March 7, 2019 (Ezega.com) - Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in major towns and cities across Oromia regional state today. The protests were triggered by the decision of the Addis Ababa City Administration Savings and Houses Development Enterprise (AASHDE) to allocate condominium houses, which protestors say was done in an illegal manner. The houses issued are those in the city and Oromia regional state’s special zones, according to the Addis Standard.
According to reports from the security apparatus, the protest was witnessed in the following cities: Adama, Oromia regional state, Shashemene, in Western Arsi, Assela and Bale Robe in Southeast Oromia and in Haramara in the eastern part of Oromia regional state. However, several social media posts suggest the protests have taken place in other towns as well.
According to Africanews, the protestors were angered by the AASHDE’s decision to apportion thousands of the finished condominium houses using a computerized lottery system. In this regard, over 7,127 residents were allocated one studio, one and two bedroom apartments in Koye Feche and in an area administratively regarded as Oromia Special Zone.
The exercise was led by the deputy city mayor, Takele Uma Banti, on Wednesday, when the allocation of residential houses was made. 5,100 residents were given 3 bedroom apartments, whereas 7,100 were allocated studio, one and two bedroom apartments in the 1st and 2nd sites in Koye Feche.
The winners of the lottery draw are those who initially registered for the housing scheme dubbed the 20/80 and 40/60. They were asked to save 20% for the studio, one and two bedroom apartments and the state promised to contribute the remaining 80%. The same formula was used for those who were able to save 40%.
Potential homeowners were also informed that if they saved 100%, they were automatically entitled to the houses upon completion. But this approach left many dissatisfied as the mayor’s office scrapped that formula and said the administration would opt for the 20/80 and 40/60 formula, which was initially agreed upon.
The manner in which the lands were acquired from the farmers and the subsequent compensation, which failed to take into consideration the actual land value, has long been a divisive issue. The matter has since drawn severe criticism in recent years as thousands of farmers were left without a viable source of income.
But during the lottery draw, Mr. Takele said the families of the farmers who were affected were included in the allotment without being involved in the lottery.
“We would like to say your pain is ours, especially those of you who have lost your farmlands to clear for these (housing) projects and were exposed for the economic and social crisis,” said Tekele.
Housing Project for the Increasing Population:
The housing project was mooted in 2016 as part of Ethiopia’s ambitious plan to deal with the rapid increase in population.
The government has been constructing affordable houses in Addis Ababa and other small cities across the country, targeting the low and middle-income groups, and the projects are entirely financed by the public coffers.
Though Ethiopia is less urbanized compared to other countries in the continent and in the world, its population is rapidly increasing. Addis Ababa’s population is close to 4 million and is not showing any signs of slowing down any time soon. Hence the increasing demand for affordable housing.
Housing Project for the Low-Income Earners:
Low-income earners who don’t own any property and rely on insecure tenancies were targeted in the project. The aim is to bring changes in the housing sector characterized by rental occupation into one based on private home ownership. However, the land is still formally owned by the state.
In the previous communist regime, commonly referred to as Derg, 60% of the housing units were rentals, and the state had an influence in 93% of the sector, mainly houses in Kebele municipal divisions. The region is generally characterized by low-quality houses, with houses made of wood and mud. Sanitation and infrastructure are poor.
Officials from the city and Oromia regional state are yet to release statements on the protests, even as online activists continue lobbying for more demonstrations tomorrow.