25 November 2012

Ethiopia: Unsettled and Unsheltered

A regalvanized campaign by the Addis Abeba City Administration against illegal settlements built after November 2010, has raised complaints from residents.

The last two months have seen the demolition of nearly 7,000 of such settlements in six districts across the city. Places at the periphery of Addis, like Hana Mariam, in Nefas Silk Lafto District, and Bulbula, in Bole District are especially prone to such settlements.

In these areas, land is transferred through a 'village contract' from farmers to settlers without a title deed, and residences are then built almost overnight, earning the name Chereka Bet, 'moon-light houses.' But settlers have cried foul over the very short notices they have been given to move, and the fact that houses which have been there for four or five years are suddenly being demolished. Such settlements are a result of the inherent shortage of housing in the City, these settlers cry. Indeed, studies under the City Administration show a deficit of almost 360,000 houses in Addis Abeba.

The City should concentrate on legalising such kind of settlements, and use them as part of the solution to the housing problem, they complain. This, however, is unpalatable to city officials. Such houses tend to be built especially in times when uncertainty reigns, as 'rent seekers' and opportunists tried take advantage, according to administration officials.

The number of illegal settlements and buildings have grown exponentially after the 2005 election and also during the illness and consequent death of Meles Zenawi, former prime minister ofEthiopia, according to their research. Illegal acts should by no means supported, is their stance.

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