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The Interview: Next step to reconstructing war affected areas, is making a lot of effort to promote peace- Abate Getahun (PhD)

Abate Getahun (PhD) head of Amhara Region Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, and Redevelopment Fund Office (ARRFO) (Photo:Social Media)

Abate Getahun (Ph.D.) has had more than two decades of experience in the public sector. Before taking over as director general of the Amhara Region Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, and Redevelopment Fund Office (ARRFO) in 2022, he worked as an advisor at the former Ministry of Science and Education and as president of Wollo University. Abate’s current mandate is to lead fundraising and mobilization activities for the reconstruction of vital infrastructure destroyed by the military conflict in the country’s North, on top of the rehabilitation of war-affected communities. Addis Standard’s Molla Mitiku met with Abate to discuss a wide range of topics related to the rebuilding of the war-affected areas of the Amhara Region, which is estimated to cost more than half a trillion birr.

Excerpts:

Addis Standard: Tell us about your office, what are the fundamentals for establishing it?

Abate:  The Amhara Regional State Council established the Office in order to repair all the harm that the conflicts had done to the region. The Office is responsible for coordinating all organizational, collective, and individual responses to all crises in any corridor throughout the region. We have been working to implement the five-year plan for the rehabilitation, rebuilding, and redevelopment of war-affected districts. The office is identifying, disseminating, and documenting the harm caused by the dispute in its short-, medium-, and long-term schedules, in addition to the harm done to people and property. Rebuilding and reconstruction are mostly included in the short- and medium-term plans, while development and sustainable enlargement are part of the long-term plans.

Addis Standard: What have you done thus far since your office was established?

Abate: A review of 46 sectors, including agriculture, health, and education, was done. Then, we triangulated the strategic plan by incorporating it into each of the sectors. The strategic plan is built around six pillars: physical rehabilitation, psycho-social rehabilitation, humanitarian response, redevelopment and job creation, resource mobilization, and coordination. But generally speaking, the strategic plan constitutes rehabilitation, reconstruction, and redevelopment (RRR). In all sectors, immediate response can take around a year and a half, followed by the construction of better structures or the reconstruction of damaged ones, with an initial budget estimate of 292 billion birr. By the end of 2027, all of the Amhara region’s war-torn areas will be repaired, rebuilt, and developed better than before. In order to accomplish this successfully, the region has been set up with a single budget, plan, and structure coordinated by ARRFO. Working with ten offices, we have already selected and begun work on 105 projects, the majority of which are anticipated to be finished by the end of this Ethiopian fiscal year and have a total cost of 1.5 billion birr. Schools, medical facilities, and buildings are a few of the important priority areas we are now focusing on.

“….we have already selected and begun work on 105 projects, the majority of which are anticipated to be finished by the end of this Ethiopian fiscal year and have a total cost of 1.5 billion birr.”

Abata Getahun (PhD)

Using the 330 million Birr designated for education, we are rebuilding 22 devastated schools. 11 health centers located in the region’s war-torn areas, and irrigation and repair infrastructure will also be rebuilt. We are also rebuilding water facilities. During the conflict, more than 53,000 dwellings were damaged, and ARRFO provided the materials for individuals who couldn’t rebuild their homes on their own. Above all, the Office has reached more over 2,000 women who have experienced sexual assault and offered them psycho-social training, and they have each received 2,100 birr for recovery.

Addis Standard: The Amhara region recently said it needs nearly half a trillion birr to reconstruct war affected areas. Tell us how this figure came about.

Abate: The office put together a team of experts from all nationalities who have been employed by the ten universities in the region to work with the regional statistics office to conduct the research when the war in the country’s north started to calm down. In December 2022, more than 4,500 researchers participated in the census survey, where they acquired audio and video data for the study they conducted that was later released as a book.

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The study includes the Amhara region’s North and South Gondar, Wag Hemra, North and South Wollo, North Showa, Dessie, Kombolch, and Woldia, which are thought to be constrained by about half of the population. These areas were engulfed in a state of war for two months to two years. The study has not only concentrated on the regions where fighting with forces from the Tigray Region took place but also on other areas, such as the one where the Kemant people predominate. When the study took into account all of these factors, the cost increased as well; it required an extra 230 billion birr, bringing the total need to 522 billion birr.

“The study has not only concentrated on the regions where fighting with forces from the Tigray Region took place, but also on other areas such as the one where the Kemant people predominate.”

Abate Getahun (PhD)

Addis Standard: Where do you intend to secure the estimated amount of money? 

Abate: Governments at the federal and regional levels, non-governmental organizations, members of the diaspora, organizations that care, private citizens, and the Amhara people as a whole comprise our diverse pool of financial resources. Every household makes a contribution to this restoration, rebuilding, and redevelopment plan in accordance with their ability.

Additionally, we frequently converse with the more than 170 crucial civil society organizations (CSOs) and all of the international organizations. Tigray, Afar, Amara, Oromia, and Benishangul Gumuz are among the war-affected regions that will receive 300 million dollars from the World Bank over a five-year period. We make use of our portion of the fund. In addition, we are cooperating with the UNDP, UNICEF, and other groups. With money provided by the UNDP, we have already designed and begun conducting a two-year development project aimed at reconstructing the bordering regions of Afar, Tigray, and Amhara.

“We have already designed and begun conducting a two-year development project aimed at reconstructing the bordering regions of Afar, Tigray, and Amhara.”

Abate Getahun (PhD)

Addis Standard: You have earlier mentioned phyco-social rehabilitation, what should be the next step beyond the physical reconstruction?

Abate: The answer is the same in this instance. It is making a lot of effort to promote peace. When I was at Wollo University, I collaborated with academics from Tigray to tackle a problem through debate with my peers from several Amhara universities. We had attempted a peaceful resolution to the issue prior to the conflict. As we engaged in several conversations with Tigray intellectuals to find peaceful solutions to the issues, COVID-19 surfaced, and our contacts came to an end. According to a report by the Ministry of Finance, there has been a loss of around 28.7 billion dollars as a result of the conflict. Therefore, the only option should be to look within and resolve every disagreement through dialogue and discussion.

Everyone has to understand that outsiders are unable to provide long-term answers to our difficulties. I advise everyone to exercise common sense and work toward peace. Since Amhara and Tigray’s populations have coexisted for a long time, it would be improper to drive them apart when there are other ways to resolve the issue.

In this regard, the media should stop their conflict-escalating behavior, heed their consciences, and try to promote peace. Instead of manipulating and misrepresenting the truth, they ought to focus on promoting peace and helping others. AS

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