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Hundreds in Ethiopia protest apparent killing of dam project manager

Investigators inspect the scene, where Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam Project Manager Simegnew Bekele was found dead in his car in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July, 26, 2018 REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Ethiopians demanded justice on Friday for the head of a $4 billion dam project shot dead in an apparent killing that could prove a political problem for the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The Grand Renaissance Dam on the River Nile is the centrepiece of the country’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter. The government has touted the project as a symbol of its ability to move the country forward.

Simegnew Bekele, the public face of the project, was found dead in his vehicle on Thursday in the central square of the capital with a gunshot wound to the head, sparking immediate protests.

Police have launched an investigation and made no further comment on Friday.

“Roads in and out of (the northern town of) Gondar are blocked by rocks and protesters,” Tamagn Belachew, a resident of the city, told Reuters. He said demonstrators chanted “justice for Simegnew” and “bring the killers to justice”.

Another resident said shots were fired during protests on Thursday evening and civil servants are on strike.

Abiy has presided over a series of reforms since coming to power in April, releasing political prisoners, relaxing state control of the economy and dramatically improving relations with Ethiopia’s neighbour Eritrea.

The 6,000-megawatt dam project is half finished and the government has previously said it would be completed within two years, but recently said it may face a lengthy delay.

Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg