An open letter concerning house demolition and forced mass evictions in Oromia Region, Legetafo town

February 21, 2019

To Prime Minister-, Dr. Abiy Ahmed

CC: Lemma Megersa, President of Oromia Regional State

Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) pens this letter to express its concern following the demolition and planned demolition of thousands of houses in Legetafo town which left families on the street. This comes as a shock to AHRE which has warmly welcomed the overall reforms in Ethiopia, despite some pressing challenges.

AHRE has published numerous statements concerning forced displacements and other human rights concerns that recurred in the country and intensified to a larger scale in the past couple of years. The mass eviction against thousands of families is being conducted by officials themselves, unlike intercommunal conflicts and displacement in the rest of the country which involved the communities themselves, albeit reports of lower level of officials’ involvement.

AHRE has learned that the town was established in 2008 as a new special Zone along with seven other towns as part of the then Oromo People Democratic Organisation (OPDP) plan to curb the expansion of Addis Ababa to its outskirts. Against the local authorities’ claim that the houses were built violating the town’s master plan, several evicted families have bought the plots of land and built the homes before 2008. Many of them also say they have been paying hundreds of thousands in local currency to the town administration for utilities including electric and water bill, and other land payment fees.  Those evicted include children, mothers, new born infants, the elderly, and the handicapped. This is all the more disappointing when evictees were given a short notice (7 days) with no other options of a possible substitute residence.

Dear honourable Prime Minister Abiy, AHRE has in different occasions warmly welcomed and commended the incredible positive steps your admiration took towards bringing peace with Eritrea; releasing political prisoners; opening up the political space etc.  Ethiopia is signatory to The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The right to adequate housing mandated by the UN defines forced eviction as “the permanent or temporary removal against the will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of and access to appropriate forms of legal or other protection.” Thus, the measure is in clear violation of the right to housing which Ethiopia is signatory to.

We kindly urge your good office and your administration to issue an order to local authorities to immediately stop mass demolition and evictions; and compensate those families whose houses were demolished.

Kind Regards,

Yared Hailemariam

Executive Director of AHRE

Mobile: +32 (0)486 336 367

Posted by Samson Abera on Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Ato Yared: With all due Respect, I don’t think your letter is addressed to the appropriate officials and lacks some facts. I agree that people should be given sufficient notices if their home is going to be demolished even if the houses were built illegally. According to the Mayor’s office of Legetafo-Legedadi, the homeowners were told about this six months ago but did not take any action. Moreover, sofar, it does not seem that the owners took any legal action to stop the city government from demolishing the houses. Given the rampant violation of city ordinance and regulations in many places in Ethiopia in building what is dubbed as “illegal houses”, the government has a responsibility to make sure everyone is obeying the law. I feel for those evicted, but somehow to tie this with the reform that is taking place in the country is a misplaced assertion and poor judgment on AHRE’s part. I think AHRE would serve the nation if it gets facts first.

  2. There is no justification whatsoever to demolish houses people lived for more than 9 years in the middle of night. This people may have been violated some laws, but first the court have to address each individual case then decides the merit of each case. These people didn’t invaded the place overnight there were city administration, individuals who exchanged money etc. Court can decide which one to be demolished — if compensation is warranted how much should be paid for the property is going to be demolished or if no compensation is warranted the court can order the residence a time to remove their property to demolish. To throw children out of their bed to street is the most inhuman action by any standard. To try to talk about fact while throwing people on street like city dogs shows how morally degraded have we become. This is an ethnic politics gone amok. Only the legal system should decide in this case not politically agitated local leader. Using a legal jargon to justify human-right violation is to be part of that violation. If this is not part of the reform then what is?

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