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Dejene Tafa, center, first secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) joined protesters today near Koye Feche site

Hayalnesh Gezahegn

Addis Abeba, Marcg 07/2019 –  Thousands of demonstrators in several cities and towns across the Oromia regional state have taken to the streets today. The protests were triggered after the Addis Ababa City Administration Savings & Houses Development Enterprise (AASHDE) handed over thousands of condominium houses located both in the city, and in Oromia regional state special zone.

Addis Standard confirmed from local security and police officers that protests took place in the following cities: Adama, Shashemene, in western Arsi, oromia regional state; Bale Robe and Assela in south east Oromia; as well as Haramara in eastern Oromia regional state. A report by the BBCAmharic said protests have taken place in in ten cities across the region.

Demonstrators are protesting AASHDE’s decision to hand over thousands of condominium houses using a computerized lottery draw without the involvement the Oromia regional state, which has administrative jurisdiction of the site where Koye Feche one and two condominiums are located at. Some 7,127 people were given condominium unites of studio, one and two bedroom apartments built on a vast plot of land which used to a farmland.

Partial view of the condominium housing in Koye Feche. Photo: Social media

The winners of yesterday’s lottery draw were those who were registered for the housing under the saving schemes commonly known as 20/80 and 40/60 in which they were asked to save 20% for studio, one and two bedroom apartments and the government promised to help with the remaining 80%. The same mechanisms were applied for those who could save 40%.

Would be home owners were also told that if they saved 100%, they would be automatically entitled for the apartments. But the scheme has already left many dissatisfied as the mayor’s office recently scraped that and said the administration would stick to the original saving mechanism of 20/80 and 40/60.

The winners who got the apartments located in Koye Feche one and two sites, located in the southern outskirt of the city of Addis Abeba, some 20 km into the Oromia regional state administrative border in Akaki/Kality area, are those who are under the 20/80 saving scheme. While the apartments with three bedrooms are located in various condominium sites mostly in Addis Abeba.

Koye Feche is located in one of the eight zonal towns surrounding Addis Abeba which were established by the Oromia Regional State under the administrative name of “Oromia regional State Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne” in 2008.

Now, protesters are saying the Addis Abeba city administration is acting outside of its jurisdiction and without involving Oromia regional government. Many are carrying banners reading “our land is our bones,” “Koye Feche is in Oromia”, and “No to the master plan,” the later in reference to the infamous city master plan which wanted to expand the city of Addis Abeba into the surrounding Oromia region towns and cities. Although it was later scarped, the master plan was one of the immediate causes that triggered the sustained three years protest in Oromia regional state.

Koye Feche site one and two is only one of the multiple condominium sites built by Addis Abeba city administration on sites located in various places within the Oromia special zone over the last ten years.

However, the administrative procedure in which the lands were taken from the farmers and the inadequate compensations paid afterwards, the shocking details of which were revealed by a former federal official, drew severe criticisms in recent years as hundreds of thousands of farmers were left itching to have ends met.

During the lottery ceremony yesterday, Takele Uma, deputy mayor of Addis Abeba, said that families of displaced farmers were included in the housing distribution without the lottery draw. “We would like to say that your pain is ours, especially those of you who have lost your farmlands in order to clear for these [housing] projects and were exposed for economic and social crisis,” Takele said. However, Takele did not explain what has been done both by city authorities and the regional state to include those who have been dispossessed for little compensations. Several people at Koye Feche one and two sites and at Bole Arabssa site, a site for another massive condominium project, who spoke to OBN said they have been contacted neither by city administration officials nor by officials from the Oromia regional state special zone. Addis Standard’s attempts to reach both officials since yesterday has been to no avail.

So far both city officials and officials from the Oromia regional state did not release statements on the protests whereas online activists are calling for more protests tomorrow especially in Ambo and its environs. AS

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