On the afternoon of Tuesday, April 4, 2017, a bulldozer was busy clearing the houses in Kebele 09 of Wereda 11 in Kirkos District. Groups of young people, who had been tasked with helping in the demolition, leaped across on the roofs of each house and tore up the old, rusty sheets of galvanized metal with their hammers.
Once roofs, windows, doors and other necessary materials are removed, the bulldozer will take over, fully knocking each house down. As the bulldozer started bearing down on the residential units and the commercial shops, people rushed to remove their possessions from their house and shops.
Tirusew Alene, 31, is one of the residents whose house will be demolished. Nine months pregnant and a single mother of a one year old girl, Tirusew’s house was left standing, as her neighbours and her brother begged the youths who were clearing the area not to knock it down. She inherited her two-room house from her family, who resided in the area during Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign.
When her parents passed away 17 years ago she and her sister lived there, paying 25 Br rent monthly. Since her sister left after getting a condominium, Tirusew has been living on her own for the past couple of years.
When the District decided to clear the area for redevelopment, it registered the houses in order to give people replacements of either condominiums, or municipal houses. It also provided 11,000 Br for transportation fees to move household items and furniture to the new houses.
In addition to that, Kirkos District provides 31,000 Br for each household for rental fees, until they fully move into the new condo sites or municipal houses, depending on their preference, mainly because some of the residents did not receive replacement housing. It was also to help families find accommodation until the end of the current school year.
But this did not work for Tirusew, even with the document of property ownership for the house. She did not receive the promised replacement housing, or the money that is provided to the residents. But the Wereda did not give a reason for passing over her.
“I was just told that I am not on the list of those who are going to get replacements and benefits,” Tirusew told Fortune.
So far, at the area known as Bulgaria close to Genet Hotel on the road that goes from Qera to Mexico, houses set on 2.8ha have been cleared with the aim of redevelopment, according to the City Administration. The administration paid 22 million Br to people who will lose their houses, according to Dillala Hulalla deputy CEO of Wereda 11 of Kirkos District.
Dillala did not mention what kind of development activity the area is cleared for, saying they will decide after clearing the area. He could not also answer why they rushed to clear the area. But residents of the area claim that it is already designated to be given to Turkish investors, even though Dillala denies it.
The District has planned to demolish a total of 1,268 houses and shops. Among the house to be knocked down, just a little over 900 of them are municipal houses, including Tirusew’s house. The rest are private houses and shops.
These 1,268 houses are part of the identified 15,909 houses to be demolished during the current fiscal year. These houses are situated on 186ha of land.
One of the owners of the private houses is 48 years old housewife, Aster Adamu. Paralysed following a stroke, she has been living by herself in a one-room house for the past 30 years, from the time that she married to her late husband. She gave birth and raised her four children there, and her two younger children are living with her.
When she was told to relocate after the announcement of the demolishment she spent 4,000 Br to start the process of getting a one-bedroom condo she was offered by the District. Until she receives the condominium, the city administration would give her 31,000 Br for her rental expenses.
The city administration is giving 300,000 Br to one million Birr in compensation to people who own private houses, claims Dillala.
Aster learnt that her house would be demolished when wereda officials posted a notice last Saturday, April 1, 2017, on the electric poles near to her house. She decided to search for another house until she could finalise the process of getting a replacement condo.
“My daughter has been searching for a home for us, but she cannot find any,” says Aster. “Many of them say they don’t rent their houses to families with children. They ask us to pay 5,000 Br for a single room. I didn’t take the bank cheque for the 31,000 Br because if we take the money, we are expected to sign an agreement to leave the house within three days.”
Her neighbor, Yordanos Fikadu received a cheque for her rental expenses, agreeing to leave her house within three days. What actually happened was that when she went to the branch of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia where the cheque was drawn, the account of the payer was empty.
“Why would I receive a bounced cheque and get myself in trouble? I will wait for them in my house and they can demolish it with me and my children inside,” said Aster with frustration.
“Some inconveniences are inevitable while working on such enormous activities,” said Dillala. “Since we started relocating these residents, we have spent a lot of money. That is why the cheques are bouncing. We will deposit the money urgently.”
He further mentions that the enormity of the project led to some inconveniences including the bounced cheques, unfinished infrastructure at the condos and exclusion of some of the residents from the list of replacements.
“We will gradually fix all after identifying the problems one by one,” he told Fortune.
This relocation is very different to previous ones. Many of the redevelopment projects, which demolished residential units, were carried out with advance notice for the residents. In this case, three months ago the residents were notified to leave the area after June 23, 2017. But the demolition was suddenly started three months ahead of the planned schedule.
However, the benefits of the relocation outweigh the harm, according to Dillala. He argues the area was one of the slum areas in the city, which made residents vulnerable to transmittable diseases. But this relocation will take them to a better living space. In addition to that, the project will benefit the youths who are involved in the demolition, according to his explanation.
For the project, 550 youth have participated under 55 associations with 10 members each.
“These youth have saved five thousand Birr in a week since they started work,” said Dillala. “We are also planning to engage them in working with the investors who are going to develop the area.”
But even those who have received replacement housing are not pleased with their new living arrangements. One of them is Asnake Mengesha, who got a one-bedroom condo at the Bole Bulbula condominium site. He lives with his brother and his brother’s wife and child. When they moved to the new condo site they got 42,000 Br. He paid 36,415 Br out of it as a down payment for the condo.
“The house is not completed. It doesn’t have water, electricity, or toilets. It is very difficult for the family to live in,” Asnake told Fortune.
For most of his life, Asnake has worked in his metal workshop, near his former residential area. His workshop was also demolished.
“Now literally I am jobless,” claims Asnake.
Not only was Asnake’s business demolished, but so was Fetiya Yirga Building Materials Shop. The shop was one of the prominent business outlets in the area for the last 15 years, supplying building materials. But the shop could not escape from the recent demolishment.
While the owner of the shop, Abrar Musa and his sons were moving their materials into a minibus parked in front of the shop, five young men were sitting on the roof of the shop removing the metal roofing. The family plans to put their products in a warehouse they have rented until they can find another shop.
“I am feeling like a third class citizen in the country,” shouted Abrar. “We can not even get time to search for another shop and move our products safely.”
As a replacement, the owners of the business outlets are supposed to get substitution shops at Senga Tera and Mexico. However, to receive the shops they have to be organized into groups and will be granted spaces after the new shops are constructed, according to Dillala.
“No one will be left homeless,” said Dillala.
Tenants who have lived in the area for over five years are also beneficiaries. But this seems unrealistic for Almaze Eshetu, a mother of two who has been living in the area for the past 19 years. Since her husband passed away five years ago, she has been living in her current house making a living braiding hair, renting her home for 1,000 Br.
She made a small shelter with plastic roofing just a few minutes away from her house. Unfortunately, her working and residential units were demolished on the same day leaving her clueless as to where to go. She was told that she would get no replacement home, as, according to the officials from the Wereda told her that she is not on their lists.
“We are placing those people who haven’t received homes to shelters we have prepared inside the wereda youth centers, until we can find them a permanent place,” said Dillala.
This would seem to be the only hope for Almaze and her children and the other residents who are not included on the wereda’s list.
Tirusew’s house is standing alone while all of her neighbours’ houses were fully demolished.
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