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5:16 pm - Monday May 24, 4376

Blood per Acre - The Price to Pay in Addis Ababa's Ruthless Campaign for Urban Land

Blood per Acre – The Price to Pay in Addis Ababa’s Ruthless Campaign for Urban Land

“Don’t tell anybody, Gashe Tekle! We have lived in our humble homes on this land for nearly 60 years! Yesterday, under the cover of night, Abiy’s thugs came, demolished our houses and took the land!”
Her eyes began to wet. I tried to console her by saying: “you must be a Christian! Don’t lose hope!”
She put out her small wooden cross from within her bosom and flourished it faithfully.
“Are you sure you lived on the land for sixty years before now ?”
She nodded firmly and added, “I joined the families later, but the first generation occupied the land some sixty years ago, so that is for sure.” I continued: “Do you have a title deed on the property?”
” We did apply for one repeatedly, but the authorities never gave us a reply”.
“Have you been promised any replacement compensation of any sort? “The quick answer was,” No!” I tried to explain to her that this is a human rights violation. The term seemed too complex and she blinked her eyes in apparent confusion. I resumed my explanation: “You see, you are a human being, an Ethiopian human being! You need a roof over your head! You found an empty piece of land here in Addis Ababa, purchasable for no more than 50 cents per sqm or even free! You put up a dwelling and began to live in that dwelling and on that land! But Abiy dragged you out of that house and threw you out in the cold without any compensation! This is a fundamental human rights violation above any restrictive decree or law! ” She didn’t blink her eyes this time and was firm in her assertion: “Only God cares for people, not government! The government cares for itself and its servants, not the people !”
The land Abiy grabbed from “squatters” who occupied it before he was even born and had lived on it for nearly 60 years has now become expensive prime land in Addis Ababa. Words matter, and Abiy Ahmed’s government gets to choose which terms suit them best.
I know this because the ” squatters” are my close neighbours. The land is adjacent to my studio home, which has also been slated for demolition by the Addis Ababa Municipality’s “demolition brigade”. I estimate the ” squatters’ ” land holding is about 1500 sq.m. At an estimated price of 200000 birr per sqm, it can fetch the government’s cronnies up to 300.000.000 birr. Herein resides Abiy Ahmed’s voracious appetite for land grabs across Addis Ababa.
The victims of Abiy Ahmed’s voracious land grab are piling up in droves. Some estimates put the figure at 10.000 or more. A considerable number of these involve outright human rights violations, which force Ethiopians into homelessness. I hate to be an eyewitness to this degradation of dignity and inhumanity. Addis Ababans must do more than produce small wooden crosses from their bosoms or chests or grasp their rosaries firmly! They must rise from their deep slumber and ask Abiy Ahmed: “Why are you doing this to us?”
In collaboration with my dear Gash Teklye

GIRMA BERHANU
Professor

GOTHENBURG UNIVERSITY Department of Education and Special Education

girma.berhanu@ped.gu.se

Filed in: Current Affairs / News