'For­eign firms at­tacked' as Ethiopia protests con­tinue

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

PRO­TEST­ERS in Ethiopia have at­tacked for­eign busi­nesses, ac­cord­ing to the own­ers of a flower firm, as demon­stra­tions in which rights groups say hun­dreds of peo­ple have been killed con­tin­ued.

The Dutch com­pany said crowds of peo­ple in the Oro­mia and Amhara re­gions torched flower farms as they tar­geted busi­nesses with per­ceived links to the gov­ern­ment. Flow­ers are one of the coun­try’s top ex­ports.

The Es­mer­alda Farms state­ment came af­ter weeks of es­ca­lat­ing protests that started among the Oromo, Ethiopia’s big­gest eth­nic group, and later spread to the Amhara, the sec­ond most pop­u­lous group.

Both groups of pro­tes­tors are de­mand­ing more po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic rights, and say that a rul­ing coali­tion is dom­i­nated by the Tigrayan eth­nic group, which makes up around 6 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the New York-based Hu­man Rights Watch group, se­cu­rity forces have killed at least 500 peo­ple since the un­rest be­gan in Novem­ber and thou­sands of peo­ple have been ar­rested and de­tained.

The gov­ern­ment has de­nied that vi­o­lence from the se­cu­rity forces is “sys­temic” and pledged to launch an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion, blam­ing op­po­si­tion groups in­side and out­side of the coun­try and what it called “an­tipeace” el­e­ments for the chaos.

Es­mer­alda Farms said its 10 mil­lion euro ($11.1m) in­vest­ment went up in smoke this week in Bahir Dar city and that sev­eral other hor­ti­cul­ture com­pa­nies were also af­fected.

Remco Bergkamp, as­sis­tant man­ager at Es­mer­alda Farms in the Nether­lands, said that the com­pany would likely leave Ethiopia, rather than re­build the farm.

“The sit­u­a­tion is not sta­ble enough to run a busi­ness. You just don’t know where the coun­try is headed,” Bergkamp said.

Ethiopia has seen sus­tained eco­nomic growth in re­cent years and the gov­ern­ment has been keen to at­tract for­eign in­vestors, of­ten of­fer­ing at­trac­tive in­cen­tives to firms who want to do busi­ness there.

Gov­ern­ment op­po­nents, though, say the coun­try’s poor­est have seen lit­tle ben­e­fit from the in­vest­ment.

Horn of Africa na­tion has seen months of protests dur­ing which rights groups say se­cu­rity forces have killed hun­dreds. Pro­test­ers in Ethiopia have at­tacked for­eign busi­nesses, ac­cord­ing to the own­ers of a flower firm, as demon­stra­tions in which rights groups say hun­dreds of peo­ple have been killed con­tin­ued.

The Dutch com­pany said crowds of peo­ple in the Oro­mia and Amhara re­gions torched flower farms as they tar­geted busi­nesses with per­ceived links to the gov­ern­ment. Flow­ers are one of the coun­try’s top ex­ports. The Es­mer­alda Farms state­ment came af­ter weeks of es­ca­lat­ing protests that started among the Oromo, Ethiopia’s big­gest eth­nic group, and later spread to the Amhara, the sec­ond most pop­u­lous group.

Both groups of pro­tes­tors are de­mand­ing more po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic rights, and say that a rul­ing coali­tion is dom­i­nated by the Tigrayan eth­nic group, which makes up around 6 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the New York-based Hu­man Rights Watch group, se­cu­rity forces have killed at least 500 peo­ple since the un­rest be­gan in Novem­ber and thou­sands of peo­ple have been ar­rested and de­tained.

The gov­ern­ment has de­nied that vi­o­lence from the se­cu­rity forces is “sys­temic” and pledged to launch an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion, blam­ing op­po­si­tion groups in­side and out­side of the coun­try and what it called “an­tipeace” el­e­ments for the chaos. — AFP

Ali Bongo

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