Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

9 February 2014

Ethiopia: Redevelopment, for Whom?

analysis

Kasech woldu, 38, was washing her families' clothes during the late morning of Wednesday, February 4, 2014, near her plastic-made shanty house in the Senga Tera 2 Redevelopment Project area,which covers 17.4 ha land in the Lideta District. The area is among a total of 64.03 ha land planned by the Addis Abeba City Administration to be used for redevelopment. The Administration plans to construct 40/60 condominium houses in the area where Kasech lives with her three children.

In the nine sqm, old tent where Kasech and her three children live, an old shelf full of kitchen utensils and a bed are their only belongings. One of her children, aged five, was asleep on a mat inside the house when Fortune visited, but it was too dark to see in the absence of electricity. The plastic roof is so close, even to a person of medium height that the tent often melts in the heat.

Two years ago, Kasech and her children lived in a private house behind the headquarters of the Ministry of Health (MoH). In September 2011, however, officials from the Woreda 9 Administration in the district told them to evacuate the house, citing future government plans for redevelopment in the area.

"They told us we could live by the side until they find us a replacement to live in," Kasech recalls, overwhelmed with anger at the Administration officials. "But since then, we have been living cramped in this old tent for lack of any other option."

The 17.4 ha of land that Kasech and others will live on until redevelopment starts, looks like a refugee camp. Half of the area is bordered by green and yellow striped corrugated sheets of iron. Residents, all of whom point fingers at wereda officials, say there is only a single electricitywire for 72 houses.

Nefisa Awol, a friend of Kasech, has two little girls, both less than 10. She grumbles that the performance of one of her children at school is dwindling day by day a result of their lifestyle.

"A healthy environment, clean house and other facilities are like a dream here," she laments.

The City Administration recognised only 640 houses, of which 120 are private homes, the remainder being kebele houses, says Gashayeneh Tafese, chief executive of the Woreda 9 Administration. Owners of the recognised houses, both private and kebele, were all given a replacement home of their choice, he said.

"The Administration gave condominiums to those who could afford them and kebele houses for those who could not." he said. "The current Senga Tera tents were built overnight and without the Administration's knowledge. They are all illegal."

But the Administration's position, as elucidated by Gashayeneh, is hardly acceptable to residents temporarily occupying the 17.4 ha of land in the Senga Tera area. People, like Kasech and Nefisa, continue to condemn them for their current living condition.

Determined in their pursuit for remedies from the government, the residents wrote letters to federal level officials, hoping that the latter's intervention might end their plight. They wrote a letter to Parliament, to the speaker, Abadula Gemeda, in private, to the Prime Minister's Office, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Federal Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC), to protest about their condition and seek remedies.

"We even went to Parliament once," recalls a resident, who wanted to remain anonymous. "But nothing happened. "

Kasech and her neighbours said the authorities do not allow them to get involved in community policing. Their surroundings were dominated by overgrown bushes and trees, instilling fear in their little children whenever they wanted to play, they said.

"So we cleared the bushes and trees ourselves," Kasech said.

Gashayeneh, the chief executive of the Administration, says that they decided to give homes to another 45 people who were not previous homeowners. The decision, he says, is due to considering the vulnerability of the elderly, people with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and those with no means of survival.

The Administration does not know the exact number of people currently occupying the area slated for redevelopment, Fortune learnt.

"The number is simply growing day by day," Gashayeneh says.

The Wereda Administration has asked the District to consider the cases of around 15 people, some of whom are physically disabled or old and vulnerable, and find them kebele homes.

Gashayeneh added that the rest would be cleared at some point, because nothing can legally be done for them.

For Fikru Tesfaye, Lideta District Land Development & Urban Renewal Office head, most of the people gathered around the Senga Tera area are not recognised by the concerned government bodies because they came from other places to seek the benefit of kebele homes.

The City Administration had planned to redevelop 130 ha of land by the end of the 2012/13 fiscal year.

On the morning of Tuesday, February 3, 2014, Abush Bekele, 24, and three of his friends were gathered in Zimam Nuri's concrete home, located opposite the National Palace, to drink coffee. The roof of the house is littered with dirt. It is so low that any average height person can touch it while standing. The room is, thus, extremely hot in the afternoon. The entrance to the tent is not more than 60cm long.

Zimam, a widow with a little boy, says she has been living there for over 20 years. She used to live in a kebele house until authorities came with an offer in January 2012. They offered to give her a good one in exchange for the one she used to live in.

"But they ended up giving me one not even as good as the tent I'm now living in," she recalled.

The area, cleared by the Arada District Administration for the Parliament expansion project, has been fenced off by yellow and green striped corrugated sheets of iron. It smells very bad, even for passersby.

The project, which covers four hectares, started in 2012. During the last few years, houses have been cleared from the area. Some houses have still not been demolished. This is because the homeowners refused the exchange houses offered to them by the Administration, saying they were much less than what was promised. Those living in their privately owned houses refused to vacate, saying that they were promised three-room condominium houses. They were then offered two-room units instead. Those living in kebele houses, on the other hand, said they chose to stay here because the Administration gave them kebele houses of a much lower quality than it promised.

Abush Bekele, one of those still living in the area dominated by dried leaves and bush, used to live with his mother before the demolition began. After his mother moved to their other house in another district, he started living alone, renting eight small service homes. The woreda authorities told him to leave, but he refused until they provide him with a three-bedroom condominium. They previously offered him a condominium with two bedrooms in the Jemo 3 site in Nefas Silk Lafto District.

Abush requested to be given a two-bedroom condominium house in a site being constructed opposite the Berhanena Selam Printing House, near where he currently lives. The Administration turned down this request.

"I shall never leave from where I now live until they provide me with my original request of a three-bedroom condominium house," he stated in determined fashion.

But his determination does not seem to get him far, as the Administration says it does not have any three-bedroom condominium houses to give to people like him.

"We only have two-bedroom houses," Desalegn said. "If they continue refusing to take these houses, we will wait only until May when the construction will begin."

Some, like Ibsa Hailu, 30, are complaining of security. He says he was arrested a couple of times, as police had mistaken him for one of the thieves who hide in the area.

"Police simply arrest suspects and those who are young, like me, are prime suspects," he complained.

Kassech and her neighbours hope for better days to come before the redevelopment project starts.

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