Analysis: Addis Abeba's urban makeover: Progress or peril for its residents?"

As municipal authorities initiate a series of road corridor development projects, Addis Abeba currently finds itself amid a significant transformation involving the demolition of buildings, including residential houses, to make way for the endeavor (Photo: Addis Standard)

By Zelalem Takele @ZelalemTakelee

Addis Abeba – The dynamic capital of Ethiopia, Addis Abeba is currently in the midst of a significant transformation as the city administration initiates a series of road corridor development projects.

These endeavors were sanctioned during the 8th ordinary session of the Addis Abeba City Administration Cabinet on 23 February, 2024, with the primary objective of enriching the city’s infrastructure and urban scenery.

According to the city administration, the road corridor development projects encompass various pivotal zones within the capital.

The first project spans a distance of seven kilometers, commencing from Arat Kilo to Meskel Square and culminating at Bole Bridge.

Another corridor project covers 4.9 kilometers, stretching from Addis Abeba Bole International Airport to Diaspora Square in Megenagna.

A third project includes a 6.4-kilometer route from Megenagna Diaspora Square to Arat Kilo, terminating around the Adwa Memorial area.

Lastly, the fourth corridor extends over 10 kilometers, commencing from the Piassa, passing through Legehar and Mexico to the Sarbet area, and concluding at Wollo Sefer.

The city administration underscores that these projects will encompass various facets, such as neighboring river basins and dedicated bicycle and pedestrian pathways, all while adhering to the city’s overarching master plan and addressing diverse urban planning considerations.

While the development initiatives have garnered support from some quarters, they have also sparked controversy.

Residents have shared footage on social media platforms, documenting the demolition of buildings to make way for the corridor projects.

Concerns have been raised over the destruction of structures deemed “historic,” particularly in the Piassa area, prompting outcries from certain segments of the population.

Conversely, others have expressed their endorsement of the initiatives, recognizing the potential benefits they may bring to the city.

Residential properties have not been spared from the impact of these projects.

The Arada sub-city, a significant area targeted for corridor development, has witnessed the demolition of numerous houses. In response, the government has offered residents the choice between relocating to condominiums or kebele houses as replacement options.

As per information provided by the city administration, residents residing in the Piassa area of the Arada sub-city have participated in lotteries for a total of 2,035 housing units.

Subsequently, the administration has announced the delivery of modern and standard houses, in accordance with governmental promises, and has handed over newly constructed homes to 288 individuals as part of the initiative.

Where can I possibly go with my three daughters? Will we be left without a home?”

A resident in the Arada sub-city, near Woreda 5, often known as “Doro Manekiya”

Furthermore, the administration has revealed the allocation of plots, ranging from 75 square meters to 450 square meters, to 54 individuals who owned private households and were necessitated to relocate due to the implementation of the projects.

In an endeavor to illustrate the relocation process, the administration has disseminated video testimonials featuring residents who have transitioned into their new residences.

These videos portray residents expressing gratitude towards the administration, acknowledging their satisfaction with the relocation process and the quality of the housing provided.

Nevertheless, not all residents have echoed this favorable outlook.

The human toll of urban transformation

Individuals who have resided in the impacted areas for a prolonged period and now requested to relocate for development purposes have conveyed their apprehensions to Addis Standard. They argue that the execution of the decision failed to adequately account for the community’s capabilities and necessities, highlighting that the allocated time for relocation was inadequate.

In pursuit of a deeper understanding of the issue, Addis Standard visited the area situated in the Arada sub-city, near Woreda 5, often known as “Doro Manekiya.”

Here, the landscape is dominated by the sight of both partially and completely demolished shops, buildings, and residences. The echoes of bulldozers dismantling structures and workers removing demolished household materials reverberated across the vicinity, serving as a poignant reminder of the ongoing metamorphosis.

Amidst the demolished residences stands the partially dismantled dwelling of Tariku Abraham (pseudonym), located alongside a narrow thoroughfare, serving as a poignant emblem of the disruption and turmoil faced by numerous individuals in light of these development initiatives.

The Arada sub-city, a focal point for corridor development, has experienced the demolition of numerous buildings, predominantly residential houses (Photo: Addis Standard)

Tariku inhabits the residence with his three daughters and ailing mother. He discloses that the authorities have asserted his lack of adequate documentation to substantiate ownership of the property, resulting in an eviction notice without any form of recompense.

Recalling the sequence of events, Tariku recounts, “Initially, the city administration notified us of the impending demolition within a three-day timeframe. However, after residents expressed grievances, the mayor’s office summoned us for a meeting, assuring a three-month postponement of the demolition and affirming that no individual would be rendered homeless.”

Despite these pledges, Tariku discloses that the demolition commenced in under 20 days after the meeting. He reveals that the residence was originally bequeathed to his grandmother, who had resided there and fulfilled tax obligations since 1944.

Tariku emphasizes that the property was bestowed upon his grandmother as restitution when the government relocated her for developmental purposes.

“My grandmother, my mother, and I have all resided here, and this is where I have raised my three daughters,” Tariku articulates. “Yet now I am being instructed to vacate.”

He further stated that, due to the purported absence of adequate documentation, the authorities have denied him compensation.

Tariku asserts that during the deliberations with the mayor’s office, they were assured that not only individuals lacking property deeds but also those residing in temporary shelters would receive compensation.

Nevertheless, he laments, “Presently, we are being instructed to depart and pursue our case from external precincts.”

Despite receiving letters of support from the district on behalf of Tariku and several others facing similar circumstances to the Arada sub-city, they were informed that their documentation was insufficient.

According to Tariku, upon their return to the district administrative officials, they were informed that they had been instructed by the sub-city administration not to engage with them.

Entrapped within this bureaucratic labyrinth, Tariku discloses, “We find ourselves in a predicament where the property is neither recognized as privately owned nor government property, leaving me and my daughters facing homelessness.”

Expressing his apprehension, he asks, “Where can I possibly go with my three daughters? Will we be left without a home?”

Abeba Kassa and her sizable family, comprising 12 members, find themselves in a predicament akin to that of other residents like Tariku as a consequence of demolition initiatives initiated by the authorities.

Despite their longstanding occupancy of the property, they have not been compensated due to the absence of title deeds.

Abeba elaborates that the property originally belonged to her father, who acquired it as part of a government compensation package upon being relocated for developmental purposes. Regrettably, her father presently grapples with chronic disease, exacerbating the family’s challenges.

To resolve the matter, the woreda (district) administration issued a letter acknowledging that the house does not belong to the kebele. However, the sub-city administration deemed this documentation insufficient and requested a letter explicitly proving that Abeba’s father received the property as compensation.

Abeba voices her discontent, stating, “This contradicts the assurances provided during our discussions. We were under the impression that all affected parties would receive compensation.”

The situation has become convoluted, marked by divergent responses from municipal authorities.

Abeba elucidates, “The woreda administration contends that they have fulfilled their obligations and are unable to offer further assistance. Yet, when we approach the sub-city authorities, they refer us back to the woreda. Conversely, upon returning to the woreda, we are directed to consult the sub-city once more. We find ourselves ensnared in a perplexing bureaucratic maze.”

Adjacent to Abeba’s residence lies a partially demolished property belonging to Ayalech, whose circumstances serve as another illustration of the difficulties confronting residents in the vicinity.

Initially presented with the opportunity to relocate to a condominium by the city administration, Ayalech now finds herself entangled in a dilemma.

“I initially selected a condominium when the option was first presented to us,” Ayalech elucidates. “However, upon the announcement of those who were allocated condominiums on two occasions, my name was conspicuously absent from the list.”

We find ourselves ensnared in a perplexing bureaucratic maze.”

A resident of Arada sub-city in an area known as “Doro Manekiya”

Following this occurrence, Ayalech recalls being summoned to validate the database by name and receiving assurances regarding the forthcoming results.

“Subsequently, two weeks later, the sub-city administration contacted us and informed us that we had indicated a preference for a kebele residence rather than a condominium,” she recounts.

Nevertheless, Ayalech asserts that during the registration process facilitated by both the woreda (district) and sub-city administrations, she had unequivocally expressed her preference for a condominium.

She now discloses being informed by the city administration that her initial selection was solely intended “for data collection,” contradicting the initial assurances provided.

When Addis Standard visited the office of the Woreda 5 administration this week, a considerable number of residents, including Tariku, Abeba, and Ayalech, were present to express grievances regarding the continuing demolition and relocation processes.

Furthermore, individuals who have been deprived of compensation due to insufficient documentation, along with those who have been denied their preferred housing alternatives, were also in attendance at the premises of the Woreda administration office.

These residents were pressing the authorities for prompt resolutions, emphasizing their position that while they do not oppose urban development initiatives, they are unwavering in their insistence on avoiding homelessness resulting from such endeavors.

Addis Standard’s attempts to get comments from the officials haven’t been successful. AS

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