Out in the Cold – Addis Fortune | May 31, 2007

May 31st, 2007 Print Print Email Email

A mother and a daughter sit alongside a road on Thursday night, May 24, 2007, after their house was demolished the same day by special taskforce in the Bole District. (more…)

A mother and a daughter sit alongside a road on Thursday night, May 24, 2007, after their house was demolished the same day by special taskforce in the Bole District. They are the first victims of what city authorities are planning to undertake on a massive scale that may last until October 2007. City officials claimed to be determined to restore order in what many describe as illegal land grabbing, fraudulent ways of acquiring leased plots and illegitimate constructions, following the May 2005 electoral disputes that left a power vacuum in the capital.


With an overwhelming force on display from the federal and city police forces, no resistance was observed late in the afternoon on Thursday when District authorities demolished 205 alleged moonlight houses, in the Kebelle 01, Bole District.

Letters signed by Ezra Beyen, head of the Land Administration and Development Bureau of the District, had been served to these houses earlier this month, advising them to vacate within seven days of the notice from what appeared to be shanty and mud houses. These residents were also advised to appeal to the Bureau within these days, although many of the displaced families claimed their houses were bulldozed before their appeals were addressed.

Many of these houses were built in an area close to Bole International Airport, in close proximity to the runway. The area, reserved for green land under the Master Plan, is inside the aviation security zone, District officers told Fortune.

Etenesh Yemane, 35, is a mother of four who raises her children without a father. She is employed at a community recreation centrein Kebele 01 of Bole district where she earns a monthly salary of 150 Br. In 1991 she built a mud house at a cost of 7,000 Br in Bole district, which was demolished in 2002 by the City Administration, having been designated illegal. But she stubbornly argued with the Administration, which, according to her, admitted that her house had indeed been built on legally secured land. She has since rebuilt a four-room residence on the same place, having been given the green light from officials of the district.

She reminisces about the misery her family of five went through when her house was demolished five years ago.

“We used to live in plastic huts on the same place where our demolished house lays,” she told Fortune.

Last week Etenesh and other dwellers living in Bole district, Kebele 01, in a place commonly called silsa sidist, had to relive that misery as the Caretaker Administration demolished 205 houses that were considered to have been built on illegally obtained land. The campaign, headed by Berhane Deressa, mayor of the Addis Abeba City Caretaker Administration (AACCA), launched on Thursday, May 24, 2007, is demolishing homes declared illegal.

There are over 50,000 homes built by squatters in the city, Bole district sources told Fortune. The targets of the first round of the campaign would be homes built after May 2005, as envisaged in the city’s campaign document.

“We were told to immediately extricate our goods on Thursday morning, 6:00am, the same day our homes were demolished by earth moving machinery,” said Mulugeta Mekonnen, who had a home demolished by the Administration.

Another victim of this campaign is Legesse Geletu, who lives with his wife and two children. Legesse, a former soldier, earns 25-30 Br a day working as a daily labourer on construction sites.

“As the military disbanded, I came to this place and built the house at a cost of 20,000 Br,” he told Fortune. “The place, 321sqm, was full of garbage at the time; I cleaned the area, planted trees and breathed life into the place,” he added.

After years of stable living, Legesse is understandably dismayed with the letter he received on, May 17, 2007, which ordered him and 205 other homeowners in the Kebele to demolish their houses in seven days. The letter, signed by Izra Beyene, head of Land Development and Administration Office at Bole district, gave the inhabitants seven days to appeal the decision.

Accordingly, the homeowners, including Legesse protested to the decision. They argued that they lived on the sites for a long time, and have made considerable investments on the lands, and thus do not deserve to be evicted. They also argued that they deserved to be provided replacement lands to build their own houses.

However, their plea could not save their homes as they do not appear on the Master Plan. Moreover, the area has been designated an aviation security zone on the Plan. Hence, 203 families, including Etenesh and Legesse had to lose their homes.

Their plight is an outcome of a campaign on squatting that will last from May 9 to September 2007. The campaign, according to the City Administration, will mainly focus on constructions on illegally obtained land, unlawful appropriation of government houses, land lease and sale of property in violation of applicable laws, including brokers who facilitate such illegal activities. Moreover people who break into condominiums of the Housing Agency will be the target of this campaign.

The other challenges are the Administration’s workers who are collaborators in these illegal acts. It believes the illegal acquisitions and unlawful appropriations of homes are made with the consent of some staff in the Administration, a member told Fortune. The restructuring of the Administration several times has created loopholes which were exploited by these employees, he admitted.

The Ministry of Works and Urban Development (MoWUD) previously handled land related issues in Addis Abeba before the mandate was transferred to the Addis Ababa City Work and Urban Development Bureau. This Bureau has four divisions: Land Administration, Land Development Authority, Infrastructure and Construction Permit Authority and Housing Agency. Certain activities of the Bureau, including the management of documents related to houses, were later decentralised to 10 districts after the merger of the Land Development Authority and Land Administration.

In all this restructuring, due attention was not given to the security of these documents, a veteran who worked in the city administration for over 20 years told Fortune. This has created a suitable condition for some workers of the City Administration to abuse their position to advance their own interests by illegally authenticating documents, and by transferring and selling files to a third party, he added.

A conspiracy detected in Bole district two weeks ago was revealing of the extent of underhandedness in the district administrations and the City Administration. This conspiracy aimed at transferring 40 plots with 175sqm each to a non-existent association. The plots were to be sold at 250,000 Br each. The campaign also targets these corrupt workers.

In the first round of the campaign, 2,400 homes built by squatters in the Yeka distict, and 3,000 in Nifas Silk Lafto, will be demolished. Out of this, 400 homes were demolished in March to April, 2007. In Bole district 20,000 homes are planed for demolition, a Bole district official told Fortune. The district started demolishing 205 houses built by squatters in Kebele 01 and the measure will continue, the source told Fortune.

Kebede Desta, a law enforcement department head in the Lafto district told Fortune that 200 houses built by squatters in Kebele 02 in the area known as Koshe were rebuilt to a better standard within two days after their demolition. Kebede said the capacity of the local security forces to control the construction of houses by squatters is limited.

The district deployed 94 federal and city police officers during the campaign, but they were redeployed four days later. Squatters built seven ‘moonlight houses’ (houses built in the middle of the night) every day, Kebede said.

Action Professionals Association for the People (APAP) has condemned the actions of the city administration.

“Such an act is illegal and unconstitutional and goes against the letter and spirit of all international conventions and agreements to which Ethiopia is a party,” APAP stated in a press release.

It further said that having gone through the documents of the evicted families, it has found that “not all of the legal conditions and requirements for the forceful evictions of these families have been met and as such the eviction is a violation of the laws of the land.”

AACCA issued a 20-page working plan which states the roles and responsibilities of the participants in the campaign. The participants are the Mayor’s Office, Manager of the city, Law and Justice Bureau, Addis Abeba Police Commission, the Federal Police and 11 subordinate agencies of the city, districts and kebeles. There are only 10-15 law enforcement agents in the each of the 99 districts, making the federal police and the city police necessary to handle security incidents that may occur in the course of the campaign.

An appeal hearing bench, headed by Ayalew Melaku, president of the Land Clearance Appeals Commission, has been set up to address the complaints tenants might have. The Legal and Justice Bureau has also established a bench to address complaints by people who claim to have been unlawfully victimised by the campaign. Muluneh Wordofa, head of the Bureau, declined to comment on the campaign.

But such compensatory measures have not given solace to all those affected by the campaign.

The demolition drove some dwellers into tears, after they saw their houses turned into piles of junk in hours.

“I have no friend or relative whom I can depend on,” Etenesh said. tenesh Yemane, 35, is a mother of four who raises her children without a father. She is employed at a community recreation centrein Kebele 01 of Bole district where she earns a monthly salary of 150 Br. In 1991 she built a mud house at a cost of 7,000 Br in Bole district, which was demolished in 2002 by the City Administration, having been designated illegal. But she stubbornly argued with the Administration, which, according to her, admitted that her house had indeed been built on legally secured land. She has since rebuilt a four-room residence on the same place, having been given the green light from officials of the district.

She reminisces about the misery her family of five went through when her house was demolished five years ago.

“We used to live in plastic huts on the same place where our demolished house lays,” she told Fortune.

Last week Etenesh and other dwellers living in Bole district, Kebele 01, in a place commonly called silsa sidist, had to relive that misery as the Caretaker Administration demolished 205 houses that were considered to have been built on illegally obtained land. The campaign, headed by Berhane Deressa, mayor of the Addis Abeba City Caretaker Administration (AACCA), launched on Thursday, May 24, 2007, is demolishing homes declared illegal.

There are over 50,000 homes built by squatters in the city, Bole district sources told Fortune. The targets of the first round of the campaign would be homes built after May 2005, as envisaged in the city’s campaign document.

“We were told to immediately extricate our goods on Thursday morning, 6:00am, the same day our homes were demolished by earth moving machinery,” said Mulugeta Mekonnen, who had a home demolished by the Administration.

Another victim of this campaign is Legesse Geletu, who lives with his wife and two children. Legesse, a former soldier, earns 25-30 Br a day working as a daily labourer on construction sites.

“As the military disbanded, I came to this place and built the house at a cost of 20,000 Br,” he told Fortune. “The place, 321sqm, was full of garbage at the time; I cleaned the area, planted trees and breathed life into the place,” he added.

After years of stable living, Legesse is understandably dismayed with the letter he received on, May 17, 2007, which ordered him and 205 other homeowners in the Kebele to demolish their houses in seven days. The letter, signed by Izra Beyene, head of Land Development and Administration Office at Bole district, gave the inhabitants seven days to appeal the decision.

Accordingly, the homeowners, including Legesse protested to the decision. They argued that they lived on the sites for a long time, and have made considerable investments on the lands, and thus do not deserve to be evicted. They also argued that they deserved to be provided replacement lands to build their own houses.

However, their plea could not save their homes as they do not appear on the Master Plan. Moreover, the area has been designated an aviation security zone on the Plan. Hence, 203 families, including Etenesh and Legesse had to lose their homes.

Their plight is an outcome of a campaign on squatting that will last from May 9 to September 2007. The campaign, according to the City Administration, will mainly focus on constructions on illegally obtained land, unlawful appropriation of government houses, land lease and sale of property in violation of applicable laws, including brokers who facilitate such illegal activities. Moreover people who break into condominiums of the Housing Agency will be the target of this campaign.

The other challenges are the Administration’s workers who are collaborators in these illegal acts. It believes the illegal acquisitions and unlawful appropriations of homes are made with the consent of some staff in the Administration, a member told Fortune. The restructuring of the Administration several times has created loopholes which were exploited by these employees, he admitted.

The Ministry of Works and Urban Development (MoWUD) previously handled land related issues in Addis Abeba before the mandate was transferred to the Addis Ababa City Work and Urban Development Bureau. This Bureau has four divisions: Land Administration, Land Development Authority, Infrastructure and Construction Permit Authority and Housing Agency. Certain activities of the Bureau, including the management of documents related to houses, were later decentralised to 10 districts after the merger of the Land Development Authority and Land Administration.

In all this restructuring, due attention was not given to the security of these documents, a veteran who worked in the city administration for over 20 years told Fortune. This has created a suitable condition for some workers of the City Administration to abuse their position to advance their own interests by illegally authenticating documents, and by transferring and selling files to a third party, he added.

A conspiracy detected in Bole district two weeks ago was revealing of the extent of underhandedness in the district administrations and the City Administration. This conspiracy aimed at transferring 40 plots with 175sqm each to a non-existent association. The plots were to be sold at 250,000 Br each. The campaign also targets these corrupt workers.

In the first round of the campaign, 2,400 homes built by squatters in the Yeka distict, and 3,000 in Nifas Silk Lafto, will be demolished. Out of this, 400 homes were demolished in March to April, 2007. In Bole district 20,000 homes are planed for demolition, a Bole district official told Fortune. The district started demolishing 205 houses built by squatters in Kebele 01 and the measure will continue, the source told Fortune.

Kebede Desta, a law enforcement department head in the Lafto district told Fortune that 200 houses built by squatters in Kebele 02 in the area known as Koshe were rebuilt to a better standard within two days after their demolition. Kebede said the capacity of the local security forces to control the construction of houses by squatters is limited.

The district deployed 94 federal and city police officers during the campaign, but they were redeployed four days later. Squatters built seven ‘moonlight houses’ (houses built in the middle of the night) every day, Kebede said.

Action Professionals Association for the People (APAP) has condemned the actions of the city administration.

“Such an act is illegal and unconstitutional and goes against the letter and spirit of all international conventions and agreements to which Ethiopia is a party,” APAP stated in a press release.

It further said that having gone through the documents of the evicted families, it has found that “not all of the legal conditions and requirements for the forceful evictions of these families have been met and as such the eviction is a violation of the laws of the land.”

AACCA issued a 20-page working plan which states the roles and responsibilities of the participants in the campaign. The participants are the Mayor’s Office, Manager of the city, Law and Justice Bureau, Addis Abeba Police Commission, the Federal Police and 11 subordinate agencies of the city, districts and kebeles. There are only 10-15 law enforcement agents in the each of the 99 districts, making the federal police and the city police necessary to handle security incidents that may occur in the course of the campaign.

An appeal hearing bench, headed by Ayalew Melaku, president of the Land Clearance Appeals Commission, has been set up to address the complaints tenants might have. The Legal and Justice Bureau has also established a bench to address complaints by people who claim to have been unlawfully victimised by the campaign. Muluneh Wordofa, head of the Bureau, declined to comment on the campaign.

But such compensatory measures have not given solace to all those affected by the campaign.

The demolition drove some dwellers into tears, after they saw their houses turned into piles of junk in hours.

“I have no friend or relative whom I can depend on,” Etenesh said.

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