Local Ethiopian Community Invited to Attend Meeting, Allege They Were Kicked Out for Protesting Ethiopian Government’s Human Rights Abuses
By Anna Daniels
Lines of taxicabs were parked along Fairmount Avenue in City Heights yesterday afternoon–Sunday April 28. Police cars were parked in front of the Golden Hall East African Community and Cultural Center where approximately sixty people were holding a protest that spilled into the adjacent parking lot. Signs with “Stop Human Rights Abuses” were visible among the group waving Ethiopian and American flags.
According to protesters, the Ethiopian Consulate from Los Angeles was barricaded inside the cultural center with an undetermined number of members of the San Diego and Los Angeles Ethiopian Community. The Consulate was attending a widely publicized meeting to promote the purchase of bonds to build a controversial dam in Ethiopia that threatens the livelihood of thousands of indigenous peoples.
Protesters maintained that flyers advertising the meeting had been left in City Heights Ethiopian markets and restaurants. One woman told me that when the protesting group entered the cultural center they were met with invectives, hostility and intimidation before being dispersed from the meeting which had been publicized as open to the public.
Protesters were anxious to describe the current conditions in Ethiopia under a government led by the minority Tigray tribe. Someone handed me the 2012 US State Department Human Rights Watch which detailed the Ethiopian government suppression of journalists and bloggers and the alarming incidences of imprisonment and torture. There is no independent press in Ethiopia and dissenting political views are often treated as “terrorism.”
The enormous dam under construction in Ethiopia, undertaken by the current government/Tigray minority, has become a flash point for inter-tribal tensions. The protesters represented non-Tigray ethnic and tribal groups who described being left out of the dam planning process, despite the profound impacts it would have upon their villages.
Because the funding for the dam has not been fully secured, the government has demanded that the populace pay directly for the needed bonds. Protesters described the pressure brought to bear on businesses and individuals to make “donations” for the bonds. Protesters that I spoke with emphasized that dissenters are imprisoned under horrendous conditions. “We have freedom here in this country, but our families have no such freedom,” was repeated by men and women holding both the American and Ethiopian flags.
According to the Ethiopian Review, “The Ethiopian National Transitional Council (ENT) has sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) demanding an investigation into the legality of the Nile dam bond sales that are being conducted in the US. The letter challenges the commission that the sales are in violation of the US trade laws and the Ethiopian Embassy in the US has no legal ground to do such business. ”
There were a few signs protesting the World Bank decision to fund the dam project. I asked protesters what response they feel is important from the US government. Many of them said that we cannot keep supporting the Ethiopian government politically and economically when we have reports outlining the extent and severity of human rights abuses there. They supported sanctions, if necessary, to pressure the government as well as a full fledged investigation of the legality of the bond process being carried out here in the United States.
While the protesters included activists from Los Angeles, the majority of the people were residents of San Diego, and more specifically City Heights, where so many taxicab drivers and their families live. Cars driving past honked their horns in support. At one point, parishioners from a local Ethiopian church joined the group. Protesters described a tradition of Muslims and Christians living side by side in Ethiopia. They emphasized that the protest was not a reflection of religious divisions. No one spoke about the Ethiopian government’s recent active persecution of Muslims.
Human Rights Watch describes the current situation in Ethiopia:
The death in August 2012 of Ethiopia’s powerful prime minister, Meles Zenawi, led to new leadership but seems unlikely to result in tangible human rights reforms. Ethiopian authorities continue to severely restrict freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Thirty journalists and opposition members have been convicted under the country’s vague Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, and security forces responded to protests by Muslim communities with excessive force and arbitrary detentions. The Ethiopian government continues to forcibly resettle hundreds of thousands of rural villagers, including indigenous peoples, as part of its “villagization” program, relocating them through violence and intimidation, and often without essential services.
There is perhaps an even larger story to consider here. The dam constructed in Ethiopia will have consequences upon another eleven countries which rely heavily upon the Nile for agriculture, fishing and electrical power. This raises the obvious concern that the next war in the region may not be about politics at all. It will be about water.
Photos by Richard Kacmar
Update 4/29/13: Photos, commentary and youtube from Ethiopian Review
Editor’s Postscript: Getting it Right 4/29/13:
I am neither Ethiopian nor a cabdriver. I live in the community of City Heights a few blocks away from where the protest took place. I simply wanted to know what was going on, got out of the car and asked. As a San Diego Free Press writer, I wanted to provide documentation of an event that probably would not receive coverage in the local media outlets. We are all about community news.
I would like to add a few notes of clarification for readers. Sunday’s protest were directed at the Los Angeles Consulate’s involvement in selling bonds for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Hydropower Dam Project on the Nile river. The Nile basin includes Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Sudan and Egypt. The impact of Ethiopian dams is clearly not limited to Ethiopia.
Various treaties have been initiated since 1891 when Britain concluded agreements on the use and control of the Nile. The Renaissance Dam project is complicated, affecting eleven countries and 160 million human beings who are dependent upon the Nile for agriculture, fishing, hydro-electric power and drinking water. According to the Global Health and Education Foundation“… current water supplies are barely adequate, and demand will only grow as the basin’s population is projected to double during the next 25 years.”
The Renaissance Dam project is also complicated within Ethiopia. The Meles Zinawe government also began construction of a dam on the Omo river, which is wholly within Ethiopia- ie not part of the Nile. The Guardian articles cited at the beginning of my article refer to that particular dam and the impacts of its construction on Ethiopia’s indigenous peoples and neighboring Kenya. And those articles also raised the issues of government suppression of dissent and lack of local input and control of the project.
The protesters on Sunday were raising the issue of human rights abuses in Ethiopia, many of which are tied to civilian responses to the construction of the country’s hydro-electric dams. For the protesters, the Renaissance Dam Project and human rights abuses are clearly inseparable.
The initial article has been read by people with IP addresses in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, Kenya, Germany and Switzerland as well as throughout the US. This international readership no doubt reflects the Ethiopian Diaspora throughout the world, the complexity of the issues, and yes–the high stakes involved. My Ethiopian neighbors in City Heights and the larger Ethiopian community felt it was important to voice their opinion in their new homeland here, which they praise for permitting freedom of speech and assembly. I have done my best to listen and understand.
Brent Beltran says
It is good to see the local Ethiopian community taking action. Lets hope this continues and they become more politically active in San Diego politics.
Protest in City Heights of Controversial Ethiopian Consulate Meeting
Reporter Anna Daniels got it wrong . I am not from the minority tribe of Tigray but i am Ethiopian who support the government of Ethiopia , the government and the people of Ethiopia are working hard and tirelessly to lift Ethiopia out of poverty in
1= In Ethiopia there are more than 30 private free and independent press that write what ever they want
2= you mentioned the web site Ethiopian review , The owner of this web sites named
(Elias Kifle ) is an Eritrean not Ethiopian , and he is known for opposing and spreading false propagand against Ethiopian government and Ethiopian people in general.
3= The dam that is being built in Ethiopia is for the benefit of Ethiopians and neighboring countries ,most of Ethiopians out side the Capital don’t have electricity these dam when it is finished gives most Ethiopian region the chance to have a light in their house, who oppose this project except Ethiopian enemies
4= please try to interview those who are inside who support the government of Ethiopia and spend their hard earned money buying bonds to support the project and see their people back in Ethiopia to have a light of hope in their home . Thank you,
God bless Ethiopia and its people
Anna Daniels says
Hi Sam- I could not get inside to talk anyone because the doors were closed to the public outside.
The lack of an independent press is well documented. I linked to Human Rights Watch and the US State Dept. There are many many other reputable sites out there corroborating the suppression of an independent press and the imprisonment of journalists.
I stand by my post, and I wish you and the Ethiopian people my best. Anna
Michael Gabriel says
It would be good to stick to generalities and proved facts, when writing about something you have no idea about – instead of throwing words like tribe, indigenous, war, World Bank etc…The factual errors are too many to count, even if you were well intentioned.
King Jesus says
Hi you should do more research about ethiopian politics and ethnic issues before you write you don’t have any deeper knowledge and you’d refer your information from ethiopian review he is the owner known as Elias kefele known ethiopian enemy and if you go back and read he is articles and he is racist against the hero Tigray ethnic and people because the fought his Amhara ethnic who where the rule Ethiopia over 200yrs and with no substantial change and now with last 21yrs Tigray PEOPLE LEBRATION FRONT FROM TIGRAY FOUGHT HARD TO THE THIER BONE AND WON MAKE BETTTER TO ALL ETHIOPIAN The so call ethiopian review web site and this taxi driver are few of them the old communist derg government kid and some off them are the old derg themself so before you post or write some issue you don’t have a clue you should stay out off it ,,,, Ethiopian review is the one website we Ethiopian reporting it to international genocite watch group this site one off them I am not a Tigrayian but this ppl and web site are try to start fight against Tigray people and Ethiopian in general
@ Sam, It is obvious you are a Tigray/TPLF cadre, and please don’t embarrass yourself by writing this nonsense. You might fool people in Ethiopia who are deprived from any access to information including internet and media. (It is a crime to use Skyp). However, in my opinion, trying to fool/mislead the author of this article seems funny.
1) There is no a single independent media (in Ethiopia) except some newspapers controlled and/or owned by cadres of the Tigray liberation front.
2) Ethiopina Review’s editor (Elias Kifle) is not Eritrean but Ethiopian who opposes the repression in Ethiopian. For you and the cadres of Tigry libration front, anyone who opposes oppression is labeled as “terrorist” or Eritrean.
3) I agree with you with in regards to the construction of the dam on the nile river. No doubt that the dam will improve the livelihood of many Ethiopians. It will improve the manufacturing sector that Ethiopian needs badly. In addition the government plans to sell some electric power to neighboring countries that will improve the foreign currency the country needs. However, the current government is FORCING people to pay for the dam. Here in Diaspora, individuals are blackmailed (through Ethiopian embassy and consulate) to buy bonds or face the consequences later. (I personally got a phone call form Ethiopian embassy to buy bonds). In Ethiopia, everybody (form a poor janitor- to high ranking official) FORCED to give their one month salary without their consent.
@ Anna, Thank you for your article. People in Ethiopia are living in a state of fear. They can be intimidated, arrested, jailed, and tortured with impunity. Corruption is so rampant that it is becoming a norm. we need more jouranlists like you to expose the athrocities in Ethiopia. Thank you for your article.
There are too many inconsistencies in your comments. You said ‘using skype is a crime in Ethiopia’ this is a direct quote from the confused and hatemonger Elias Kifle website. Skype is free for individual use but restricted for commercial use. If you do not know how to use it, please ask others. I made it a habit to talk to my freinds and family every weekend since the time I came to know about skype. Please do not intentionally lie and confuse people.
You said you personally got a phone call from Ethiopian Embassy for fund raising for the Dam. What is wrong with that. I am sure you are asked to buy a bond but they did not say we will take it from your paycheck or your bank account. Don’t you remember every ones one month salary was taken for famine and yenatager tiri during dergue. What is it different from that. The Dam is a dream come true to every Ethiopian no matter his/her political affilation is. I am not a big fan of the government specially on human right and other political issues. But if I quote one thing among others they are doing right, the Dam stands out tall.
Please avoid stereeotyping and identify what is good and what is not.
How do you see yourself separated from Epyptians or Eritreans who always wanted our demise.
As too the reporter, he is making his leaving. He/may be she is a typical western journalist who has no clue where the Nile is. You can simply see how she didn’t do her homework when she said the new Ethiopian Dam affects 11 countries in realty the direct impact be it positive or negative is on the three countries. (Eth, Sudan and Egyp)
I wish you got it from both side. I am a supporter of Ethiopian government, and i read your one side story. I was upset to see you quote Ethiopian Review as a credible source to back up your story. The website you describe as a legit and many of the cab drivers are the opposition supporter and they were the one who screwed up Ethiopia when they were in power 30 years ago. Now we have a responsible government with a sense of direction that transform Ethiopia from ground up. They are embarrassed by the speed of Ethiopian Renascence and all round development. They did not get it then, and they got it wrong again. As a news reporter try your best to get it from both side and refrain from to quote a gutter press as a source, that is my two cent advice.
Tatek Abebe says
I liked reading your article about the Ethiopian governments human right abuse protests except the following sentence : “The Consulate was attending a widely publicized meeting to promote the purchase of bonds to build a controversial dam in Ethiopia that threatens the livelihood of thousands of indigenous peoples.” The Blue Nile Dam doesn’t hurt the livelihood of thousand people in Ethiopia, but in contrary! Please inform yourself better before you write such things. Please do not use some Ethiopian taxi drivers as source for your information but get your information from reliable sources or you will lose your credibility!
Anna, I feel sorry for your unproffesional jornalism. As a jornalism, you should get the story from both sides. And the fact that you have mentioned Ethiopian Review will say it all. The owner of the Ethiopian Review “Elias Kifle” is charged with terrorism law in Ethiopia for all his mis-leading stories day after day. He is also charged by differnt individuals for name inflamation (false stories) and he owes up to $200k. He has nothing to lose except talking lies day after day. At some point, I have no doubt that he will be deported to Ethiopia and face his charges. For your comments about Ethiopian villages will be destroyed (please study the location (in the middle of nowhere)). There is issue with Egypt with the downstream countries but the rest of the upstraem countries have signed agreement to utilize it wisely. Even the Egypt governemnt is working with Ethiopia and will benefit later when we export the electricity to them (he had a good word to say in his interview last week). So no war will begin. Please I would like to hear your reply. One last thing, there is a lot of taxi cab drivers who were part of the old DERG government and are always 100% opposing anything. Thanks! I hope I was not too loud.
Hi Anna Daniels
I am not from the minority Tigre people. I am from Amhara tribe but I support the government’s hard work. And I support the construction of the dam.
you can not conclude by your own with out observing the political condition of the country. Western medias always want to report the African problem thanks to the China is trying to balance the bud and one sided information of the west. Those Ethiopians who are living in Europe are less educate without their knowledge they are serving against the will of their country.
If you are really interested in Ethiopias good will start from our near history of hunger and see what is happing in the country. We are really proud of the government from which tribe it comes the government is doing well. The matter is not weather the government comes from minority group or majority group what matters for us is the government working good or bad. In USA the leader is from minority group what then?
It is so sad to see that Ethiopia affairs is quoted from “Ethiopian Review”, which is Eritrean propaganda machine. Shame!
Gashe mamo says
The regime is surviving with a propaganda of a depressing chore, enlivened by the odd wry of development. A development used as a tool of threatening.We are being made to accept development as a tool of repression. The standard transaction for development now is violation of human right, imprisonment, corruption, forced resettlement, death…… Surprisingly that development which all this sacrifices are being made is only for elite members.
Surprisingly the regime’s unwritten slogan is:
” Land for foreigners !…”,
” Electricity for neighboring countries!….”,
“Food for export!…”
Citizens have the right to oppose such a policy.
Thank you and God bless Anna for the article….!
Anna, thank you for your reporting and don’t worry, we as a group tend to act very uncivilized at times. Unfortunately, we have tendencies both within and outside of Ethiopia of seeing alegiance as zero sum game: either you are with us or against us (George W and co. would fit right in). However, all issues are not that black and white.
Dear Anna Danies,
Thank you for witnessing the grouse reality in Ethiopia. Your account is accurate and timly that tells me you did your research well for that I thank you again. The truth is exactly just like you reported it. The person named Sam, from the minority Tigray group who’s trying to misleading you kudus to you for standing up to your accurate assessment. Continue to tell the world the truth LORD knows how much the world lacks professionals like you who cares for the whole truth. GOD bless you and your dear!
Sam 2 says
You did good job, you write what you saw. the minority Tigryan junta is looting Ethiopia in broad light. The comment above from Sam mentioned there are more than 30 free press in Ethiopia , this Ethiopia must be in heaven , absolutely false information.
1. No freedom of speak in Ethiopia
2. Human right abuse, torture and killing
let me tell you one thing Anna if you are in Ethiopia , you will be charged as terrorist and will be in jail for writing the above article by now. they will give u any name and put you in jail
read this from BBC
Anna THANK YOU so very much the article is great please dont be discourage by some who are telling you that you dont know the poletical view in Ethiopia you were there with us and see our frustration and anger the dictatorial goverment in Ethiopia has arrested journalist and torture them every single day for speaking up against the dictatrorial goverment those who are telling you that you dont have the right to write what you see are the one who try to scare you like they do back home one thing they forget this is the USA where we know we have the right to express our opinion.
THANK U !!!!THANK U!!!!!THANK U!!!!
What rubbish, since when did the Nile begin to flow towards Tanzania ? How could it possibly affect 11 countries, when in fact only Sudan and Egypt depend on the Blue Nile. This exposes only your hatred for the Ethiopian government and as genuine taxi
drivers, your knowledge of geography is limited to the little town you live in as “Americans”. Wish you luck with your driving.
Thank you for the article.
Someone saod, “let me tell you one thing Anna if you are in Ethiopia , you will be charged as terrorist and will be in jail for writing the above article by now. they will give u any name and put you in jail”
That’s so true! That’s a total FACT !
Anna i proud of you, that you can put the true views of Ethiopian government bad and maladisminitration violention human rights of his inocent peopl.
In Ethiopia there is no rule of law it is rule of man.
Dear Ana, it’s nice that you are trying to report the issue going on in our community in San Diego. Thank you! But it seems you have mixed The Renaissance Dam project with Gibe III project. You have been talking about the effect of the dam, but where did you get that? The team of experts from the three countries is yet to disclose its findings in May. In addition, I don’t really understand for the life of me how the project affects 11 countries. It’s true there are 11 countries in the Nile basin, however 8 of them are not in any way related to the Blue nile whose source is in Ethiopia, and flows to Mediterranean through Sudan and Egypt. You also tried to talk about a treaty in 1891 and you only mentioned Britain. What was this treaty about? Who was part of it? Did Ethiopia signed it? How was the share of water according to this treaty? Your claim about Omo river to be ‘wholly’ in Ethiopia on one side and to affect indigenous people in Kenya is says it all about your news/blog. I am not sure if this is a personal blog or a proper news outlet, but you have got it all but wrong. I suggest you to first collect very basic information before tapping in into such a mess that you don’t know/understand and jumping from topic to topic as most of these topics need a news by themselves and a sincere research.
I hope you can come again with something with substance, if you care anyway.
Have a good day!
Anna Daniels says
Dear Twedros– I did try to address my lack of clarity about specific dams in my postscript which you obviously read. Thank you for doing that. My initial post was confusing about the relationship of the Gibe III project on the Omo river and the Renaissance Dam.
The Omo River, which is not part of the Nile, has international significance–it runs into Lake Turkana in Kenya. The construction of that dam raised issues about local input and control, treatment of dissenting voices, and impacts on whole segments of the population that have not been addressed, according to the protesters, during the construction of the Renaissance Dam.
I continue to read all of the comments with great interest and continue to research this controversial topic and complex issue. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Anna
Frank Gormlie says
Anna, thanks for getting out your car and trying to get to the bottom of this. Obviously, internal Ethiopian politics is multi-sided and is very complex. I did study about the Ethiopia and Eritrea conflict back in the Seventies, and even then, the Ethiopian government was suppressing Eritreans in a lop-sided war.
Frank Gormlie says
Rich – on the spot photos – thank you.
Thank you for reporting on this complicated issue. I am sure after posting this article, you have learned so much about an affair that you had no idea about before. The Ethiopian politics is a very complex affair just like the politics in middle east. I have lots of reservations and displeasure with how the Ethiopian government policies in many respects but when it comes to the issue of the Dam, I think it is a courageous one. If anything, they should be encouraged. The problem with the opposition is that they are fixated in taking the political power by any means necessary. They will oppose anything that the government does and that is pathetic. They are not asked to contribute and they should respect other citizens right to contribute or have a meeting. We can not wait 500 years until these oppositions educate themselves and find a way to take political power. There are people who are hungry, who need electricity, school, medical treatment etc…. And to oppose any effort is not only stupid but a treason.
I thank you.
Thank you for reporting on the issue. But, as others pointed out, your article is full of factual errors. Too many to enumerate here – it obvious you did not do your research. This is not an article you write without researching for a few weeks’ of reputable articles and studies. I lost interested when you mentioned “Ethiopian Review as one your source.” When one uses proven news fabricator site as a sources that says it all. My advice to you come again after doing your due-diligence and may be you will get it right. By the way if you ask the protestors no one oppose building of the dam; but their question is human right and rule of law – they want to draw attention to their agenda.
Thank you for a wise report on Ethiopians issue, it is unfortunate a minority government has hired an online army to hide its grave human right abuse. Their task are to go online and use “Negative Psychology”, I hope you will understand what the term mean. Instead of commenting on the content of the report, they attempt to discredit the authors who took their own valued time to share the knowledge they have on the topic.
The minority government ruled the people of Ethiopia without our will using gun and repression tactics for the past 22 years. I hope you will understand the negative psychology the idiots TPLF cadres use to discredit you. If you read all their comments you will understand what I mean!
Doug Porter says
I going to take the rather unusual step of closing off the comments at this time. The author and I have conferred and agree that there can’t be much more to be said here than has already been expressed.
Furthermore, a number of people have (or tried to) violated our terms of service when it comes to commenting, leaving personal attacks, using curse words and even making what could be considered threats.
We wish that many of the commenters had actually read the article posted here. We are citizen journalists and we don’t bow to dictates from corporate overlords, government agents or trolls.
Have a nice day.