Unpacking the Chaka Project

The Chaka Project, a development project on over 503 hectares of land in Yeka Sub-City leaning on Yeka hill of the Addis Ababa City Administration, has become a pivotal national project. The project, spearheaded by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, is part of a grand ‘Smart City’ Development endeavour that would cost more than 500 billion birrs. 

This crucial national endeavour is at the confluence of development and governance, garnering commendation and critique in equal measure. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s staunch advocacy for the initiative contrasts starkly with the concerns of critics who highlight its transparency and inherent corruption risks. At its core, this ambitious endeavour aspires to craft new towns and cities that resonate with principles of sustainability and equity. While lauded for its ambitious goals, the project is under the scrutiny of sceptics who raise essential concerns about its lack of inclusivity in the planning process.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has remained steadfast in defending the Chaka Project, arguing for its imperatives in addressing Ethiopia’s rapid urbanization. However, the chorus of critics is unrelenting, expressing apprehension that the project could be susceptible to benefiting vested interests and, worse yet, could pave the way for the unjust displacement of communities.

As the Chaka Project navigates its formative stages, the outcome hangs in uncertainty, with its success or failure poised to profoundly impact Ethiopia’s development trajectory. Yet, amidst this uncertainty, it undoubtedly raises critical questions about the role of government in shaping development and underscores the pressing need for utmost transparency and accountability.

Inquiry’s Power: Beyond Blind Opposition

The philosophy of British thinker Bertrand Russell echoes across time: a call to avoid the pitfalls of blind allegiance or opposition when scrutinizing government initiatives. Indeed, this wisdom is relevant when examining large-scale undertakings such as the Chaka Project. It underscores that society’s approach should be one of balanced inquiry. Russell sagely said, “The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

The Chaka Project, with its expansive vision, seeks to forge new urban landscapes. While its potential to bring about significant positive transformation is undeniable, the questions it engenders about the prudent allocation of public resources, coupled with the absolute necessity for transparency and accountability, cannot be glossed over. In this light, questioning resource allocation does not signify ignorance or baseless resistance; instead, it means a profound civic responsibility. It’s the responsibility of citizens to ensure that their government remains accountable and that the funds sourced from their hard-earned income go to the best of the national interest with wisdom and efficacy.

Undoubtedly, the Chaka Project is a complex and ambitious initiative, necessitating the collective involvement of all stakeholders. Open and transparent dialogue must prevail, where concerns are acknowledged, and solutions result from multi-level collaborations.

Knowledge’s Right: A Governance Imperative

The philosophical insights of John Stuart Mill reverberate with enduring truth: the worth of a state, in the long run, reflects the value of the individuals composing it. This profound notion bears pertinence, especially in the context of the Chaka Project. With its grand aspirations and substantial financial backing—exceeding half a trillion Birr—the imperative for meticulous oversight and rigorous assessment looms large.

The responsibility of this meticulous scrutiny falls upon the representatives of the citizenry—those entrusted with the solemn duty of parliamentary oversight. Much like conscientious financial stewardship, they bear the exceptional responsibility of meticulously examining the contours of the Chaka Project. Is it viable? Is it aligned with the national interests? Does it navigate the fiscal waters judiciously? These are not casual inquiries but the cornerstone of ensuring that the project’s vision harmonizes with Ethiopia’s evolving needs and aspirations.

However, the weight of this scrutiny extends beyond numerical figures. It encapsulates a holistic evaluation of the Chaka Project’s potential to enrich the nation. Like vigilant guards, the parliamentarians bear a profound duty to their fellow citizens to ensure that the Chaka Project embodies a sound investment for Ethiopia’s promising tomorrow.

Urban Planning Revisited: Lessons from Philosophy

Ebenezer Howard, an English town planner whose Garden City concept emerged amidst the tumultuous throes of the Industrial Revolution, is believed to be one of the profound guides to the town planning movement, with many of his Garden City principles being used in modern town planning. Howard’s vision sought to alleviate the hardships faced by factory workers in overcrowded and polluted urban centres of the West. His “Garden City” philosophy resonates profoundly in the context of the Chaka Project despite the span of two centuries.

The Chaka Project is a modern-day embodiment of Howard’s vision, aspiring to birth satellite cities beyond the metropolis, thereby combatting the affliction of urban congestion. At the core of Howard’s philosophy lies a commitment to nurturing the holistic well-being of citizens—both physical and psychological. Yet, this noble aspiration is not without its challenges. The conscious disregard for ecological and environmental considerations may shadow the project’s ethical standing. As the Chaka Project advances, it necessitates a nuanced equilibrium. This dance balances the imperatives of development with preserving nature’s delicate balance, particularly concerning the preservation of vital water sources.

However, the accelerated pace of progression raises concerns about the potential pitfalls of hasty decision-making. In the words of Socrates, “He who is not a good servant will not be a good master.” Similarly, the seamless realization of this visionary endeavour demands meticulous planning, not rushed iterations. The repeated revisions and the apparent disregard for professional counsel cast a shadow upon the very essence of a project poised to shape the urban course of Ethiopia.

Ethical Development: Appraising Priorities

As discussions unfurl around the Chaka Project, the contours of Ethiopia’s development trajectory come under an ethical spotlight. The gravity of ethical decision-making is underscored, especially in conversations involving a substantial financial infusion—over half a trillion Birr. While grandiose urban projects hold an allure of excitement, it’s sagacious to consider these endeavours through a broader lens.

The path to equitable and balanced growth necessitates reasonably allocating these substantial funds. Spreading these resources across diverse regions offers a twofold benefit. It aids parts needing development while concurrently alleviating the strain on the epicentre, Addis Ababa. The equitable distribution of resources injects life into regions that may have languished on the sidelines.

Institutional Mandate: Upholding Governance Integrity

Drawing parallels between governance and a symphony is a poignant analogy. The harmonious functioning of different governmental elements orchestrates the symphony of effective management. In this orchestral arrangement, the Ministry of Planning and Development and the Ministry of Urban and Infrastructure assume the conductors’ roles, leading the ensemble to resonate with a harmonious melody.

The Planning Ministry and the Ministry of Urban and Infrastructure are public authorities that the general public trusts can navigate the Chaka Project’s complex intricacies. From its inception to its eventual realization, their expertise and insight serve as guiding lights, ensuring the project’s trajectory remains on course. Their role extends beyond mere oversight; it encompasses the vital task of guiding and shaping the project’s execution, fostering a seamless journey from blueprint to fruition.

Accountability and Tomorrow: Bridging Discourse and Progress

If one reflects on the past five-year journey of the new administrations, a pertinent observation emerges while Ethiopia aspires to become “an African Beacon of prosperity.” The details of the substantial half-trillion Birr Chaka Project remain veiled. The Ministry of Planning and Development, conceived as an institution fostering collaborative expertise toward national development goals, bears the weighty responsibility of transcending undue concentrations of power. An Ethiopian adage wisely cautions, “One should not collect all the development projects and hand them to the Prime Minister unquestioned.”

Indeed, the discourse surrounding the Chaka Project isn’t confined to immediate architectural ambitions or financial considerations; it’s symbolic of a broader philosophical dialogue. This dialogue contemplates the interplay of governance, development, and ethical responsibility.

Harmonious Convergence

At this pivotal juncture of history, Ethiopia converges the streams of philosophy, governance, and progress into a singular course of action. As the Chaka Project unfurls, the wisdom of the past and the aspirations for the future merge into a profound call for ethical stewardship. This journey isn’t one undertaken solely by leaders or experts; it’s a collective endeavour in which the synergy of citizens, scholars, and leaders converge to shape a brighter, more equitable tomorrow.

The Chaka Project, beyond its architectural dimensions, becomes an emblem—an emblem of Ethiopia’s steadfast commitment to ethical governance and sustainable progress. As its canvas stretches before the nation, it invites each individual to contribute their brushstrokes—a harmonious symphony of accountability, transparency, and ethical stewardship.

11th Year • September 2023 • No. 121 EBR


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