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(WRITTEN BY A PEASANT’S GRAND SON)
For most who do not pay attention to what has been going on since the last 20 years, Ethiopia has been presented and marketed as an economic success. For the intellectuals and locals, specially those who are not tied to the ruling elites, Ethiopia has been a bad dream gone worse. our lives disassembled, destroyed and shredded by our own brothers and sisters who hailed from the countryside to claim the whole country as their own.
The impact is inter-generational; making the city dwellers victims of this wholesale collectivization and mere onlookers of all that happens around them. This includes being disenfranchised, removed and thrown out of their homes and dwellings in the name of planned modernization and master planning.
I am writing this article to bring this issue to the fore as there are many people like me who have hit a dead end in trying to find justice for their rightful ownership of their properties in the city.
I own a home which was passed to me by my deceased parents as an inheritance and which in-turn was built by hand and passed on to them by their parents almost a century ago. This property happens to be in the middle of the city in what used to be known as Gurd Shola. With a size of 1200 square meters, I presumed that I could get it renovated and build it up as a modern residence as the house was made of mud. Having gone to the municipality for the past 9 years to secure a building permit, I have witnessed and lived through three updates of a never mastered master plan, a bunch of middle men and an army of corrupt bureaucrats to have settled in to my current status of owning a dead property! “my home has officially been placed into the LAND BANK five years ago” hence I cannot build, renovate nor fix my house as it is designated to be rolled into a “LAND BANK” which is a repository of land to be sold off to developers and “selected” investors.
My property is not legal and will not be assigned a plat nor property record as it should not exist according to the new zoning; according to the unwritten laws of the city, (Not sure if there is any law on the books that gives the government a right to disown someone’s home and put it in a land bank, parcel and sell it) but that is exactly what I was told 5 years ago and that is what I have been fighting against.
The house my grandmother built with her own bare hands while my grandfather was away fighting for his country against Fascist Italy, the property my mother kept despite attempts from the giraazmatch and dejazmatch threats of being taken, now is being robbed by our new Fitawraris of the time.
I do understand what “Eminent Domain” is and the right of government taking an individual’s property for the good of the people, building roads or a school etc… I also understand that Land belongs to the state in Ethiopia. But taking property from its rightful owner and selling it to another without any consideration given to the rightful owner or at least giving an opportunity for him or her to rebuild according to “Let’s say the MASTER PLAN” or whatever the government wants to achieve; is insane.
my case is exceptional as I know for a fact that most residents who get removed or relocated to the edges of the city do not have such resources nor would they be able to afford to put up new buildings and invest in real-estate or whatever the government decided to be built in this zone.
I have been asking, applying, requesting and pleading to be allowed to develop my own property in anyway shape or form as is allowed or specified by the Master plan and zoning rules of the city. “to only have been told to stop applying as the whole area is rezoned as grade 1 and will be parceled and made available to investors”. I have been asking to do so as I have the resources to develop as the plan allows hence my insistence.
The so-called MASTER PLAN and the previous era “DEVELOPMENT BLOCKS” still exist and the number of homes and areas within the city that have been transferred to the subjective and hard to extricate “LAND BANK” are quite staggering. Drawing large swaths of imaginary boundaries on the city MAP, uprooting its dwellers without any consultation nor any consideration for their plight, needs wants and or capabilities! and selling the land to the highest bidder is not only illegal but is immoral by any standards.
While the rural population surrounding the main cities of the country has revolted against the very same practice and inhumanity; bringing about the recent changes in government, city dwellers like me have remained victims as there has not been any significant nor basic reform introduced to stop the carnage of disenfranchisement of city dwellers from their homes.
In fact, the practice has intensified and is more justified today than before under the new administration as we have seen no fundamental change to the practice nor the process to date.
No one has yet collectively contested the legality nor fairness of this process as it is mostly a taboo to ask any reasonable question of rights and or privileges of individuals or their property in Addis Ababa and I am sure other main cities. The Mayor, either through severe ignorance or due to vindictive intentions of his predecessors, has not even considered to investigate this gross malpractice as he is busy fighting fire on all fronts.
I partly blame identity politics and the way politics is currently conducted in our city.
No shaming intended, but I for one would have been a big fan if the mayor was busy fixing the source of the problem: collectivization policies where citizens are shipped out to the far corners of the city while the dwellings and homes they own are unfairly repossessed and sold to others. Did the mayor not publicly claim to have stopped this practice of disenfranchisement?
The complexity of this problem is multi layered. A so-called almost non-existent political change at the city level; instead of putting real and meaningful discussions about issues challenging the city and its population, most are still engaged in byzantine arguments of who came from where and who should get which chair instead of dealing with real issues. In the meantime, the city is still dissected and partitioned for future sale using the very same rules from the very same era of the previous administration.
Not surprisingly, the rhetoric and consequence of not focusing on real things that matter; for almost five decades, since the military regime in the 60’s has taken root in society where the headlines have nothing to do with the facts on the ground. In-fact it will be very surprising to find anyone discussing matters that are practical or more relevant to people’s lives than just mere hypotheticals based on inuendo and meaningless bloodline talk.
That is why I am writing this piece about me and those who may be in my predicament. Some may consider this as a personal issue compared to the many who have been uprooted from their way of life and have no other means of survival. Sometimes dignity, fairness and justice must be personal.
As a matter of fact, I would rather speak about personal, local, village level issues than the general abstracts as for too many years we all wasted so much time talking about our country as an abstract, without making a tiny effort in making a difference in our own lives.
Rights are personal! And I start from myself.
There is no corner of the city where the real and practical complaints tied to homes, home ownership property rights and individual rights are not felt or heard. The rules and regulations that were in-place are still the same and are enforced with vigor. Homeowners are mere pawns that can either be removed, erased and or pushed away regardless of their capability to either participate or contribute to the so-called planned development effort. The nagging question is “WHO ARE WE CLEARING and BUILDING THE CITY FOR?”
Leaving the identity politics aside, the very architecture of the previous regime in collectivizing, parceling and aggregating land in the city and selling it to the highest possible bidder or the closest ally, or stooge without any concern for the rightful dwellers has not abated. “Maybe the very essence of the regime was not to change such practices but to change the people at the helm and get it done faster better as if it eases the pain of being disenfranchised?”
If this continues, what lies ahead for me and people of Addis seems to be bleak.
I remember an old reading, a story by Dr. Nazaroff … he wrote about a resident of St. Petersburg during the revolution … “Our government does not understand that we also are sons and daughters of peasants who happen to have come to the city before the very peasants – communist Russia is trying to liberate. we do not understand why the communists see us as the enemy and uproot us! Are we not Russians too? Are we not their brothers and sisters from the father land? “
I am an Ethiopian too. Does anybody care?
Source Article from https://www.zehabesha.com/what-about-my-rights-mr-mayor/