Ethiopia blames Eritrea as protesters set Dangote cement factory ablaze

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Ethiopia has accused elements in Eritrea and other countries of fanning the crisis in the country that culminated in the burning of factories owned by Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote and other foreign investors.

Other firms attacked are:

* FV SeleQt BV – the Dutch firm’s 300-hectare vegetable farm and warehouse in Oromiya were plundered.

* AfricaJUICE BV – the Dutch firm’s factory in Oromiya was partially destroyed.

* Saygin Dima Textile – a third of the Turkish firm’s factory in Oromiya was burned down and three vehicles destroyed.

* BMET Energy Telecom Industry and Trade LLC – the Turkish cable firm’s factory was damaged in Oromiya.

* Esmeralda Farms BV of the Netherlands, Italian owned-Alfano Fiori, Indian firm Fontana Flowers PLC, and others operated and owned by investors from Israel, Belgium and the Middle East were destroyed or partially damaged in the Amhara region.

In a statement Monday, Ethiopia accused elements in Eritrea, Egypt and other states of arming, training and funding groups that it blames for a wave of protests and violence in regions around its capital Addis Ababa.

The protesters attacked Dangote Cement factory, with vehicles and machinery at the firm’s plant in Oromiya vandalised.

The government declared a state of emergency on Sunday following months of violent anti-government protests, according to an official statement.

“The state of emergency was declared following a thorough discussion by the Council of Ministers on the loss of lives and property damages occurring in the country,” Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said.

The declaration marks a further hardening of the government’s position after months of protests in different parts of the country which have been met with a strong security response that has left hundreds dead, according to human rights groups.

Rights groups say more than 500 people have died in clashes with police and other confrontations. The violence has damaged around a dozen factories and equipment mostly belonging to foreign firms, accused by protesters of purchasing leases for seized land.

“There are countries which are directly involved in arming, financing and training these elements,” government spokesman Getachew Reda told a news conference.

He named Eritrea, which has a long-running border dispute with Ethiopia, and Egypt, embroiled in a row with Addis Ababa over sharing Nile waters, as sources of backing for “armed gangs”, although he said it might not come from “state actors”.

“We have to be very careful not to necessarily blame one government or another. There are all kinds of elements in the Egyptian political establishment which may or may not necessarily be directly linked with the Egyptian government,” Getachew said.

Egypt has dismissed previous accusations that it was meddling in Ethiopian affairs. “Egypt firmly respects the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” a Foreign Ministry statement said last week.

Eritrea routinely dismisses charges that it wants to destabilise its neighbour, and instead accuses Addis Ababa of stoking unrest on its own soil.

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