Qoshe Landslide Avoidable Mishap

The Addis Ababa City Administration’s lack of attention in monitoring the potential garbage landslide landfill danger, and seeking appropriate solution was an opportunity lost. It resulted in a catastrophic loss of lives and damage to property that could have been avoided. The disaster has unnecessarily claimed the lives of more than 125 men, women and children.

As usual, a plethora of city and government officials made photo opportunity statements to appease the anger of residents and the people of the country at large at this appalling spectacle of avoidable human tragedy.

As reported by media outlets, the landfill landslide happened in the evening hours at the cover of darkness further exposing the feeble emergency response efforts of the city government. The recovery effort of the injured from the landslide, and transporting them to the nearest hospital took much longer than necessary. It did not appear that the city government had the necessary manpower, equipment, plan, and strategy to handle the emergency situation.

It is not too much to expect a city government, the size of Addis Abeba to have well-trained personnel that can anticipate different scenarios of manmade and natural disasters before the actual mishap takes place. A city government that claims to provide service to more than four million residents was caught flatfooted; utterly unprepared and severely negligent in its disaster emergency response.

Both President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn have expressed their condolences to the people directly affected by this tragedy and also the nation at large. But this nonchalant response does not go far enough to address the acute cause and concerns of the people in the total absence of responsibility and accountability of those who claim to be managing the city.

To begin with, an accident of this magnitude should provoke an outrage on the part of the government to take immediate and appropriate action that would permanently teach a lesson. Those who are responsible for this particular accident and those who contemplate public service in their future need to know that negligence of public duty has a cost. The federal government is constitutionally mandated to oversee the overall management of the city government; this should include holding city government officials accountable for their omission and commission of an act that has resulted in the loss of lives and property damage.

Much too often, especially the PM is quick to complain of lack of transparency and accountability on the part of government officials; but the public rarely sees those responsible at the highest levels of government being held accountable. All talk, no action, on the part of the PM makes a mockery of justice. We always hear the PM pontificating and pretending meaningful measures would be taken against the perpetrators to calm public anger and then continue with business as usual or worse yet promote or transfer the culprits to positions away from the public view.

Managing a city the size of Addis Abeba requires knowledge, skills, and competency to ensure the safety and security of residents. International standards of disaster management, training, preparedness, and resource management should be strictly followed to mitigate disasters such as the recent past. Lack of leadership and management expertise that was evident in the city administration before and after the incident does not invoke confidence that similar disasters could be handled any better. Those who are appointed to management positions should be held responsible for dereliction of duty to avoid future incidents of similar nature.

While the efforts of the residents to financially and materially assist those affected by the recent landfill landslide disaster is admirable; the housing administration of the city, and the federal bureaucracy in general, leave much to be desired. Appropriate and adequate housing is a human right.

It is common to see families camping in horrific conditions at makeshift squalid shelters having no protection from the inhospitable heat of the day and the harsh cold of the night. No human being especially children deserve this type of neglect. It should be clear to all concerned that people have a right to raise their family in conditions that guarantee the right of the child to grow with decent accommodation that can support the child to be a contributing member of society. There are national and international obligation to ensure the welfare of the child and the lives of citizens for the provision of basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing as adequately as possible.

Similar frequent tragedies will continue to haunt Ethiopia until the government realize that poor citizens have as much right as wealthy people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness no matter their level of material achievement. Adequate food, clothing, housing should not be seen as a luxury afforded only to those who can pay for it. These are necessities that people in general, and children in particular need to survive.

From media accounts, Hailemariam has appointed a committee to investigate the cause of the landfill accident, and the future use of the landfill.

While these actions are commendable, the public would like to know if anyone in city government is going to be held responsible for dereliction of duty.

There is nothing much to investigate about a city official that tolerated the settlement of people on top of a garbage dumpsite. This was an accident of a massive scale waiting to happen right under the purviews of city officials. Those officials whose job it is to oversee such activities should have volunteered to resign from their job of their own free will immediately after the accident; in the absence of such courage and sense of responsibility, it should be the Prime Minister’s job to ask for their resignation. Hopefully, the committee that was appointed by the PM would reach the same conclusion in addition to permanently addressing the accommodation problem of people currently living in unsafe conditions all over Addis Abeba.

By Temesgen Zewdie
He is former member of Parliament (MP) He can be reached at temzewdie2015@gmail.com.

Published on Apr 08,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 883]



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