Pierre Korkie - One Year in Captivity
Apologies for the delay in this press release.
Tuesday, 27 May 2014, marks the one year anniversary that Pierre and Yolande Korkie were captured in Taiz Province in Yemen. They had arranged their exit visa and were preparing to return to South Africa to complete the funeral rites of Pierre's late father who had passed on a week earlier on 20 May 2013. It was in that period of difficulty when they were caught off guard and captured in the streets of Taiz City on their way to Sana'a and onwards to South Africa.
On 10 January 2014, Gift of the Givers Yemen representative, Anas al-Hamati, successfully negotiated the release of Yolande Korkie with Al Qaeda operatives, unconditionally. He was then given 8 days to pay a 3 million USD ransom or Pierre would be executed. The deadline was 17 January. The ransom money was to be arranged by the Korkie family and not by Gift of the Givers as we are a humanitarian organisation. Anas successfully negotiated an extension till 8 February 2014 but had to flee Yemen on 28 January for his own security having been threatened by Al Qaeda who accused him of stealing ransom money supposedly having been brought by the South African Government to Yemen for Pierre's release and handed over to him. There never was any such transaction.
Having lost all direct contact with Al Qaeda, Anas, through his own tribal leaders managed to get tribal leaders from Abyan to meet with Al Qaeda on March 17. That meeting was tense and short. Al Qaeda made it clear that they could not release Pierre unconditionally for if they do it for one they have to do it for others. They did not offer proof of life but said "if you give us the ransom now you can have Pierre now". On several occasions Al Qaeda themselves have mentioned that Pierre is not in good health. A significant development in this meeting of March 17 was the absence of a time line to pay the ransom money; for the first time they did not threaten an execution.
Towards the end of April we were preparing to send in a team of tribal sheiks again to speak to Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, an all out war broke out between Al Qaeda and the Yemeni army since about 25 April with casualties on both sides and 20 000 people internally displaced already. In the process of the fighting we received confirmation that the Al Qaeda operative who actually handed over Yolande to Anas on January 10 and threatened to execute Pierre, has been killed. Under these circumstances there is no opportunity for meeting, negotiation or dialogue with Al Qaeda as bombs are falling everywhere, areas are closed off and movement is virtually impossible.
However, about ten days ago we received confirmation from more than one source that Pierre Korkie was seen alive together with a UN aid worker of Sierra Leone nationality, also captured last year. They were being moved from one region to another. They could not comment on Pierre's state of health.We are now totally dependent on the goodwill of an increasing number of tribal leaders who have shown a great willingness to try to talk to Al Qaeda to come to an amicable settlement to release Pierre as the option of paying ransom is not viable. The reality is that ransom money is just unavailable.
In an attempt to get international support and with the hope that Al Qaeda will reconsider releasing Pierre but unconditionally, Yolande has released a second appeal via video to coincide with the one year anniversary of the kidnapping.
Thank you for your patience.