Don’t miss use these terms any longer. In most cases our loved ones or high-status personalities may be tagged “wanted” either they are missing or they are under legal search. If they are, missing the trauma of determining their where about may live us speculating legal and illegal actions.

  • Difference arrest abduction and kidnapping
  • The person may not want to, or may have forgotten to get in contact with us: he/she may have decided to go away for the weekend or on a visit without telling anyone (or may want to a“disconnect”)
  • The person may not have been able to get in contact with us for technical reasons: this can happen when he/she is, unpredictably or unexpectedly, cut off from means of communication in a place that is too remote
  • The person may have been detained, arrested, abducted or kidnapped. All have in common the characteristic that the person is deprived of his/her freedom of movement and could experience anything from polite pressure to a life threat. In some cases the person may be able to check in with us, meaning that we will have more information about the situation.

The last point is the focus of this blog post. Reason being that most often we especially media personnel both traditional and social are tempted to miss use the terms arrest, abduction or kidnap during reporting or analysis. This comes with the difficulty in reporting a developing story where we find it difficult ascertaining the condition of the victim


For the sake of our readers and to better understand the difference in these legal terminologies Africaninfolook.com spoke to a seasoned legal practitioner Barrister Vitalise Lengen ju, senior partner at VERITAS LAW OFFICES IN Buea, Barrister, and solicitor of the supreme courts of the Gambia and Cameroon and Former state counsel of the Gambia. This is what he had to say concerning the difference in the terms: arrest, abduction, and kidnapping

What is an arrest?

Arrest is the term used to describe detention by security forces (so that in principle, law can be invoked). It is done legally by a state agent where he presents himself, states his mission and takes the convict for questioning. For clarity reasons when talking about arrest, we can say the leaders of the “Ambazonia interim government” were arrested (though it is very controversial), leaders of the banned Consortium were arrested.

What is abduction?

Abduction refers to the forcible capture and removal of a person or defender in an illegal way most often for political reasons. This can be done by the state or any other individual. For instance, the state may decide in matters of national security to undermine the due process of arrest and employ abduction of an individual for security follow up.


In right legal principles, we can cite the example of chief justice Ayah Pual Abine though the end process of his abduction was declared an arrest. Also, abduction can be explained when a man illegally decides to capture or steal his child from a run-away mother

What is kidnapping?

Kidnapping refers to forced capture and detention with the explicit purpose of obtaining concessions from the captive or others. You can call it unlawful business, criminal business. It is synonymous with abduction, but the main variant is that kidnapping is done for a ransom. For example, the former minister Amadou Ali’s wife was kidnapped by Boko Haram”.

Hope the explanations were explicit enough. Now note this: detention (arrest, abduction, kidnapping) may vary in length from a few hours to even years. Resolution will most often be achieved by setting the person free, or it may turn into kidnapping situation when an objective is sought beyond the mere