Ethiopian immigrants marched through downtown Seattle Tuesday afternoon to protest the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funding of projects in Ethiopia. Protesters say humanitarian aid going to Ethiopia is being used to support a brutal regime.
Holding bright green, yellow and red flags, around 200 marchers chanted, 'America, America, America, listen to the cry of the people,' and 'The media doesn't tell the truth.'
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding 150 development projects, mainly in health and agriculture, to the tune of $50 million U.S. dollars in Ethiopia. In July, Bill Gates met with Ethiopian leaders to talk about continuing working together.
But protester Ashe Nafi Gossaye, chairman of the Ethiopian Public Forum in Seattle, said the humanitarian aid is being abused.
"It is being used for killing people, to buy weapons and for security purposes and to silence the people of Ethiopia,” he said.
In recent months, Ethiopia has been wracked by protests and violence. According to NPR, hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands arrested.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared a six-month state of emergency. The people marching in Seattle say, in the past, Ethiopia received positive press coverage for its growing economy and improving such things as infant mortality. But, protesters say those stories ignore the serious human rights abuses.
Protesters also oppose Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the minister of foreign affairs of Ethiopia, being appointed to head the World Health Organization, a job he is in line for.
In an email response to the concerns, the Gates Foundation wrote:
“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is concerned about the recent violence and unrest in Ethiopia and we are monitoring the situation with our partners on the ground. The foundation remains focused on helping reduce poverty in Ethiopia by working with partners to improve the country’s agricultural productivity and health systems.”
About 30,000 Ethiopian immigrants live in the Puget Sound region.