Protesters Block Ethiopia Rail Link After Clashes Leave 300 Dead

  • Railway line linking Ethiopia to Djiboutian port is closed
  •  Trade artery handles 95% of Ethiopia’s maritime trade
Ethiopia Rail Link
Internally displaced people in their shelter at a camp in the town of Azezo, Ethiopia, on July 12. Photographer: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

Protesters in eastern Ethiopia blocked and damaged a vital trade artery linking the landlocked African nation to a port in neighboring Djibouti, a government official said.

The railway between the two eastern African nations has been closed since the demonstrations took place Monday, Mohamed Rooble, a spokesman for the government of Ethiopia’s Somali region, said Tuesday. The protest followed an attack by special forces and militia fighters from neighboring Afar region carried out on the town of Garbaiisa, where many ethnic Somalis live.

Somali authorities confirmed at least 300 people died in the violence, which began on July 24, Mohamed said. The protesters also closed the road that links the Somali region to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

The blocked trade route risks further damage to Ethiopia’s economy, which is already struggling to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a nine-month conflict in its northern Tigray region. Ethiopia relies on Djibouti’s port and transport-related infrastructure for 95% of its maritime trade, according to the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

Yields on the nation’s 2024 Eurobonds rose for a fifth straight day on Tuesday, climbing to 10.26%, the highest since May 2020.

The conflict that began in Tigray in November has spread to Afar and risks spilling over into the Amhara region. The violence has displaced has displaced at least 2 million people and left thousands dead.

A spokesman for the regional government in Afar didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment. Tilahun Sarka, director-general of the state-backed Ethio Djibouti Railway company, didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Source: Bloomberg

— With assistance by Mohamed Sheikh Nor

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