De­mo­li­tions gather pace in heart of Ethiopian cap­i­tal

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Ababaker sat in his car star­ing through the win­dow at the re­mains of his fam­ily busi­ness across the road. “It was my father’s,” he told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion. “He lived here for more than 40 years. We used to have cafe, a ho­tel and restau­rant here.” By the time the de­mo­li­tion in this part of cen­tral Ad­dis Ababa hap­pened Ababaker’s father had re­tired, leav­ing the busi­ness to his son who main­tained it as a sou­venir shop.

Busi­ness was good, he said, but he and his neigh­bors had been count­ing the clock with the area around be­ing de­mol­ished. None­the­less the raz­ing of his house and shop, both in same week last month, came as a shock. “We just heard ru­mors. There was no com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the of­fi­cials,” he said, one of a ris­ing num­ber of peo­ple voic­ing con­cerns over the way the gov­ern­ment is re­build­ing the heart of the Ethiopian cap­i­tal.

For as a re­vised mas­ter plan for Ethiopia’s cap­i­tal en­ters im­ple­men­ta­tion stage, slum clear­ance has stepped up a gear and the fo­cus moved away from the city’s pe­riph­eries af­ter mass protests against evic­tions and dis­place­ment there last year. The new plan is re­stricted to city bound­aries and fo­cuses on the city cen­tre where some 360 hectares and over 3,000 homes are slated to be de­mol­ished over the next three years, said Mil­lion Girma, head of the city’s ur­ban re­newal agency, the Land De­vel­op­ment and Ur­ban Re­newal Agency. “All eyes are now back on Ad­dis,” said Bis­rat Ki­fle, an ar­chi­tect and ur­ban plan­ning ex­pert based in the cap­i­tal.

Land Val­ues Boom

Ac­cord­ing to UN-Habi­tat more than 80 per­cent of Ad­dis Ababa’s in­ner city is slum, the ma­jor­ity of which is gov­ern­ment-owned ‘ke­bele’ hous­ing dat­ing back decades. In 2011, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity de­cided to clear all gov­ern­ment hous­ing in the city cen­ter to make a mod­ern busi­ness dis­trict. The gov­ern­ment also ex­tended the na­tion­al­iza­tion of ur­ban land and elim­i­nated all re­main­ing forms of trans­fer­able and in­her­ited pri­vate prop­erty in the city.

Ren­o­va­tion pro­grams in­ten­si­fied in the sub­se­quent years, of­ten with the de­mo­li­tion of en­tire neigh­bor­hoods. From 2009 to 2015, the city ex­pro­pri­ated about 400 hectares of in­ner-city land and tore down a to­tal of 23,151 di­lap­i­dated houses, ac­cord­ing to UN-Habi­tat. At the same time land in cen­tral Ad­dis Ababa shot up in value, pro­vid­ing an added in­cen­tive for rapid rede­vel­op­ment, with a lease in the com­mer­cial cen­tre of Ad­dis Ababa now cost­ing up to $15,000 per square me­tre, mak­ing ur­ban land in the cap­i­tal some of the most ex­pen­sive in Africa. “There is a high de­mand for land from pri­vate and gov­ern­ment in­vestors,” Girma told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion. “We have to pre­pare Ad­dis’s land to de­liver this.”

In one area, lo­cated in the shadow of the new AU (African Union) build­ing, res­i­dents evicted in April said their en­tire neigh­bour­hood was cleared in the space of days. “At first they told us we could stay un­til af­ter the rainy sea­son,” 19-year-old Tsegaye told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion. “But sud­denly they ar­rived and said there was an ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion’ that meant we only had three days.” Res­i­dents in sev­eral dis­tricts across the in­ner city com­plained to the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion that the process had been sud­den and dis­rup­tive. “There was no warn­ing,” said Fedlu, 30, who had been pri­vately rent­ing land near the five-star Sher­a­ton Ho­tel. “There was no con­sul­ta­tion ... They just tell us to leave the area, but we don’t have any re­place­ment or com­pen­sa­tion. We feel like sec­ond-class ci­ti­zens.”

Safe­guards Needed

Ac­cord­ing to fed­eral law in Ethiopia all evicted pri­vate landown­ers are en­ti­tled to a new plot of land and fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion to build a new home. Ten­ants in gov­ern­ment hous­ing are of­fered pri­or­ity ac­cess to apart­ments in new gov­ern­ment high-rises for those who can af­ford mort­gages or pub­licly-owned rental hous­ing for those who can­not. Those af­fected should be re­lo­cated within a one kilo­me­tre ra­dius, ac­cord­ing to the re­vised mas­ter plan.

Since all land in Ethiopia is of­fi­cially owned by the state, fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion for pri­vate home­own­ers is based on the phys­i­cal worth of the prop­erty, which is of­ten old and un­der­val­ued com­pared with the in­for­mal mar­ket. “It’s ab­so­lutely not enough,” said Ababaker, who told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion he had re­ceived 340,000 ETB ($14,733.41) and land 15 km away. “I’m not will­ing to go there. It’s too far and the elec­tric­ity and wa­ter isn’t ready.” Other af­fected res­i­dents, most of whom were public ten­ants, com­plained that they were still liv­ing in the area be­cause they had nowhere to else to go.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.