More than 2,600 residential units, shops, cafeteria
and restaurants in Kebele 07/14 of the Lideta
District, a vast majority of them owned by the
Kebele, are to be demolished in a couple of weeks
time to give way to the construction of a group of
Among the residential units to be torn down is the
old fancy house occupied by the Ethiopian ambassador
to the US, Samuel Assefa (PhD) and his family, and
owned by the Agency for Government Houses (AGH).
The properties, 400 of which are privately owned,
span 26hct of land, right in front of the Dejazmach
Balcha (the Russian Red Cross) Hospital's main
gate. Kebele 07/14 was restructured into its
current form following the amalgamation of the
former kebeles 39 and 40 of Woreda Four during the
provisional administration under former Mayor Arkebe
The rectangular stretch of land, to be rebuilt by
government and private developers, extends from the
section of the Smuts Street just facing the St.
Lideta Church Building and goes all the way up to
the left turn at the start of Djazmach Bekele Weya
Street, in front of the Federal High Court compound.
It encompasses Nur Building, a six-storey private
complex in front of Dar Mar Shoe, from where it
turns back down to the other end of Balcha Hospital
along the Ethiopian Fruits and Vegetables Market
The area is densely populated, with the majority of
the residents estimated to fall within the low
income bracket. Structures mainly consist of old
kebele houses built from mud and wood. Nevertheless,
there are some properties occupied and owned by
well to do people, such as Samuel's family. A
substantial number of the properties, however, are
owned by AGH.
Although the demarcated plot includes Nur Building,
sources at the private establishment were not clear
as to the fate of the building as the management of
the building has not received any communication to
that effect from either the Kebele or the district.
The Kebele summoned owners of the private houses
facing demolition on February 27, 2009, to inform
them that the area had to be cleared for development
purposes. Shocked by the news that the area where
they have been living in for over four decades was
to be bulldozed, some of the residents expressed
their dismay at the move to be taken when contacted
"We were all caught in surprise when they [the
Kebele] told us that we should get ready to leave
the area within 45 days," Fekade Merga, a
merchandise retailer in the area for the past 11
He runs a business in a rented shop from one of the
about 400 private houses to be demolished.
Before this latest meeting, the Kebele had held a
series of meetings (five) with residents of the
Kebele properties in late February. More than 2,200
residents who live in those houses attended. At each
of these meetings, the Kebele called out the names
of more than 400 residents, who have been
disadvantaged, were made automatic beneficiaries of
"The residents in the Kebele houses will be given
condominium houses without going through the
raffles," Umi Abajemal, head of Information and
Public Relations with the District, told Fortune.
However, they are required to pay the 20pc down
In fact, 80pc of the residents had already
registered for condos, according to Umi.
"We have secured enough condos to house these people
within our district," she elaborated.
Private owners of affected properties in the area,
on the other hand, would also receive compensation
in addition to a similar resettlement package as
those who occupy Kebele houses, according to
impeccable sources in the Information and Public
Relations Department of the Lideta District.
For those who cannot afford to make the required
down payments for the condos, the government has
arranged Kebele houses in other places within the
District for them.
In the meantime, Mayor Kuma Demeksa's administration
has announced that it is ready to deal with any
group of residents interested in remaining in the
area and investing towards development of the site
to the required standard.
In the last meeting the Kebele conducted with the
private house owners, the officials advised the
group to form a committee which would work with the
administration in effecting the payment of
compensation to those affected. This suggestion,
however, served only to provoke a harsh response
from the residents, who simply stormed out of the
hall, while the meeting was still in full swing, to
convey their dissatisfaction with the idea.
"I have lived here since 1965," Almaz Tamene, a
mother of seven, told Fortune disappointment
over the move by the District evident on her face.
"I cannot imagine settling somewhere else within 45
Contrary to what those like Almaz feel about the
situation though, there are some people who have a
Seble Wondifraw, in her early thirties and a mother
of three, is one of them.
"It is the best opportunity that government can give
me," she said. "Anything is better than the house
I'm living in now, and I think myself lucky to be
able to move into a condo."
Within the 45-day advance notice given by the Kebele
administration, residents will fill in forms
indicating their preference in the choice of the
alternative shelters to be given to them - condo
houses or relocation with compensation payments. The
District officers did not make it clear, however,
whether actual expropriations would follow after the
specified date. But it is speculated that after the
lapse of the 45 days, the administration would start
evacuation processes in the area.
The rebuilding move in Lideta is just part of a
series of similar projects to be launched throughout
the city. The Districts Integrated Land Use and
Resident's Reorganization Program, is in charge of
the project. The administration has already
conducted surveys to start the new program.
Accordingly, Lideta District was chosen to be the
site for the pilot project of the programme,
according to Umi.
Unlike previous similar moves in different parts of
the city, relative stability and a feeling of
security have reigned among the residents after the
recent reassurance by top government officials,
including the Mayor of the city, that they will not
end up homeless. Notwithstanding hopes of better
living, the future is still bleak for many; they do
not have enough savings to either pay for the
condos, or rent private houses in other places,
given the current high cost of housing in the
Forms to be filled by Kebele house dwellers that are
willing and able to pay the first installments for
the condos are currently being distributed. The
compensation to be given to the residents of private
houses should enable them to build their own houses
on plots allocated to them within a year. The amount
of compensation is calculable based on the current
market price of their immovable possession. While
the building of the new houses is taking place, the
administration will rent houses on behalf of those
evacuated to accommodate them until they complete
the buildings. The duration of this exercise is set
to take a maximum of one year, according to sources
at Lideta District.
Although the Kebele administration acknowledges that
there are complaints by some residents, it claims
that the majority are in support of the project.
Officials of Kebele 07/14 allege any opposition to
the move stems from those who have been illegally
benefiting from some of the properties.
"We have concrete evidence that at some places,
Kebele houses leased to the public at an average
price of 15 Br to 30 Br are being re-rented out for
as high as 15,000 Br a month," Umi said. "These are the
sources of the opposition."
“The present old and slum area will, after the
completion of the project, become a site for
numerous condos, business complexes, recreational
centres, including a stadium, schools and municipal
service houses," Hailemariam Werkalemahu, District
Integrated Land Use and Resident's Reorganization
Program process owner, told Fortune.
Though the entire move by the Kebele and District to
demolish the slums is not to be categorized as
against pertinent laws; the advance notice however,
appears to contradict the Ethiopian expropriation
law, according to legal experts.
"The owner of an immovable property [house] should
be given notice concerning the expropriation of
his/her house 90 days in advance. The governmental
expropriation, which would be followed by a proper
compensation, would amount to lawful act if it is
done to the benefit of the general public," a
lawyer, who insisted on remaining anonymous stated.
"I don't see the legitimacy in delivering the notice
just 45 days in advance," he added.
However, Umi rebuts this assertion saying that "The
matter has long remained known to the public and
that public has been preparing for the coming
change. Thus, 45 days advance notice is just
Lideta District, which lies on an 11Sqkm area has a
population of 296,073. It is the only district in
the city that has nine kebeles, while the nine other
Districts in the city have 10 kebeles each.
The District's Integrated Land Use and Resident's
Reorganization Program is one of the new offices
opened at district level after the study and
implementation of the Business Process Reengineering
(BPR) programme, whose study Kuma's administration
has just finalized and started implementing.
Samuel's family declined to comment.