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Lideta to Knock Down Old Walls, Build New

Over 2,600 Structures in Kebele 07/14 to be Hit
 

 

Side view of the area to be demolished in Kebele 07/14 of Lideta District

 

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 buildings.
 

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 Oqubay.
 

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 Enterprise (Et-Fruit).
 

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 by Fortune.
 

"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 years, said. 
 

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 condominium houses. 
 

"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 payment.
 

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 days."
 

Contrary to what those like Almaz feel about the situation though, there are some people who have a different perspective. 

 

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 capital.

 

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 appropriate."

 

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.

 
 

By NATHANAEL TILAHUN

FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

 
 
 
 
 
 
   
   
   
 
 
 

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