Ethiopia: Foreign Investors Warily Eye Crackdown – The Wall Street Journal

Mourners hold candles at a Lutheran church in Bishoftu on Sunday at a service marking the deaths of dozens of demonstrators in antigovernment protesters a week earlier. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Wall Street Journal


Foreign investors on Monday warily eyed the Ethiopian government’s latest attempt to quell violent protests that have targeted foreign-owned businesses in Africa’s second most-populous nation.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared a six-month state of emergency on Sunday, saying it was necessary to protect citizens and property following widespread antigovernment unrest in Oromia, one of the country’s nine ethnically based regional states.

Long-running protests over the government’s monopoly on power and human-rights abuses have swelled recently in Oromia and Amhara, another regional state. More than 130 private concerns were attacked by protesters last week, including a Dutch-owned flower farm and a cement factory owned by Nigerian Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man.

As security forces multiplied in the streets of the capital Addis Ababa on Monday, KKR, a major private-equity fund, said it was stepping security at a large Ethiopian flower farm it invested in two years ago

Under the state of emergency announced by Mr. Desalegn, demonstrations, writing and distributing pro-protest material and mimicking the protesters’ symbol—crossed arms raised aloft—are prohibited. Curfews and other restrictions were expected.

Financial analysts voiced skepticism Monday that the steps would help Ethiopia’s souring investment climate.

“The declaration of a six-month state of emergency is unlikely to improve dwindling investor confidence in Ethiopia,” said Emma Gordon, a senior analyst with Verisk Maplecroft, a research firm.

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