finest; EXCLUSIVE: REVEALED: How Pampered British Diplomats Kidnapped in Ethiopia Left Their Local Staff Behind When Rescued - and Returned to Luxury Compound with Golf Course and English Pub. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Mail on Sunday (London, England). Publication date: April 29, 2007. Page number: 24. © 2009 Solo Syndication Limited. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
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