Foreign companies hit by Ethiopian unrest

United Nation's human rights experts on Monday called for an worldwide probe to investigate the violence used on protesters, saying 600 people had been killed in a violent crackdown.

He named Eritrea, which has a long-running border dispute with Ethiopia, and Egypt, which is embroiled in a row with Addis Ababa over sharing Nile waters, as sources of backing for "armed gangs".

"We have to be very careful not to necessarily blame one government or another", Getachew said, saying some "elements" in Egypt fanning unrest might not have direct links to the government.

Ethiopia's attraction as a favorite new destination for foreign investors is fast dissipating as businesses owned by Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote and Dutch fruit processors come under attack in growing political unrest.

Renewed protests erupted earlier this month when a religious festival taking place in Oromia's Bishoftu town turned into the violent anti-government protests, claiming the lives of 55 in a stampede that was triggered after police fired tear gas to disperse protesters.

That's where many in a massive crowd that had gathered to celebrate the annual Irreecha thanksgiving festival chanted slogans and crossed their fists over their heads, an increasingly familiar gesture that protests oppression and calls for more rights for the people of Oromia.

But Getachew said traditional enemy Egypt had allegedly trained and financed the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), regarded by Ethiopia as a terrorist group behind the protests.

Egypt's Ministry of Foreign affairs restated Monday the country's respect for Ethiopia's sovereignty.

On Sunday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced a state of emergency after violent protests erupted across the Oromia region, the largest of the country's nine ethnically-based regional states. The Oromo population represent 34.4 percent while the Amhara (Amara) accounts for 27 percent.

Ethiopian lawmakers are expected to convene later Monday after a two-month recess, and a Cabinet reshuffle is expected in the next two to three weeks, said government spokesman Getachew.

The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency Sunday, faced with widespread anti-government protests. But opponents say Tigrayans, a smaller ethnic group whose power base is in the north, are pulling the strings.

Social conflict has intensified in Ethiopia during the past year as a decade of relatively rapid economic growth, which earned Ethiopia the status of "Africa's rising economic star" in the bourgeois press, has given way to crisis. "The recent developments in Ethiopia have put the integrity of the nation at risk", the prime minister said. The protesters have been demanding more freedoms from a government that has been accused of being increasingly authoritarian.

Calling on the government to "urgently change course to prevent more bloodshed", Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said, "The world should be carefully watching what is happening in Ethiopia".

  • Leroy Wright