Ethiopian protesters damage factories, vehicles in unrest

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

Some 11 factories and flower farms and more than 60 vehicles have been damaged in unrest in Ethiopia in recent days, a local broadcaster said on Friday, adding to the list of businesses hurt by a wave of protests over land grabs and political rights.

The latest violence follows the death of at least 55 people in a stampede sparked when police tried to disperse protesters using teargas and shots in the air at a cultural festival on Sunday in the Oromiya region near the capital.

Fana Broadcasting, seen as close to the state, reported on its website that companies affected by the unrest had created 40,000 jobs in the nation, where an industrial drive has fuelled one of Africa’s fastest growing economies.

The list of damaged factories included Turkish textile firm Saygin Dima, whose manager said this week a third of his plant was destroyed by fire.

The radio also said two flower farms, a textile company and plastics maker had sites damaged.

Fana Broadcasting blamed the destruction “perpetrators of violence”, echoing the government line, while locals say they have agitating for property and political rights

People from Oromiya, a region at the heart of the state’s industrialization efforts, accuse the government of seizing their land and offering tiny compensation, before selling it on to companies, often foreign investors, at inflated prices.

They also say they struggle to find work, even when a new factory is sited on property they or their families once owned.

Protests in Oromiya province initially erupted in 2014 over a development plan for the capital that would have expanded its boundaries, a move seen as threatening farmland.


Reuters/Zainab Sa’id