The smell of rotting mango and passion fruit still hung in the air over the blackened shell of a juice factory near this village more than two weeks after the plant was looted and burned by an aggrieved mob.

As employees swept out the empty rooms, Abraham Negusay, AfricaJuice’s production manager, worked on his laptop in the former lab.

“We are evaluating the damage and destruction, cleaning up the factory and doing a cost analysis,” he said, noting that the Dutch company had yet to decide whether to keep its multimillion-dollar investment in Ethiopia.

The assailants, estimated by AfricaJuice farm managers to number in the thousands, descended on the factory in the Upper Awash Valley, about 90 miles southeast of Addis Ababa, on Oct. 4. Wielding axes, spears and some firearms, they overwhelmed the armed guards while workers fled into the nearby forest.

“It was not expected, so many people at once,” Negusay said.

The attack was part of a week-long spasm of violence that followed a deadly stampede on Oct. 2 during Irreecha, a thanksgiving festival held annually by the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. That day, police fired tear gas into crowds chanting anti-government slogans, and in the ensuing panic, dozens died. The opposition put the death toll in the hundreds.

In response, mobs attacked industrial farms and factories across the country, focusing on those with state ties or owned by foreigners. Several tourist lodges were also targeted, and at least two were destroyed.


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