A couple hundred members of Seattle’s Ethiopian immigrant community marched through downtown’s streets Tuesday afternoon in protest against U.S. support for the brutal Ethiopian regime.
“Back in Ethiopia, we have a dictatorial regime which has committed mass crimes against its own people,” said attorney Daniel Ajema, a marcher who identified himself as an organizer. “We’re here in solidarity with the people back home, and would like to support them and show our support.”
He’s not exaggerating. In their “Democracy Index” last year, the Economist gave Ethiopia’s government their lowest classification: an authoritarian regime, with an “Electoral Process and Pluralism” score of zero out of ten. Since November, according to the Human Rights Watch, government forces have killed hundreds of largely peaceful protesters and “disappeared” hundreds more.
Ajema said that the protest was specifically aimed at urging President Obama and philanthropist Bill Gates to try to lean on Ethiopia’s national government to do better on human rights and democracy. “We are here to voice our concern and our anger against the enablers of the regime,” he said. The Gates foundation currently has 150 projects worth more than $500 million in Ethiopia, according to the South African Broadcasting Service. The official U.S. relationship with Ethiopia is a friendly one: Ethiopian troops have battled the terrorist army al-Shabaab in neighboring Somolia, and last year our government sent theirs more than half a billion dollars in aid.
Ajema says both the U.S.’s and Gates Foundation’s money helps finance the regime, and he says both Gates and the president should insist on putting human rights ahead of political expediency.
“They’re not doing a whole lot of checking on good governance and democratic rights,” Ajema said. “They’re just blindly giving money to the government.”
This post has been edited to correct Ajema’s quote from “some people” to “its own people.”