DONI, ETHIOPIA —
In Ethiopia, millions of dollars in investment went up in smoke as protesters attacked foreign companies in the Oromia region. The violence prompted the declaration of a state of emergency last month. But one foreign company managed to stave off an attack with the help of community elders.
Since he came to Ethiopia 13 years ago, the owner of Maranque Plants, Marc Driessen, had never feared for the future of his company, located about 80 miles south of Addis Ababa.
But that changed on October 4. Driessen saw several neighboring companies in flames. The noise of the mob was growing louder and he knew his company, where he grows cuttings for export, was next.
“We saw the protesters here in front of the gate, with sticks and knifes. And it was really frightening to see them come this way,” he said.
Anti-government demonstrations started in the Oromia region a year ago, but it was only recently that protesters also turned against foreign-owned companies.
More than ten foreign companies have been attacked since September. Protesters say the government gives land to foreign investors without proper compensation for smallholder farmers who are forced to vacate their land.
Maranque Plants employs 1,200 people, mostly women. Buziye Mekonnen is one of the many harvesters
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