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25 Feb 2019

Elias Meseret, Associated Press

Ethiopia: Anger as govt. officials demolish hundreds of houses in area earmarked for development projects

"Anger in Ethiopia as officials demolish hundreds of houses"

The Ethiopian government has begun demolishing thousands of houses they say are illegal in the Oromia region in the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa. The government said it intends to tear down 12,000 houses that were built illegally on government land, taking advantage of widespread unrest in the region over the past three years. But residents allege that they were paying taxes to the government on the properties. “This house that I built with my entire saving is now gone,” said Mekdes Melu, whose home was among the nearly 500 that have been demolished so far. “What I’m supposed to do now? Where can I go with my family of four?” 

The U.N. Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Liliana Farha, said she is concerned about the planned demolition of the houses, in neighborhoods called Legetafo and Legedadi. “The rapporteur will be investigating this issue and reminds all actors involved that forced evictions constitute an egregious violation of the right to housing,” she tweeted this week. Jawar Mohammed, a prominent activist in Ethiopia, said it is because the government has not provided adequate housing that people build what are called ‘Moon Houses,’ houses built illegally overnight in the moonlight.  “It is irresponsible to demolish these houses now after sitting idle and watching when they were built. This is not securing law and order,” he wrote on Facebook on Friday.

But Ethiopian officials said the houses were built when the government administration of the areas was weak because of the widespread protests and it was not able to stop them. “The areas were slated for greenery spaces, manufacturing hubs and various investment projects,” Addisu Arega, a senior official from the Oromia region, told The Associated Press. “Illegal houses were constructed even inside school compounds and on areas designated for road projects. We are now taking the land back and securing law and order. Everyone should know that this is something that is not up for discussion.”