Friday, April 19, 2024
BusinessMilitants release Mugher Cement hostages

Militants release Mugher Cement hostages

The deputy manager and driver of the state-owned Mugher Cement Factory, who were abducted by militants in the Adea Berga district in the West Shewa zone of the Oromia region, were freed after being held captive for days.

On September 28, 2022, militants in the area ambushed a Mugher cement truck that was going from Addis Ababa, leading to the kidnapping of the factory’s deputy manager, Damlew Ayele, and its driver, Bekele Garedew.

On that day, militants fired on a vehicle carrying seven people, including family members, coworkers, and customers, becoming hostages.

The militants released five of them and abducted the deputy manager and driver to an unspecified location, according to Hundesa Dessalegn (PhD), CEO of Chemical Industry Corporation, an entity with a mandate to supervise the cement factory that is under state ownership.

The Mugher Cement Factory was constructed by an East German enterprise next to Mugher Town, 90 kilometers northwest of Addis Ababa, and it was established by the previous military regime in 1984. The factory produces portland cement (OPC) and portland pozzolana cement (PPC), and it has been administered by the Corporation since 2012.

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The factory previously had problems operating due to a shortage of power and the foreign currency crunch. Mugher, one of Ethiopia’s five cement plants, barely met its production target of 54.7 percent in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.

One of the main explanations for the underperformance of the factory is the security threat in the Oromia Region, particularly in the area where Mugher operates. The Oromo Liberation Army (“OLF Shene”) is the biggest security risk for factories in the Oromia region, including Mugher Cement.

According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the group, which has been labeled a terrorist organization by the House of Peoples’ Representatives, has killed hundreds of people in the West and Qellem Wellega zones.

An employee of Mugher Cement who wished to remain anonymous told The Reporter that the militants held the factory’s deputy manager and diver captive before demanding up to four million birr to free the hostages.

The deputy manager was freed first after his family paid a one million birr ransom to the kidnappers, According to sources. The driver was afterwards freed, but The Reporter is unable to confirm whether or not a ransom was paid.

Hundesa declined to give further details when asked how much was paid to free the hostages, saying that the destructive force might use the information for other purposes.

There have been further attacks on the factory in recent days, in addition to the one on September 28.

After the original assault, the factory remained closed for a number of days. Employees’ vehicles were shot at when they were en route to the plant to begin work the following week, causing the deaths of two people.

In addition to the casualties of the incident, 12 other workers were injured. According to Hundesa, five of them sustained serious injuries.

Even though there were reports that the attack was carried out by “OLF Shene,” the CEO said, “What was the intention of the attackers? Who are they? What was the purpose of the attack? I don’t have the details.”

The factory has now begun production, according to Hundesa, who added, “Although we do not claim that the protection is still adequate, we understand the government’s pressure.”

A formal request has been made to the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) to deploy troops there, according to a source.  Ararsa Merdasa, Commissioner of Oromia Police, refused to give information about the attacks.

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