Protesters in the West Arsi Zone, Oromia Regional State, burned down about 70ha of a corn farm that belongs to ELFORA Agro-Industries Plc- a subsidiary of MIDROC GROUP.
The Farm, which is amongst four ranches owned by MIDROC, is situated at Bishan Guracha, around Shashemene, 250Km from Addis Abeba.
It was torched by the protesters, primarily composed of youth, after midnight at around 1:00am on November 9, 2017. Majority of the protesters hailed from neighbouring kebeles: Shire Boraroo and Choogee.
Although the extent of the damage on the farm of Elfora is yet to be estimated, sources disclosed that the protesters destroyed over three-fourths of the crops planted.
Our efforts to contact the Manager of Elfora, Anbessie Asrat, via texts and calls bore no fruit. But, a team led by the Manager of the Company visited the farm the next day to check the condition of the estate and its employees. There are over 630 permanent and temporary employees working there, according to sources.
The protest is the second of its kind in the Zone as a similar incident occurred nine months ago.
“It is not surprising to see such attacks in our Zone,” Dubee Dhabatoo, a commander-in-chief at Arsi Zone Police Commission, told Fortune. “The farmland is bounded by a forest used as a garrison camp by the protesters to take on a sudden attack.”
The police commission announced the arrest of 51 individuals suspected of carrying out the attack.
“An investigation is underway to identify those who vandalised the farms and hold them accountable for their acts,” said Dubee.
During the same day, a joint venture chip wood plant in Arrerti, Menjar Zone of Amhara Regional State, with an investment of 80 million Br, was set ablaze and burnt to the ashes by anti-government protesters.
A similar protest broke out in the country a year ago, damaging at least a dozen companies in the Oromia and the Amhara regional states.
Saygin Dima Textile S.C, Shang Dong Donkey Abattoir, Condor Farms and Simbo Beach Resort Langano were amongst those attacked by angry demonstrators last year.
This was followed by a decline in foreign direct investment (FDI) and tourism as a travel alert was issued by many western countries including the US, forcing the parliament to declare a state of emergency that lasted for 10 months until it was lifted three and half months ago.
The news about the damage of Elfora’s farm coincides with the detention of Sheikh Al Amoudi, the board chairman and co-owner of MIDROC, in Saudi Arabia after being accused of corruption. The Group issued a statement on November 9, 2017, in an attempt to restrain any tension that could arise from it.
“As we have seen in reports, companies owned by our Board Chairman are not going to be affected by the arrest,” the statement reads.
BY YIBELTAL GEBEREGZIABHER
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER