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Gunmen Kill One in Attack on Saudi Billionaire’s Ethiopia Farm

April 29, 2012

By William Davison

Gunmen attacked the camp of an agricultural company owned by a Saudi billionaire in southwest Ethiopia, killing at least one person, Federal Affairs Minister Shiferaw Teklemariam said.

The assault on Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc’s premises in the Abobo area of Gambella region took place yesterday evening, Shiferaw said in a telephone interview today.

“We have a report that at least one person was killed,” he said from the capital, Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia plans to lease out 42 percent of South Sudan-bordering Gambella to investors as part of a nationwide commercial farming drive.

The U.S.-based advocacy group Oakland Institute says the program has led to rights violations and the forced relocation of more than a million Ethiopians. The government denies rights violations and says a resettlement program is voluntary.

Opponents of the relocation and farming program shot and killed 19 students on a bus 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Gambella town on March 12, according to the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency. There is “suspicion” that the same group carried out yesterday’s attack, said Shiferaw, who is responsible for emerging regions.

Saudi Star, which is owned by Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi, said in February that it wants to add another 290,000 hectares to the 10,000 hectares it intends to grow rice on in Gambella largely for export to Saudi

 --Editors: Louis Meixler, Digby Lidstone.