Friday, October 7, 2016

US citizen killed, foreign factories attacked in Ethiopia

The death toll from unrest and clashes between police and demonstrators runs into several hundred.
Oromo regional police officers wait in a pick up car during the Oromo new year holiday Irreechaa in Bishoftu on October 2, 2016. Several people were killed in a stampede near the Ethiopian capital on October 2, according to an AFP photographer at the scene. Several thousand people from the Oromo community gathered at a sacred lake for a religious festival and started to cross their wrists above their heads, a symbol of Oromo anti-government protests. The event quickly degenerated, with protesters throwing stones and bottles and security forces responding with baton charges and tear gas grenades. Together, Oromos and Amharas make up 60 percent of the population and have become increasingly vocal in rejecting what they see as the disproportionate power wielded by the northern Tigrean minority in government and the security forces. Picture: AFP.
ADDIS ABABA – A US citizen was killed and foreign-owned factories and equipment damaged during a wave of protests over land and political rights in Ethiopia this week.

The US Embassy said the American woman was killed on Tuesday when stones were hurled at her vehicle on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, where residents said crowds have attacked other vehicles since a stampede at a weekend protest killed at least 55 people.

The weekend crush took place when police fired teargas and shots in the air to disperse anti-government demonstrations during a festival in the Oromiya region, south of the capital.

The embassy did not give further details or a precise location for the incident.

Oromiya has been a focus for demonstrations by locals who say land has been seized to build factories and housing blocks.

Also on Tuesday, crowds damaged a factory run by Turkish textile firm Saygin Dima and the BMET Energy cable plant, which also has Turkish investors, officials from firms in the area said. Both plants are in the Oromiya area.

A third of the Saygin Dima plant in Sebeta, 35 km southwest of Addis Ababa, was destroyed by fire, General Manager Fatih Mehmet Yangin said. “A large crowd attacked the factory,” he said, adding three vehicles were also destroyed.

Yangin said a flower farm nearby was also attacked. The Oromiya Regional Administration said vehicles and some machinery at a plant owned by Nigeria’s Dangote Cement were vandalised.

Oromiya has been a focus for industrial development that has fuelled Ethiopia’s economic growth, but locals say they receive little compensation when land is grabbed. Protests have also increasingly turned to broader issues of political freedom.

The death toll from unrest and clashes between police and demonstrators over the past year or more runs into several hundred, according to opposition estimates. The government says such figures are inflated.


The attacks will cast a shadow over Ethiopia’s ambition to draw in more investment to industrialise a nation where most people rely on subsistence farming, and have been struggling with a severe drought in the past two years or so.

The government has been building new infrastructure, including an electrified railway connecting the capital of the landlocked nation with a port in neighbouring Djibouti, which was inaugurated on Wednesday.

At least seven foreign-owned flower farms in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, another area where protests have flared, were damaged in political violence at the start of September.

The government blames rebel groups and foreign-based dissidents for stoking violence.

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