Haile Gebreselassie’s land troubles in Ethiopia by Eskinder Nega

November 19th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Ask Haile Gebreselassie about his manager, Josephus (Jos) Hermens and his emotion is easily stirred. “He is not only my manager,” Haile likes to say of Herman. “We are more like a father and son team. We love and trust each other.” (more…)

Ask Haile Gebreselassie about his manager, Josephus (Jos) Hermens and his emotion is easily stirred. “He is not only my manager,” Haile likes to say of Herman. “We are more like a father and son team. We love and trust each other.”

Herman, an Olympic 10,000 m finalist in the 70s, is broadly famous for his close relationship with the athletes he manages; who now number an astounding one hundred and twenty world class performers spread throughout the world. But however much his professional instinct militates against it, Haile stands out as his particular favorite. Herman has devotedly and assiduously mentored Haile, and Haile has unquestionably followed where his manager has led. “I go where he tells me to. I have never questioned him,” has said Haile of their bushiness relationship.

No wonder then that the world was all ears when Herman spoke of Haile’s dilemma to the NYT . No person but his wife, after all, could reasonably claim to be a closer confident. Herman could also be counted on not to say or do anything that would endanger his most prized holding’s interests. He is , quoted or unquoted, the journalists “ dream-source” about Haile, and the glee (for an obvious scoop) with which the NYT run its exclusive story is barely surprising.

Hermens told the NYT that Haile Gebrselassie’s emotional decision to retire “might have stemmed in part from political pressure he was feeling in Ethiopia. His phone has been tapped by government officials and he has faced some sort of blackmail attempt.”

Despite the subsequent (and expected) protestations by Herman and Haile on government owned ETV, who denied the accuracy of the entire story, scarcely a soul here in Addis Ababa doubts that Herman spoke with the knowledge and approval of Haile. In fact, ETV’s report (in Amharic), in which the phone tapping charge was cleverly censored, has only reinforced the impression that both the leak and denial were deliberate acts to mobilize international attention to Haile’s predicament.

Herman maintains in the NYT story that Haile faces multitude of problems with the government. There are no plausible grounds to second-guess him. It would be absurd to assume that he would fabricate this out of the thin air. But whether these problems are political or bureaucratic remain ambiguous. Has his Presidential ambitions threatened a parallel aspiration by an entrenched faction in the EPRDF, provoking harassment? The list of questions could go on. And they will. But we don’t have the definitive answers to most of them at this stage. More time is obviously needed for the whole truth to emerge. As an evidently worried Herman acknowledged to the NYT, even he doesn’t know all the details.

For now though, we know of Haile’s serious land problem with the government.

As the city’s administration, headed by Corporal Kuma Demeksa, recounts it, the real-estate sector of the construction industry in Addis Ababa, is one the greatest ruses of EPRDF’s two decades reign. The sector’s enhanced stature in the city’s profile originates in the transformative mayoralty of Arekebe Ekubay, somewhere in 2004. Inspired by South Africa’s drive to provide decent low-cost housing to its massive population of have-nots, Arkebe’s administration rather hastily adopts an ambitious plan to build fifty thousand units of low-cost housing per year. A grandiose plan by Ethiopian standards, it
envisioned to solve the city’s unremitting housing shortage in eight to ten years. But only a year in to the plan, the EPRDF was to suffer a humiliating loss at the polls and Arkebe had to leave office. Five years later, only 78,000 of the intended 250,000 units for the period have been built, and more than 400,000 registered families (over a million people) are still desperately waiting for their slice of low-cost housing.

Mercifully, the fate of the city’s expanding but minuscule middle and upper classes were left to the far more efficient private sector. Buttressed by generous incentives, more than 6 million square meters of land were leased to 125 mostly newly constituted real-estate companies. Planned were international standard luxury condominiums and fashionably designed family homes. In chronically under-built Addis,the possibilities to reap millions in profit seemed almost too good to be true.

Haile, not unlike many other astute businessmen, could hardly resist the temptation. Granted 40,000 square meters of land in Addis’ most prized sub-city, Bole, in 2005, his expansive plan was to build 224 high-class condominiums and 38 multi-million birr villas for the city’s elite. But it was to take two more years, until 2007, just to secure a building permit. And an additional two more years, until 2009, were to elapse before any construction was to begin. “Our boundary was ill-defined, which triggered a dispute with our neighbor,” insists Haile in a letter to the mayor, Kuma Demeksa. “There was no way we could have started construction until this issue was resolved.” But even with their resolution, construction could only proceed at a snail’s pace; because, Haile contends with exasperation, “the city was unable to provide access to electricity, water and telephone services.”

For different reasons, the statuses of most of the other companies were no different than Haile’s. By the reckoning of the city administration, which claims to have conducted a thorough investigation, only 18 % of the leased lands have so far been built upon wholly; 20 % had began some construction but not proceeded far; and a whooping 62 % still stands idle. An intolerable situation, concluded the city administration.

Citing the contractual agreements of the leases as the legal basis for its actions, the city has now repossessed some of these lands; including that of Haile. A conservative estimate of the land Haile lost at current prices falls within the range of 120,000,000 to 150,000,000 birr. Five years ago, it was less than a fourth of this amount. The city has proposed (unofficially) to reinstate the land to Haile, but only if he agrees to procure it at current prices. Haile has responded by vowing to pursue a legal recourse. The judiciary being what it is though, the possibility of a reversal is at best dismal.

Aside from Haile, 37 other companies, of the more than 100 identified as offending parties, have been slated for this first round of repossessions. Amongst them, Country Club Development has lost 50,000 square meters of prime land in Bole; Tekle-Birhan Ambaye, 50,000 square meters, also in Bole; and Get Enterprise, 68,000 square meters, again in Bole. In addition, the nation’s two largest real-estate companies, Sunshine and Ayat, have lost thousands of square meters of land, allegedly all illegally fenced public land.( Sunshine denies the charges.) Their core holdings, however, have so far escaped repossessions.

How was Haile included in the first round of repossessions? Was it mere coincidence? Was blind justice at work, oblivious to his
international fame? Or is it part of the blackmail that Herman spoke about?

With police state Ethiopia in the background, it requires a leap of faith to believe that coincidence or blind justice were at play in
this still unfolding chronicle.

  1. አደም
    | #1

    ሃይለ አይዞህ በርታ !!! ትግራይ ልማት እስካለ እንቅፋት አለ : አንተ በርትተህ ከወያነ ፖለቲካ ራቅ ራቅ ካልክ ኢትዮጵያዊው ወገንህ መጠለያ ; መሽሽጊያ ; ጥላ _ ከለላ ይሆንሃል :: የኢትዮጵያ አምላክ ይጠብቅህ !!!!!

  2. Yetim Atiders
    | #2

    Desperation on your part…how sad :-((

  3. Werner2010
    | #3

    ያልበላኝን ማከክ እንደምቡዋጠጥ ነው.
    In your last essay you talked about Haile and the “discrepancy between how old he looked and his officially declared age”, you condemned his ambition to assume the highest public office and his personal view of the PM, (legitimate right of any citizen). You even suggested, that Haile had retired because he was conscience-smitten.
    Now, both Haile and his manager clearly stated, that the allegations made by the NYT are baseless. Dear Eskinder, why do you keep guessing and assuming about Haile’s reason for announcing his retirement? Why do you insist, that Hermens spoke of blackmail, while Hermens himself denies saying that? You always find a way to see orchestrated grand woyane conspiracy behind everything that happens all over the world.
    Please stop your wild guessing, and leave this hero alone.

  4. Aleen 7
    | #4

    Zenawi and his crime family is running out of time and death to the Monister.

  5. አንበሴ
    | #5

    ጎበዝ ኢትዮጵያዊ: አንድ ማስተዋል ያለብን ነገር አለ:: በሃገራችን ውስጥ ያለ ማንኛውም ዜጋ በፋሽስት ወያኔ ጠመንጃ ስር ያለና: ወያኔዎች በምድር ላይ ካሉ አውሬዎች በበለጠ ምንም ግድ የሌላቸው ስለሰው ሕይወት ሳይሆን ስለራሳቸው የታላቋ ትግራይ የወደፊት ሕልማቸውን ለማሳካት ሲሉ ብቻ የተገኘውን ሕይወት ሁሉ ማጥፋት የመሰረቱት እዚያው እደደቢታቸው የስታሊንን(ኬጂቢ) የአገዳደል ስልት እንደሚጠቀሙ ካለፈው ልምድ ያስተዋለ ኢትዮጵያዊ ሁሉ ጠንቅቆ አውቆታልና: በተለይም ታዋቂ ኢትዮጵያውያንንና ህዝብ ያከበራቸውን በመረባቸው ስር ማስገባት ወይም ታሟል ወይም ሌላ ምክንያት በዘራፊዎች ተደበደበ በማለትና በተለያየ የገዳደል ስልት እንደሚጤቀሙ ግልጽ ነውና እናስተውል::
    ይልቁንስ ትኩረታችን እነርሱ የሚመኩበትን የሚያስፈራሩበትን የሚገድሉበትን ጠመንጃ እንያዝና እንፋለማቸው በማለት ውድ ኢትዮጵያውያን ስለራሳቸው ሳይሆን ስለወደፊት ትውልዳቸው ሕልውናቸው በቆራጥነት ተነስተዋል::
    ኃይሌ ገብረስላሴንም ልንፈርድበት አንችልም: በአጠገባቸው በሃገር ቤት ስለሆነ ያለው ምን እያሉ እንደሚያስፈራሩት የሚያውቀው እራሱ ብቻ ነውና: ጠመንጃው ሲወደርበት እያሳዩት ሳይሆን ያው እንደሚታወቀው የተለያየ ስልቶችን እንደሚጠቀሙበት መርሳት የለብንም::
    እውነትና ንጋት እያደር ይጠራል::
    ትኩረታችን ሁሉ ሁሉን አቀፍ ትግል::

    ኢትዮጵያ ለዘለአለም ትኑር!!!

  6. It smells bad!
    | #6

    #1, I am with you, I wish Haile nothing but the best. It seems, the cold-blooded woyanes have a good grip on the world known athlete Haile not to speak freely…not to use his fame and status to speak out against Woyanes, and the worst situations they put him through. I strongly feel, that if Haile doesn’t abide by the rules of TPLF…his life and his immediate family lives are at risk. It is unfortunate that Haile’s manager and his financial advisers failed to advice Haile not to invest in Ethiopia for the time being…in the most corrupted country, and where Human Rights is not respected under TPLF regime.

  7. Meles is a criminal
    | #7

    Werner 2010#3,
    Let’s face it: you are here to defend TPLF…not at all to defend the world known runner Haile. Haile is the victim of TPLF, and they are after his money–Period!

    Eskinder, we love, admire and appreciate you a great deal. All non-woyane Ethiopians consider you, and the likes of you the heroes of our country. May God be with you at all times.

  8. What is the delay?
    | #8

    Dr. Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch has urged Ethiopians around the world to organize and topple Meles regime—-What are we waiting for?

  9. Abegaz
    | #9

    Leave Haile alone. He will deal about himself even if the government is to take away his land. He does not want us as his lawyers.

  10. Hahaha
    | #10

    Meles the Tigray Liberator is bending backwards to contain this issue. Kudos Haile, you are playing the game of the Meles the Tigray Liberator. I wouldn’t buy that you would return to running because people ask you. Either you can or you can’t because it is a personal metal and physical condition/decision. Anyways, now that you sent a message to the Tigray Liberator and drew the line, I bet you would have some relief from being pulled down to the ground. For those who brag about Haile being irrelevant, please give me a break. For example, when a thief comes into your house, you jump through the window leaving your wife and children away. Now you sought freedom and left the country and your tell Haile is coward? Come on, do we really have the moral standing to criticize the opposition inside Ethiopia? We can support them because with the details they have and the need to keep their sweat from Meles the Tigray Liberator and wife Azeb, they know and let’s stand by them.

  11. yassin
    | #11

    peoples like Eskender Negga likes to write anything that opposes EPRDF and we knew that such as Eskender are missing the feudal time ,that time has gone and buried with DERG

  12. It smells bad!
    | #12

    As much as I despise Woyanes-the killers and the looters of Ethiopians, I’ve given Haile the benefit of the doubt. The ones who failed Haile are his financial advisers, and some greedy people who want to have the piece of Haile’s pie that he worked hard all his life. So far, I haven’t found a single proof that Haile has looted a single thing from Ethiopians, as TPLF have done. Haile has paid the highest prices for everything he owns, over the market value that is set by the corrupted woyanes. It is easy to judge others, living in a free country, and not knowing or imagining what it means to live everyday gun pointing at you, and at your family, ready to fire it at any given moment if you move an inch, or say a word against Meles regime. Haile is the victim of TPLF and some other looters.
    I believe Haile is actually older than thirty seven years old, and it is impossible for him to continue running as he gets older to win and earn more money. Haile knows this deep in his heart, and he is trying to protect everything he worked hard for, his life and his loved ones. Let us try to understand, that not only Haile, but eighty million Ethiopians are muzzled by TPLF, and live in fear.
    Please prove me wrong, and let me know what I missed to understand. I am open to learn.

  13. idiot dictator
    | #13

    I recently started reading this guy’s articles. Who is Eskinder anyway? Dude, just because you can right english doesn’t mean you make sense. You are one lost boy who is trying to take everyone with you. You need to grow up before you try to fool the public.

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