153 opposition party members arrested after protests

By Jason McLure

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (Bloomberg) — At least 153 Ethiopian opposition party members were arrested after protests at a remote gold mine controlled by Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi, a leader of the opposition said.

“They were arrested in connection with disturbances at the Midroc Gold Mine,” said Negasso Gidada, a leader of Ethiopia’s Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ) and president of the country from 1995 to 2001.

Those arrested included members of UDJ and the allied Oromo Peoples Congress (OPC), he said at a press conference this week in Addis Ababa. The demonstrations, which took place in early December, were in protest at pollution at the mine and a lack of development in the Shakiso area of Ethiopia’s Oromiya region.

Shimeles Kemal, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government, dismissed the allegations. He said the disturbances were fomented by rebels from the Oromo Liberation Front, 11 of whom were later arrested. He said property belonging to the mine and public buildings including a school were damaged in the unrest.

“We are working there and our operation is effectively going on and nothing has disturbed our activity,” said Tafesse Sehale, a spokesman for Midroc Ethiopia Technology Group, the parent company of Midroc Gold Mine Plc. “What you are telling us is simply what we hear from others and we have no idea.”