Ethiopia stops a former head of an army company as part of a crackdown on security services


ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia on Tuesday arrested the former head of an army-controlled industrial conglomerate and took him handcuffed to the capital, state media reported one day after authorities announced investigations of important members of the security forces.

Kinfe Dagnew, Brigadier General of the Ethiopian Army and former Director General of METEC, was arrested near the border with Sudan and Eritrea, the national broadcaster EBC announced.

State media broadcast footage showing Kinfe surrounded by a group of soldiers and pictures of him handcuffed arriving by military helicopter Tuesday in the capital.

A documentary aired Tuesday evening on Ethiopian Television (ETV) public television gave details of alleged embezzlement by METEC.

The company, which was awarded a contract of 24 billion Ethiopian Birr ($ 863 million) by the public company in 2011 to perform electromechanical work at the Grand Dam Renaissance, received $ 16.7 billion birrs of the total amount so far, but only 23 percent has been completed, at a cost of 9.46 billion.

"Only 266 million Birr were found in his bank account. The rest of the money was gone, "he said.

He also claimed that the company had taken over two aging vessels belonging to the State Maritime Agency but that they were used to transport contraband goods that would most likely have included arms into Somalia and Iran, an embargoed country. United Nations Arms.

The documentary claimed properties such as buildings were also illegally purchased by the company, without documents made available.

A day earlier, the Attorney General had announced the arrest of other METEC officials in connection with an investigation for corruption and the detention of security officials accused of having abuse of prisoners – measures that had been well received by advocacy groups and a prominent opposition politician.

Amnesty International said the arrests announced on Monday "are an important first step towards full accountability for abuses committed in the country for several decades".

A Western envoy, who asked not to be named, called the crackdown "a total frontal assault on the establishment".

Kinfe's arrest is the most visible since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in April, promising to control the security services and tackle what he calls economic mismanagement, corruption and corruption. infringements of fundamental rights.

PHOTO FILE: On October 29, 2018, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks at a press conference at the Elysee, in Paris (France). Michel Euler / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

It has imposed reforms that have upset the policies and hierarchies established decades ago in the economic power of East Africa, particularly to allow private investors to take stakes in the huge conglomerates run by the West Bank. army and other public bodies.

The Attorney General has not made any immediate statement concerning the arrest of Kinfe. The Prime Minister's Office sent Reuters back to the Attorney General.

"BIG FISH"

On Monday, the Attorney General, Berhanu Tsegaye, said that investigations had revealed a corruption in the METEC (Metal and Engineering Corporation), which manufactures military equipment and intervenes in sectors ranging from agriculture to construction. Reuters has not been able to contact METEC for comments. Senior public relations officials were among those arrested.

The Attorney General said 27 METEC officials were arrested, along with 36 intelligence officers, police officers and other military officials accused of mistreating prisoners.

He also accused top security officials of organizing an attack on the prime minister in June.

Detained METEC employees and security officials appeared in court later on Monday. A judge denied the suspects bail and gave the police another 14 days to investigate. None has been charged.

Berhanu Nega, opposition politician, welcomed the developments and said the vast majority of Ethiopians were satisfied with the arrests.

"People think that it is high time that such measures are taken to address the issue of justice in the past, but also to indicate in the future that such crimes will no longer be acceptable to the public. Future, "he told Reuters.

A list of arrest warrants made public by the Attorney General's Office identified 27 current and former METEC executives, including the Chief of Military Production and the Head of Logistics and Supplies.

One of the arrested people was "caught … while she was trying to destroy evidence," reads the document.

The accused or their lawyers made no immediate comment.

PHOTO FILE: An aerial view shows residential neighborhoods in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 15, 2018. REUTERS / Tiksa Negeri / File Photo

Abiy, the Ethiopian leader of the Oromo majority, was chosen by the EPRDF to lead after three years of protests and strikes that pushed the coalition to reform.

According to some analysts, the Abiy reforms targeted the former guard of the ERDF, long dominated by the Tigrayan minority ethnic group. But others have suggested that it should be backed by high-level support from high-ranking members of TPLF, the Tigray coalition political party.

"It would be a recipe for a conflict to go against these big fish without consent, or to negotiate with the TPLF," said an Ethiopian analyst who declined to be named.

Reportage of Aaron Maasho; Additional report by Maggie Fick; Written by Maggie Fick and George Obulutsa; Edited by Robin Pomeroy, Andrew Heavens, Richard Balmforth

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