Toni Espadas was synonymous with Ethiopia. An all-rounder of the African continent, which he visited tirelessly from east to west, Espadas had a predilection for the Ethiopian melting pot, a country that he had visited hundreds of times and, he used to say, “had changed his life.” On Monday, his beloved Ethiopia was the sad scene of his premature goodbye. The founder and director of the 25-year-old Sabadell-based travel agency Rift Valley Expeditions was murdered in the south of the African country during an attack by armed men, apparently bandits although the case is still under investigation, who shot about the vehicle he was in. At least two men armed with machine guns stopped the van in which the Catalan guide was traveling and, when the driver tried to avoid them without stopping, the criminals opened fire.

Espadas, who also worked as a photographer and as a fixer or assistant for television equipment, was on Ethiopian soil for a few days as a guide for the recording team of the program ‘Socios por el mundo’, made by the production company MkZeta for the Chilean channel Canal13 . Espadas, with an enormous agenda of contacts in East Africa that he always shared generously, had given access to the recording equipment to the Mursi tribe, of about ten thousand members and who inhabit a region where even the shepherds tend to be heavily armed with kalashnikov or other firearms.

It was the channel itself that reported the attack, which was not carried out by Mursis, and “it was recorded once they were leaving the area, after having finished the day, on the way back.”

The rest of the team, both drivers and members of the program’s team, among whom was the renowned Chilean journalist Francisco “Pancho” Saavedra and the actor, also Chilean, Jorge Zabaleta, were able to flee and were not injured.

Espadas, who collaborated with several foundations and NGOs, was very loved in the field of travel guides to Africa for his way of approaching local communities, always with respect and without haste. The founder of Rift Valley also helped this journalist on several occasions, whom he selflessly facilitated entry to Eritrea, one of the most inaccessible countries in the world. In recent years, Espadas had worked as a guide for ‘Planeta Calleja, with Jesús Calleja and Fernando Tejero, in addition to other programs on Spanish channels.

Although Ethiopia is one of the most touristic countries in Africa and receives thousands of visitors, it has suffered a setback in security issues for years. Last summer, a group of Spanish tourists was detained for several days in the north of the country, an area very far from the site of the attack on Espadas, after clashes between the Ethiopian army and rebel groups. After several days of negotiations, the Spanish tourists were evacuated unharmed in a military helicopter.