Briton running length of Africa kidnapped and hit over head with hand grenade in Ethiopia before negotiating his own release

​Keith Boyd

Keith Boyd has been running the length of Africa to raise awareness for voter turnout

George Bunn

By George Bunn

Published: 18/04/2024

- 17:29

Updated: 18/04/2024

- 17:31

Keith Boyd is running from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt

A Briton with a rare heart condition and asthma who is running the length of Africa was kidnapped, beaten and held at gunpoint before negotiating his own release.

Keith Boyd, was taken hostage by guerrilla soldiers in Ethiopia in the middle of his epic journey after being hit over the head with a hand grenade.

The 57-year-old retired telecoms entrepreneur, who holds dual British and South African citizenship, was born in Scotland but moved to South Africa when he was four.

Boyd known by his nickname as the Rainbow Runner is attempting to run from Cape Town to Cairo, known as the ‘traditional route’, in fewer than 318 days and set a new world record.

\u200bKieth Boyd during his epic run

​Keith Boyd during his epic run up through Africa


The current record is set by another Briton, Nicholas Bourne, in 1998. He is running to raise awareness for youth voter turnout in South Africa as well as the British Heart foundation.

However, his run has been far from smooth, as he and his team encountered issues in northern Ethiopia, where he and his team were warned ahead of entering the region about the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), armed opposition group active in the area.

He told GB News: "These guys [The OLA] are running around kidnapping people for money. So we get the state police to give us an escort through the rest of Oromia state up to the Blue Nile bridge. So it's a big bridge that crosses the Blue Nile. And it's about 220 kilometres north of capital Addis Ababa.

"Once you cross that, you are in Amhara state. In between all of this, there's lawlessness. There are AK-47. And they're all over the place. So you kind of in what I'd call a dynamic minefield.

"[When we were in Sudan] you could skirt the battle fronts, because conventional warfare has battle fronts with enemies, you know where you are, and you try to move with those battle fronts, east or west or north or south as you gain ground.


Keith Boyd is running the length of Africa\u200b

Keith Boyd was kidnapped in Ethiopia


"In guerrilla warfare, that can't happen. What they do is they pop out at night time after they've finished work, sabotage something, attack, somebody shoot something up, just cause a bit of mayhem to let people know they're around. And they're a force to be reckoned by attacking an army base. And then they disappear.

"[In the morning] they'll be serving the soldiers that they fighting cups of coffee and bread rolls, and smiling at them. Guerrilla warfare is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. And this is what we're facing in northern Ethiopia."

Speaking about the kidnapping, Boyd said that they were around 60km after the Blue Nile when they went to the town of Yetmen.

He said: "I had gone ahead and I was walking with our cameraman, he wanted to do some shoots in the village with us talking to some people in this town. So I was walking ahead with Michael, our Ethiopian cameraman who's the interpreter and the videographer.

"Our rescue paramedic was driving the vehicle South African guy and he had been told to pull over. Michael was between the pickup and myself and he said they were talking about blowing up the vehicle if we didn't pull over.

\u200bKeith Boyd running

Keith Boyd has had to battle a kidnapping during his epic run


"My instinct with these things is to keep moving. Because once they get us all in a huddle, it's easier for them to deal with us. So I said I would keep moving and they won't blow the vehicle up."

After the group was separated, the kidnapping began. He said: "They gave us a bit of a clobbering Michael and myself, the two things they wanted was one for us to walk across a field and that was a full blown kidnapping situation evolving.

"I managed to calm them down after about 15-20 minutes. It was chaotic. And we managed to stay near the road. Only one of them spoke very broken English. We have to slow everything in hope that police or army will come past and see a foreigner, the only foreigner in the north of Ethiopia.

"We now negotiated a deal, I'd actually shaken hands with the leader who had a cross tattoo on his neck

\u200bKeith Boyd

Keith Boyd was held at gunpoint during his run


"I actually counted the money in front of him, and it was still spare money and you can see it, he didn't take it. I felt so ready for the event. I think all of my life had led up to me being I guess as ready as I could ever be for that situation.

"The sad reality is from the clobbering and I've seen this actually, I felt mediated and I think I was really worried about the impact this would have on Michael because he's younger. And I was writing and Michael just just he's not prepared to go north again. It just this really, really shook him up, which I fully understand.

"I thought he handled it very well if I'm honest with you, I told him afterwards that he was very brave and very sensible, you know, and we kind of worked as a team."

Boyd is set to finish his run this Sunday, April 21.

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