By Betre Yacob | Assaman.info (Italy)
February 7, 2013
The Ethiopia’s tyrannical government demolished more than 7 thousand houses in Addis Ababa in the districts named Bole and Nifas Silk, and left more than 30 thousand poor people without a roof over their heads. In addition to the houses, a mosque and a school were demolished, and the security officials involved also kicked and beat the residents who tried to refuse. The demolition was taking place without notice to the inhabitants and compensation.
After this noxious demolition, the government officials repeatedly claimed in different state owned and government-loyal private medias that the houses had been built on illegally occupied land and had no certificate. According to them all such kinds of illegal settlements and buildings should not be supported by any means. However, many of the evacuated families said that although they had no certificate of ownership, they had been paying land-tax. According to victims, as a result of this sudden demolition of houses many families are broken up and children have dropped out of school and forced to live on the streets. Old enough people and pregnant women are also forced to live in open, and the dynamic weather of the city is causing them to different health problems.
Mr. Hailu, 55, lives with his wife and 5 children. Since he became physically disable because of a nerve problem, he has managed only domestic income generating activities like poultry production and sheep fattening to subsidise the family. When I met him last week, he was crying looking at an inclined wall which had been escaped from the bulldozers which turned the rest part of the house in to dust. He had built the house at a cost of 20,000 ETB or 1,111$ three years ago.
“I built the house having received a financial support from my daughter working as a housemaid in a middle east country”, Mr. Hailu said while wiping away his tear. “The house was everything for me. Besides being home for my family, it was my ‘business’ as well.” Mr. Hailu is now living in temporary huts on the same place where his demolished house lays. “Where can I go?”, he said. “I can’t afford the price of a renting room; I don’t have a person who can host me.”
Many argue that the houses have been demolished just because the government can make more money by leasing the land to investors. “Land has become the main source of income for the regime”, Markose Woldue, a dwelling of Addis Ababa, said. “It earns a huge amount of money from this busness. This is why it is taking back the land owned by the poor by the name of legality.”
Etaferahu, 45, is a mother of 2. She raises her children without a father. She had bought the land from a farmer and built the house 6 years ago. She is now living in temporary huts on the same place where her demolished house lays. “Throwing citizens into the street is not expected from a government”, Etaferahu said. “The government have the responsibility of protecting its citizens. At least the government had to give us compensation with temporary sheltering.”
Human right activists say that what the Ethiopia’s government done is illegal and unconstitutional, and is against all international conventions and agreements to which Ethiopia is a party. They say that all of the legal conditions and requirements for the forceful evictions of these families have not been met.
The Ethiopian Human Right Council claims that the absence of legal certificate of ownership is not a right criteria to say a house “illegal”. “Otherwise”, it says, “this leads to the conclusion that all houses belonging to Ethiopian farmers are illegal.” “The individuals evicted from their homes are the legal owners of the land they bought from farmers. Thus, the demolishing action is illegal and the owners have the constitutional right to receive compensation.”
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (ICESCR) states that everyone has a right to an existence worthy of human dignity for himself and his family including adequate food, clothing and shelter. The Covenant also states governments have an obligation to ensure this basic right. The FDRE constitution also provides “every Ethiopian has the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence…” Article 40 of the Constitution on the other hand state that every Ethiopian has the full right to the immovable property he builds and the government may expropriate private property for public purposes upon payment in advance of compensation commensurate to the value of the property.
According to the data obtained from the Addis Ababa City Administration, there are more than 50,000 houses identified to have been illegal by the Administration across the city. And the city Administration has a plan to demolish all these houses. This is likely to affect hundered thousands of other families. Here, many advice the government that instead of demolishing the houses it should concentrate on legalizing them, and use them as part of the solution to the housing problem of the city. Studies under the City Administration show that there is a deficit of almost 700,000 houses in the city. Otherwise, according to these people, the housing problem of the city would be aggravated. Mr. Worku Tesfa, an economist and a residence of Addis Abeba, also says that the outcome of the demolition would not be only housing problem to the city but also more complicated socio-economic problems that could be challenging for the government to overcome.