Foreign food businesses attacked during recent protests by the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia face a tough choice to stay or leave and lose their investment

By Laura Secorun (The Guardian) |

Ian Derry was shocked when he got the news. A group of men had ransacked his company’s factory and burned down several buildings. A decade of work, tonnes of produce, tens of millions of dollars invested in equipment – it was all gone in the span of a few hours.

Derry is the director of africaJUICE, a Dutch company whose fruit processing plant in Ethiopia was one of almost a dozen factories attacked during the most recent outburst of protests by the Oromo ethnic group. Now foreign agri-businesses like his face a tough choice: stay, despite the risk, or leave and lose their investment.

“We are still assessing the damage but the losses are massive,” says Derry. Since its launch in 2009, the company had grown its staff in Ethiopia to around 2,000 people and was bustling year-round with workers picking and processing passion fruit and mango. Now the plant looks like the set of a dystopian film. Rows of brand-new tractors are charred and unusable. The walls are black with soot and the ground is covered in dried-out juice and smashed computers. “No one could have seen this coming,” says Derry.

ALSO READ Owner of Maranque Plants PLC on Ethiopia Violence: ‘I Was Terribly Scared’

Political analysts beg to differ, saying Oromo dissent has been gaining momentum for decades. Despite constituting a third of Ethiopia’s population, Oromos feel abused and marginalized by a political regime dominated by the Tigray, who make up only 6% of Ethiopians. The nation’s economy has experienced an average 10% growth over the last decade but Oromos say development has come at their expense.

Continue reading this story on The Guardian
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