By Etenesh Abera @EtenbeshAb
Addis Abeba – Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) said that six of its branch offices in Oromia regional state were shut down by security forces and its employees were arrested for “unknown reasons,” Netsanet Tesfaye, ECX corporate communication bureau head told Addis Standard. According to him, ECX branches in Mettu, Gimbi, Jimma, Bedele, Nekemet, and Adama, where one-fifth of ECX’s total employees worked, were shut down under unclear circumstances.
“The shutting down of the offices was followed by the arrest of employees. All of the employees in some branches, only the management in others,” Netsanet said.
The warehouses containing agricultural commodities acquired from farmers as well as those purchased by merchants are locked up. “We are discussing the issue with the concerned body in the government,” Netsanet said, adding that the employees were engaged in routine activities and none of them were aware of the incident. “What happened was outside ECX’s knowledge,” he said. The branches affected by the closure were trading commodities mainly coffee, oil seeds, and a variety of other items, all of which would have an impact on the country’s export market in the future, Netsanet added.
Launched in 2008, ECX offers an integrated warehouse system from the receipt of commodities “on the basis of industry accepted grades and standards for each traded commodity by type to the ultimate delivery,” according to its profile. Among the services ECX warehouses offer include “sampling, grading, weighing and certifying of the grain, pulses, oil seeds and coffee coming to each warehouse using equipment provided by ECX according to ECX established standards.”
Chala, a laboratory technician at the ECX Gimibi branch, who did not want his family name to be mentioned, told Addis Standard by phone that security personnel came to their office on Thursday 28 April around 3 PM local time, shut down the building, and arrested all of the staff without explanations. “They hauled us all to prison and released the rest of us, but 14 members of management remain in prison.” ECX’s Gimibi branch employs more than 40 people, according to Chala.
“They said it was an order from a higher government authority, but they didn’t say which one”
Another witness from Jimma, who did not want to be identified by name, told Addis Standard that security personnel who did not have legal documents for a court came to check all the branch offices and arrested five members of the management. “They said it was an order from a higher government authority, but they didn’t say which one. We went to the prison this morning to ask our colleagues, and they informed us the police hadn’t asked for anything yet except to keep them in prison.” He further stated that the Jimma ECX branch, where 35 to 40 staff work, remains closed while security officers are guarding the premises.
As of the publication of this news, Oromia regional state government has not issued a statement regarding these closures, and Addis Standard’s repeated attempts to get comments from the six cities’ police were unsuccessful. A police officer in Gimbi decline to comment on the matter before hanging up the phone. AS