Ethiopia’s future debated in Seattle

Ethiopia’s future debated in Seattle

by KING 5 News

Posted on April 10, 2011 at 5:16 PM

yesterday at 6:43 AM

SEATTLE – A large group of Ethiopians protested outside of Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center Sunday as hundreds gathered inside to discuss the country’s future.

Government officials from Ethiopia, including the country’s transportation minister, spoke to a large group of Ethiopians who now call Western Washington home.  They discussed the country’s five-year growth and transformation plan, which focuses on building the country’s infrastructure by improving access to electricity and transportation, among other things.

“Ethiopia right now is going through a tremendous transformation,” said Mekonnen Kassa, who helped organize Sunday’s meeting.

For years, Ethiopia has been the poster child for famine and starvation, Kassa said.  The country is working hard to change that through its 5-year plan and wants to involve Ethiopians who now live in America.

But protesters who gathered outside argue that prime minister Meles Zenawi and his government should not remain in power.  They claim those who oppose Zenawi are subject to false imprisonment and other human rights abuses.

“They are not on the right side of history,” said Shakespear Feyissa, who helped organize the protest.  “The majority of Ethiopians inside and outside of Ethiopia … are telling these people to go.”

Several Seattle Police officers blocked protesters from getting inside the meeting, but protesters found a way to make their voices heard by chanting into vents that echoed through the hall.

Kassa said he welcomed disagreement but wishes the protesters respected their right to support the government.

“I’m not saying we have a perfect situation, a perfect government, but we all have to be a part of the solution, instead of just standing outside and complaining about it,” Kassa said.