Crime in the City Goes Through the Roof
Addis Ababa, home to over four million people, hosts more than 100 diplomatic and international organization missions. The City’s full to burst population; and alarmingly high inefficiency in the security institution in recent times, have caused a significant rise in crime activities in the city. The huge youth unemployment and widening income inequality in the metropolis have further exacerbated the situation.
As many, including residents and diplomats, continue filing theft, burglary and other criminal reports, the city administration is doing too little to match the scale of the problem. EBR’s Kiya Ali explores.
It was on Wednesday June 12, 2019, 9pm. As the night takes over the day, silence has prevailed in office buildings, apartments and residential houses located along Adwa Street in Addis Ababa’s commonly known neighborhood as Signal. While many offices shut their doors earlier, residents were preparing to go to bed. But for Dawit Tadesse, Editor-in-Chief of Feteh, a Saturday Amharic magazine and his colleagues, it was the climax of their busy hours.
On the four-storey building that houses their editorial office, Dawit and his colleagues were finalizing parts of the magazine for print. To do so, they had to stay beyond normal working hours in office. Around 11:45pm, they finished work and were ready to go to their home. Although this has been their usual routines, June 12, 2019 was not just like any other days.
Before their car start moving, an individual Dawit, and his colleagues never met before suddenly, opened the car’s door on the side where Dawit sat. “Initially, I was confused and asked what he needed. My friend also raised the same question,” explains Dawit. Their intention became clear to them when Dawit was hit by the guy with machete. Immediately, another man opened the back seat door of the car and told them to turn off their engine.
The journalists had no choice but to do only what they were told to do. “There were four guys who hold machete, knife and empty bottles on their hands,” recalls Dawit, recounting the horrors of being robbed. “The robbers took everything which they thought were valuable including wallets, money and laptop and drove with a car that was waiting for them nearby.” Luckily, except a light injury on Dawit, both victims survived the incident.
Dawit and his friend are few among hundreds of city dwellers who have become victims of growing criminal activities in Addis Ababa in recent times. Lately, it has become common to hear people being robbed even in the broad day light. There are many reports on daily basis that Addis Ababans are increasingly becoming victims of burglary, street theft, stealing on the go, larceny, shoplifting and sometimes physical injuries while dwellers go to their home especially at night.
Gone are the days when people stay long hours outside their home in the night as security deteriorated sharply across the capital. “With petty and grand crimes growing all over in the country, it has become difficult and dangerous to live in Addis,” says Dawit. Gangs of youths, drivers of taxi, street children, beggars and police officers are amongst those allegedly involved in robberies.
Since the beginning of 2018/19, residents of Addis have been complaining about the rising criminal activities including theft and robberies, which have resulted in death in some instances. Police has detained over 1,680 suspects accused of engagement in organized criminal activities in the city since the beginning of 2018/19. On the other hand, the number of crime reports registered by the city’s Police Commission reached a staggering figure of over 50,000 during the same period. Due to these facts, Addis Ababa, which is a home to more than four million people and thousands of foreigners, ranked second, next to state of Oromia, in terms of crime in the entire country.
Hawa Edris, in her late 20s, who returned from Saudi Arabia recently, is another victim of crime that has reached an alarming level across the capital. She returned from Saudi Arabia after eight years of domestic labor work in the Kingdom. “While working abroad, I was able to save half a million birr, which I thought was enough to start a new life in my homeland,” Hawa told EBR. But the reality was not as simple as she thought.
A person whom she trusted and planned to start business with deceived her and allegedly took all her money and denied her dream. “Now I have lost all I have,” she said with a sob of despair. When she took the case to the police, she was attacked and beaten by groups of individuals who have relations with the person who allegedly deceived her. To make things worse, she was beaten severely that her health condition deteriorated and finally her kidney failed. “Because of the unjust crime committed on me, my entire life has become at risk; I have no money even to get medical treatment.”
Even though Hawa’s case is a little bit different, it is not uncommon in Addis to witness returnees, most of whom from Saudi Arabia, shouting loud and crying in the streets after being robbed by criminals. The victims of such inhumane act sometimes involve close relatives, neighbors and friends.
Police officers are also a victim of the rising crime in Addis. A police officer, who wish to be unnamed, in Yeka District recall a time where his colleague were themselves stabbed by robbers while in duty. “We all are in trouble; and concern is rising every day,” he says.
Diplomatic communities have also expressed their deep concerns regarding the deteriorating security conditions in the city. Following the robberies of its staff by ten armed individuals on May 18, 2019, the Namibia Embassy in the City released a report stating that diplomats in Addis Ababa have become targets of criminal activities. The incident occurred in the early hours of the day inside the Embassy’s residence located near Shala Park, around Atlas Hotel in the city. The armed perpetrators stole money, jewelries, cell phones and a laptop. “The incident has been reported to the Caramara Police Station in the city for further investigation. However, with similar cases reported in the past, the safety of the diplomatic community remains a matter of grave concern in the view of the rise of incidences of this nature,” said the Embassy in its statement.
Sporadic civil unrest and communications disruptions make criminal activities challenging in the capital, according to Ethiopia’s Crime and Safety Report published by American Embassy recently. The report states that there is considerable risk due to crime related activities in Addis Ababa. The report stated that law breakers do target pedestrians and foreigners unaware of their surroundings. Most of the crimes, including pick pocketing, snatch-and-run thefts even from occupied vehicles, purse snatching, and harassment by gangs of youths, occur at random in Addis Ababa.
The African Union (AU) is also another organization that has issued security alert following the increasing number of criminal activities in Addis Ababa targeting its staff. “Some of the reported incidents were attempted robberies in the AU headquarters premises, armed raids of AU member state expatriate residences as well as robberies of local and international staff of AU,” said the statement released by AU. A similar report has also been issued by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
The Addis Ababa City Administration is aware of the problem. “After realizing the escalating crime rates, we have finalized preparations to take measures,” said Takele Uma, deputy mayor of the city, during a press briefing held few weeks back. During the briefing, Takele announced that his administration banned unauthorized use of motor cycles as they were “instrumental” during crime activities. Although this was said to be undertaken after an extensive research conducted by the city’s police and intelligence officers, studies conducted on the matter indicate that there are others factors contributing to the rising crime in the city.
A thesis submitted to the Center for African and Oriental Studies at Addis Ababa University by Meti Kebede, entitled ‘Assessment of Socio-economic Factors on Crime: a Case Study of Kaliti Correctional Administration’, indicate that high rural-urban migration, rapid population growth, excessive alcohol use, high youth unemployment rate, extreme poverty and high income inequality as well as poor social services played a pivotal role in leading offenders to commit crime.
Meti recommends adoption of well-planned crime prevention strategies to prevent crime and victimization as well as promote community safety. This has long-term benefits in reducing the costs associated with crime prevention activities, according to the study.
Henok Alemu, a police officer whose name EBR changed upon request, also has a similar recommendation. “Well-planned crime prevention strategies must be pursued as soon as possible.” he concludes.
8th Year • July.16 – Aug.15 2019 • No. 76