By Abdi Biyenssa @ABiyenssa
Addis Abeba – Following continued hostilities between government forces and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) since 20 May 2023, near Fincha Sugar Factory, which is found in the Sulula Fincha district of the Horro Guduru Zone, in Western Oromia, the factory has suspended production of sugar, employees of the factory told Addis Standard.
Citing the Ethiopian Sugar Industry Group, Ethiopia Insider, a local online publication, last week reported that 14 people were killed in an attack by militants at the Sugar Factory. Of the 14 victims, 11 were factory workers and three were local residents. It was also stated that the factory was shut down due to the same attack and looting.
An employee of the factory who asked to be anonymous for security reasons told Addis Standard that “the factory has stopped its daily activities because of ongoing conflict”, as a result, some of machinery of the factory were “vandalized”.
The employee added that “several cars of the factory were burned down, and more than ten days have been counted since the factory stopped production”.
A second employee of the factory who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of security, said, “even though the factory’s property was damaged during the fighting, and some data of the factory was lost, what forced the factory to stop production is the volatile security in the area”.
Another local resident also told Addis Standard that “computers used for the production of sugar were looted by a mob”, adding that some of the looted computers were later returned by the mobilization of an employee of the factory”.
He said the factory was only three weeks away from the annual maintenance break when it was forced to halt operations due to ongoing fighting which is believed to involve the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and government forces .
On 18 May, Addis Standard reported days of fierce fighting in the villages surrounding Fincha Sugar Factory followed by some of the villages having been overrun by the OLA as a sequel of intense fighting supported with heavy weaponry in several parts of the Oromia region since the first attempt to peacefully resolve the war in Oromia was concluded without an agreement.
On Sunday, 28 May, amidst reports of continued fighting in several parts of the region over the past weeks, a credible source informed Addis Standard that an armed attack resulting in the death of one individual later identified to be a businessman was carried out on the main road near Meki town in East Shoa zone by armed group believed to be OLA.
On 16 May, the OLA fighters carried out an attack in Olanchiti town in Bosat district of the zone where according to the police two civilians were killed. Two days earlier, an armed attack on a police station in the Chalalaka sub-city of Bishoftu City left four policemen dead, Addis Standard reported quoting the head of the city’s communication office.
On 19 May, four people including two policemen, a member of the local militia and a security guard were killed in a deadly attack by armed forces on two police stations in Bekoji city, in Arsi zone, 220 km from the capital Addis Abeba.
Fears are mounting that the ongoing fighting may undermined the possibilities of a second round of talks. Upon the conclusion on 03 May of the first round of talks which was held in Zanzibar, Tanzania, “both parties have acknowledged the need to continue these talks with a view to resolving the conflict permanently and peacefully”. AS