Reporter – By Kaleyesus Bekele
Country manager had received death threats
National Defense Forces, Federal Police and Oromia Police forces are searching for the culprits who on Wednesday May 16 murdered employees of Dangote Cement Ethiopia, near the factory 80km west of Addis Ababa.
Deep Kamara, country manager of Dangote Cement Ethiopia, his secretary Beakal Alelegn and the driver, Tsegaye Gidey, were killed instantly when the assailants sprayed bullets on the Toyota Land Cruiser 105 FWD car at about 4:00PM. The car belongs to a local car rental company and the driver served Kamara for the past two years.
Negussie Lemma (Retired Army General), head of security at Dangote Cement Ethiopia, told The Reporter that Kamara and his secretary, who always accompany him to the cement factory and other meetings, left the Dangote Cement factory compound about 3:50PM after a daylong meeting with disgruntled truck drivers of the company. “He talked to me just before he left. After ten minutes, I received a phone call and heard the horrific news,” Nigussie said.
Nigussie told The Reporter that the National Defense Forces, Federal Police and Oromia Police forces are patrolling the province and relentlessly searching for the culprits.
After leaving the compound Kamara was heading to Addis Ababa. He was supposed to fly to his country, India, on Friday May 18 for a family vacation. He goes to India every six months to visit his family. Kamara, in his late sixties, is married and a father of two. “This time his vacation was in April but he pushed it to May because didn’t want to go without resolving the dispute with the truck drivers,” his close colleague told The Reporter. “He booked a flight to New Delhi for Friday May 18 and he was heading to Addis early because he wanted to buy some stuff for his family,” his tearful colleague told The Reporter.
Prior to his assignment to Ethiopia, Kamara worked at a mining firm in Mozambique. He recently celebrated his two-year service in Ethiopia with his colleagues.
The late Kamara was negotiating with the drivers for the past several weeks. They reportedly arrived at a peaceful solution on Monday May 14. However, employees of Dangote Cement told The Reporter that Kamara had received a death threat though a text message a week before his death.
The Dangote Cement factory, which started rolling in June 2015, is located in West Shoa Zone, Adaberga Wereda, near Muger town, 85km west of Addis Ababa and employs 1,200 workers.
After driving five kilometers out of the factory, Kamara and his colleagues arrived at Gatranebe village, a hill surrounded by eucalyptus tree forest. And there is another cement factory called Bedrock near the small village. That is where two assailants, who covered their faces with scarfs, opened fire on the car shooting the driver first. The Toyota Land Cruiser derailed and collided with the road side sign and stopped. According to eye witnesses, the culprits fired dozens of bullets into the car killing all the occupants.
Employees of Dangote Cement and the Oromia Police forces, who arrived to the scene, took the victims to Enchini town. Later on the same night the remains of the three persons were transported to Abet Hospital in Addis Ababa.
“It was not robbery,” an employ of Dangote, who arrived at the scene shortly after the killing, told The Reporter. “The belongings of the deceased were found untouched.” A lap top, mobile phones and 8,000 birr and undisclosed amount of Indian rupees were found in the car.
The body of Tsegaye Gidey was sent to Adigrat town, Tigray Regional State, where his family lives on Thursday. Tsegaye, in his mid-thirties, was married.
Beakal Alelegn’s body was laid to rest in Ferensay Abo Church on Thursday at 3:00PM. Beakal in her late thirties studied accounting at Unity and Admas universities in Addis Ababa. She served Tsegu Berhane and Salini Construction companies. Beakal joined Dangote Cement Ethiopia in June 2015. She was married and a mother of three.
The remains of Kamara were flown by Ethiopian Airlines to New Dehli, India, on Thursday night. Ram Pandey, human resource manager, and Dileep Shekhawat, head of transport, accompanied the remains home. Ali Abdo, former mayor of Addis Ababa and patron of Dangote Cement Ethiopia, Samuel Halala, director general of the Ethiopian Chemical and Construction Inputs Development Institute and Employees of Dangote Cement accompanied the remains from Abet Hospital to the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.
Deep Kamara, an Indian national who arrived in Ethiopia in May 2016, has confronted several labor disputes. Dangote Cement, as a company policy, out sources most of the labor works including raw materials mining, packaging, loading and transport operations. Most of the time, the employees managed by labor supplying agencies, wrangle in labor disputes. They complain about poor working conditions and low pay. The employees want to be directly employed by Dangote and frequently engage in tug of war with the agencies. “Most of the workers and the truck drivers are locals and they have hostile relationship with the labor supplying agencies,” a senior staff of Dangote told The Reporter.
Dangote Cement transport department has a fleet of 500 transport trucks. More than 100 trucks were out of service due to accidents and arson that occurred during the public riots that rocked the Oromia Regional State in the past two years. The company uses the trucks to transport cement from the factory to wholesalers and customers who buy cement in bulk. The trucks also haul coal from the Port of Djibouti to the cement plant.
The truck drivers suspended work last March and the transport department was not operational for over two months. Kamara decided to change the agency that manages the drivers and the handing over process took a long time. “The drivers were paid a monthly salary of 5,500 birr. And they were told by the new agency that their salary would be reduced to 2,500 birr. This has instigated a strong protest from the truck drivers. They were paid their monthly salary even though they were not working for over two months. But since they were not getting allowances they were annoyed,”a company official working in the transport department told The Reporter.
The company official said that cement and coal were transported by private transport companies’ trucks while the company has more than 400 trucks due to the dispute with the drivers.
In November 2017, the head of transport, Dileep Shekhawat, was beaten by disgruntled truck drivers in his office. After the incident Kamara brought Shekhawat to Addis Ababa and he was staying at Azzeman Hotel, which is located off Namibia Street, from where he discharges his responsibilities via email and phone communications.
In the past two months, Kamara and his secretary were travelling to the cement factory almost every day and hold discussions with the truck drivers to solve the dispute amicably. “He intervened in the dispute between the drivers and the employment agency and promised them that their salary would not be reduced. They arrived at an agreement last week and we thought that things would be okay,” an employee of Dangote, working in the transport department, told The Reporter.
In August 2017 the mining and packaging departments suspended work for a week after dispute flared up between employees and a labor supplying agency. The Oromia Regional State revoked the business license of the manpower supplying agency.
On the eve of Ethiopian New Year the management of Dangote Cement Ethiopia organized a big party and held a peace and reconciliation program in the premise of the cement plant. More than 2,000 local community members, employees of the company and representatives of the Oromia Regional State participated in the program. In his speech, Kamara pleaded for the forgiveness of the people for any wrong doings committed by his management. He requested the elders of the local community to adopt him as their son commonly called “gudifecha” in the Oromo culture. The elderlies accepted his request and adopted him as their child and gave him an Oromo name, Obbo Geleta.