The last version of the Addis Ababa Master Plan spurred riots in the State of Oromia due, in part, to accusations of unfair land acquisition. The latest draft version of the Plan, which will likely be ratified, has many residents in the capital upset, especially those who’ve had their homes demolished in the name of development. Of course, any drastic development plans are likely to receive mixed reviews from the public – but is the Addis Ababa City Administration handling its development and expansion efforts in the most efficient manner? EBR’s Ashenafi Endale spoke with government representatives, experts and residents to find out.
Mihret Eniyew (pictured, next page), 48, was collecting the remnants of his demolished house in the Nifasilk Lafto District, in an area known as Hana Mariam, on July 21, 2016. His house was one of the nearly 20,000 allegedly illegal houses that were demolished in the Nifasilk, Bole and Kolfe Keranio districts, between May 18 and July 8, 2016, by task forces from the respective districts.
The demolition of the houses came with a heavy price – not only in terms of logistics, but livelihoods as well. A total of ten deaths were reported, including four police officers, and hundreds of injuries suffered by people standing off for their houses at the time of demolition.
Mihret, who, along with his brother, has been supporting ten family members since 2005 by engaging in a retail business, currently lives alone at his friend’s house. “I jumped out of the house when the excavators came but I could not save any clothes or shoes, let alone other materials,” he told EBR in frustration. “My family is now scattered and living in different places.”
Just like Mihret, most families whose houses were demolished have sent their children to stay with relatives, while others are living collectively in around the area and in vacant houses that are under construction.
Mihret, who claims he spent more than ETB96,000 to construct his house, confidently says that he had an aerial map. “I could not attain a title deed because I have no money,” he stresses. “Everything was rushed and nobody checked whether we have the appropriate evidence.”
The government needs the plots of land where the homes were demolished for the construction of condominium housing and an abattoir, according to Addis Yeshiwas, Public Relations Officer at the Addis Ababa Land Development Management Bureau.
This is not the first time such ambiguities have emerged in the capital. Conflicts between the City Administration and residents have been there since the city started its urban renewal and upgrading programme by remodelling older parts of urban areas, including their central business areas, by means of rehabilitation and redevelopment.
The aim of the programme is to improve standard living conditions for the public and make life easier for those who live without adequate access to basic infrastructure such as electricity, water, proper sanitation and housing. However, the process of urban redevelopment has negatively affected thousands of people, especially low-income households in the centre and on the outskirts of the city, since they’ve been forced to abandon their houses and neighbourhood, often without prior warning or enough time to prepare.
Two communities in particular have been facing hardship as the city pursues its urban renewal and upgrading programme outlined in the ninth Master Plan of Addis Ababa – residents accused of building illegal houses and residents of slums.
The Plan was adopted in 2002 and two years later the government launched the affordable housing programme as part of it. The housing project had a goal of constructing 400,000 condominium units through 2015. Although the programme has not met its original targets, it has built less than 200,000 housing units on the outskirts of Addis by demolishing homes and taking the land of people that the government believes are illegal settlers – and, in the centre of the city, taking land from people living in slum areas.
Yilma belongs to the first group, which the government says are illegal settlers, since they bought the land from farmers without legal title deeds. Most of these people live on the outskirts of Addis Ababa.
“People know that they are building illegal houses; however, because officials at the woreda and district level take money from them and promise them that it will be legalised, they are encouraged,” argues the Public Relations Officer. “There is a big problem at that level of city administration because they should not allow these people to start construction in the first place.”
A member of the community Yilma belongs to, however, says no illicit activity took place. “The officials promised the houses will be legalised,” stresses Dirshaye Alemayehu, a father of two and member of a committee formed by people who lost their houses because of the demolition in Grar Sefer. “I also have been paying taxes.”
He says the fact that different government-owned utility providers, like the Addis Ababa Water Sewerage Authority and Ethiopian Electric Service, installed pipelines and electricity proves that they are legal settlers.
The second group affected by the programme live in slum areas with proper title deeds. Unlike the first group, most of these people live in areas that are located in or near the centre of the city such as the Arada, Kirkos, Addis Ketema and Bole districts.
They are often forced to abandon their neighbourhood when their land is wanted for the construction of public projects, such as condominiums and roads. The majority of these displaced people typically lack the means to resettle. Although the government compensates or provides alternative living arrangements, both solutions are neither enough nor affordable for the low-income and vulnerable communities.
According to the tenth Master Plan of the Addis Ababa, the tensions and challenges affiliated with displacement are likely to remain in the future, since it envisages the construction of many mega public projects that require large amounts of land and big financial resources in the next ten years.
For instance, the draft Plan reveals that 186 kilometres of roads will be built in Addis Ababa within a decade, while the current 34-kilometre light railway will be extended to 64 kilometres. On the other hand, 968,000 condominium houses will be built in the centre and on the outskirts of the capital. The Plan also foresees the construction of industrial parks, five-star hotels, shopping malls, golf courses, international stadiums and parks, aiming to make Ethiopia a leading tourist destination in sub-Saharan Africa.
However, past events don’t bode well for the government’s expansion and development plans, especially as it pertains to land acquisition. The latest draft Master Plan comes after the failed attempt to integrate the Plan of Addis Ababa with the six surrounding Oromia special zones because of protests from residents. That specific Plan included projects that were to be implemented in the next ten years, considering the growth expected in the capital over the next 25 years.
Despite the Plan’s promise, achieving these goals will come at a huge cost to the society and the government. Although the cost for the government is quantifiable – at an estimated ETB258.02 billion, which is equivalent to around USD11.5 billion – the price paid by the society is more difficult to ascertain, since the construction of these public projects needs 6,900 hectares, which is 13Pct of Addis Ababa’s land and will likely result in more demolished homes and terrain acquisition.
Of the total funds needed, ETB111.92 billion will be allocated to housing, ETB44.31 billion for roads, ETB43.3 for environmental protection, ETB30.16 billion for building recreational and entertainment centres, ETB20.58 billion for industrial development and ETB37.75 billion as reserve.
The projects will be implemented at the centre of the city in districts like Kirkos, Arada, Addis Ketema, and Bole. Areas on the outskirts of Addis such as Yeka, Gulele and Akaki Kality will also be part of the tenth Master Plan.
Government officials say the lack of details to implement previous plans and the dissatisfaction with the ease of implementation gave rise to the latest draft version, which officials expect to be ratified soon. “The next Master Plan is expected to solve the problems that we observed with the previous one,” Addis anticipates.
However, residents of Addis Ababa and experts close to the issue doubt the government’s word. “How can the government manage this while it fails to accommodate the society’s needs repeatedly?” asks Dirshaye, the father who lost his house in Grar Sefer. “Although some officials were surprised when we presented all the legal documents and bills the district gave us, they didn’t do anything.”
An urban planning expert who works at a local construction consulting firm and follows the issue closely stresses that solely altering the Plan will not make the capital a functioning city. “There must also be a system that can coordinate all the activities to achieve sustainable development,” he says.
The standard definition of sustainable urban development, which is taken from the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, states “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Here, the concept of ‘needs’ refers to the essential necessities of all people, including the poor, who are often marginalised during plans to develop or renew urban areas.
In order to give priority to the poor while implementing a given urban renewal programme, many renowned experts in the field stress that three things should be considered: the society, economy and environment. Tracey Strange and Anne Bayley, experts at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, reveal in their book Sustainable Development – Linking Economy, Society and Environment that neglect or deterioration of one aspect will inevitably lead to the deterioration of the others.
The urban planning expert, on the other hand, argues that one key factor for the success or failure of renewal projects is institutional arrangements, coordination and management during and after project implementation. “History shows that this is something that is absent within the City Administration structure,” he stresses. “It is unlikely that this will change soon.”
Dawit Nigussie, Public Relations Head at the Addis Ababa Master Plan Project Office, admits that a lack of coordination among the different bureaus of the city government has been one of the major hindrances. “Of course, solely putting guidelines on a document doesn’t bring results unless it is implemented in coordination.”
Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen, who was a Finnish architect known for his work with decorative buildings in the early 20th century, suggested that the lack of coordination while implementing urban renewal programmes leads to development against the principles of ‘protection’ and ‘flexibility’.
According to Saarinen, the principle of protection is interpreted as planning and executing to make the city’s normal growth possible without disturbing other sections and to stabilise values by taking “protective” measures for new civil developments. On the other hand, the flexibility principle suggests a means to safeguard continuous healthy growth through “flexible” planning and execution.
The other factor that will be a problem during the implementation stage of the next Master Plan, according to the urban planning expert, is the low level of participation of stakeholders from the beginning to the end of the project. “There needs to be community participation in planning and implementation. This is especially important when the primary group of concern is low-income residents.”
The draft document identifies areas that will be needed for redevelopment projects to ensure government officials will have enough time to consult with the residents. In fact, the document outlines a to-do list – such as making public the government’s plan three years prior to the starting date and avoiding starting any projects in a given area without making sure the previous projects are finished – as a potential solution.
Addis explains the process the City Administration follows when it takes land from the residents, at least in theory. After the Addis Ababa Land Development Management Bureau selects a specific area, representatives from the Bureau and members of the Addis Ababa Cabinet visit. After the Cabinet approves the plan, officials from the district will consult with the residents of that specific area. Upon completion, the Bureau registers the number and types of houses in the area and prepares a compensation package or alternative housing.
On paper, this process should take no more than three years, according to Dawit: “But this is not the case all the time. Due to capacity and institutional problems, sometimes this guideline will be compromised.” He says this rule doesn’t apply for illegal settlers.
Yilma sees this as an unfair practice. “Most of the residents in my area were told that their houses will be demolished one day before the demolition,” he told EBR. “This is an inhumane thing to do.”
Research suggests that the relocation and displacement of people during the urban renewal and upgrading process is another issue that has been handled poorly in the city. A study entitled ‘Assessment of Urban Development Practices on Business Expansion in Ethiopia’ by the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations argues that if relocation is unavoidable, the distance between the departure and the relocation sites should be minimised to avoid anxiety. Moreover, the relocation sites should be equipped with infrastructure and services.
Dawit says the tenth Master Plan addresses this problem. “It suggests relocating people whose houses have been demolished near the location of their previous home,” he explains. “If that is not going to happen, [the plan is to] relocate them to areas within a one kilometre radius.”
However, studies conducted on the issue reveal that the prevailing gap between the demand for land in central areas and the capacity of the city centre renders such initiatives unproductive. For instance, Semeneh Mossu, in a report entitled ‘Local Development Plan and Urban Sustainability Issues in the Kazanchis Area of Addis Ababa’, argues that although the problem of inner-city deterioration is receiving increased attention from urban planners and policy makers, improving the physical and economic structure of these areas has been one of the key development concerns of the City Administration.
To this end, Semeneh stresses improved institutional coordination in urban improvement activities should be given greater attention, since a well-functioning, environmentally vibrant city centre is created only through integrated development efforts of different government bodies.
Despite this fact, the working relationship between the different public institutions entrusted to implement the Master Plan remains unclear. In fact, City Administration officials agree that the relationship between public institutions that are related to urban renewal and upgrading programme implementation is not guided by clear regulations.
“Activities are being carried out in a disorganised way when it comes to the urban renewal and upgrading process of the capital,” says Addis. “This should be resolved to achieve the goals.”
Dawit says that after the Master Plan is ratified, a commission will be established that will coordinate and monitor its implementation. “That might help the executives of the City Administration use land only for its [designated] purpose and reduce the problems,” he says.
However, due to the absence of a responsible entity to coordinate the different activities of the bureaus under the City Administration, a number of monitoring loopholes exist, causing logistical problems, such as local officials giving residents false information regarding the legality of their homes.
In his study, Semeneh also points out that there is a lack of focus and prioritisation during the planning and implementation of the urban development policy. Instead, he argues the city government attempted to solve the visible problems of the city without focused, realistic, achievable plans and programmes. This, he argues, has resulted in the unsuccessful completion of most projects started by the Administration.
This lack of comprehensive preparation may prove detrimental to the latest iteration of the Master Plan. Dawit suggests that the Addis Ababa Master Plan Project Office, only considered the supply side of the equation while preparing the tenth Master Plan. “We consider factors like economic and population growth,” he explains. “From this we came up with the resources that are needed to implement the Plan.” However, he says the Office will focus on utilising all the available resources and give training to ensure the Plan is achieved.
Of course, as the size of population and urban activities grow, stakeholders stress that it is important to improve the city physically and economically. Since open spaces that can accommodate additional development are limited, the urban renewal and upgrading programme cannot take place in the city without demolishing existing structures.
While a necessary task, the extent to which the Plan is pursued in a coordinated, pragmatic and democratic manner will prove consequential to whether it is successful or futile. EBR
4th Year • August 16 2016 – September 15 2016 • No. 42