Residential Moving: An Offer that Can’t be Refused

Jun 26 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew

Last week, my family was informed to vacate the house by the landlord as he would be moving into it two months later. It was a dose of headaches our way as moving involves a lot of planning and saving, not to mention finding a place to move within our price range.

It is no secret that rent and property prices have exploded in the city, even in neighbourhoods that were not known for being close to the city centre. For instance, when we moved in two years ago into our three-bedroom condominium, rent for every month was seven to nine thousand Birr in most places. It has since doubled. We can thank inflationary pressure and high rates of urbanisation for this.

But there was also an issue I had never considered imaginable: bullies. Back when we moved into our current home, my husband took care of most things as I was pregnant. One of his main costs was paying off the neighbourhood bullies that held our property hostage until he paid them a sum to unload the stuff.

Since I never experienced this firsthand at the time, I did not understand why we could not just tell them we did not need their labour. Friends or some other person of our choosing will do it for us. But it is not that easy. Either we pay them to unload it for us or we pay them in any case.

Are they above the law?

They seem to be. When he encountered this problem, my husband did call the police, who then basically told him he had to pay. Their justification was that this—what amounts to extortion—was a source of income for the youth and that others should not be making a living in their neighbourhood. The police did not mention that aside from the amount they force movers to pay, they also steal stuff from the truck, as they did to us the last time we moved.

It is baffling but also a common phenomenon these days. I have recently witnessed this extortionist activity first hand. A neighbour recently bought a fridge and unloaded it with his brother from a pickup truck at the entrance of our condominium gate. He did not know that a group of youth had seen the pickup and were circling his place like vultures.

They said that for 8,000 Br, they will take it up to his apartment on the fourth floor. The neighbour explained that the service was not needed and that he would move it himself. The bullies looked at each other and explained that it was not "an offer he can refuse,” or something along those lines. A fight broke out, and area residents came and calmed the mob down. Even the weight of other neighbours did not help, and he paid 3,000 Br more than he intended to spend on a fridge.

This is a shakedown—the law of the strong. It is also a known revenue generation method of the Sicilian mafia in their protection rackets. It goes like this: street-level thugs will approach a small business and tell them they must pay and the Mafia will protect them.

Protect them from who?

If they opt out, they will find out that it is the same thugs that will destroy their shop or business; basically, they pay them for protection against them.

How is it different from what the neighbourhood bullies do?

Nobody should be above the law. This is also not a way of giving the local bullies something to do—it is a crime, like thievery. Just because it pays, it does not make it a morally and ethically acceptable vocation.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 26,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1104]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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