News Analysis: Despite growing grievances Sheger city officials continue demolishing “illegal houses”, deny accusations of ethnic prejudice

Houses demolished in Arba Arat area of the Legetafo-Legedadi district in Sheger city

Addis Abeba – Officials in the newly established Sheger city of the  Oromia regional state have expressed plans to continue demolishing what they called “illegally built houses” despite the rising grievances and complaints of victims whose houses have been demolished. 

Although Sheger city which incorporated 12 sub-cities and 36 districts was officially established only a week ago, the administration has been demolishing houses built without any construction licenses for several weeks now.

As a sequel of the demolishing campaign that has been going on in many areas incorporated under the newly established city on the outskirts of Addis Abeba, officials have been demolishing houses in a neighborhood called ‘Arba Arat’ in Legatafo-Legedadi sub-city of Sheger, where Addis Standard journalists were able to observe the demolishing and speak to residents last week.

Expressing their anger over the continued demolishing campaign commenced by the local officials without any prior notice,  some of the residents accuse the officials of ethnic prejudice during the demolishing campaign.

Mohammed Kassa, a father of two and  husband to a pregnant wife, is one of the victims whose house was ruined in the Lege-Tafo and Lege-Dadi district of Sheger city. He said that he bought the land from a local farmer and built the house ten years ago.

“The administration commenced it’s demolition project without giving the residents a prior notification,” he said, adding that “we would have been able to look for solutions beforehand if the administration had notified us prior to taking this action”.

Mohammed accused local officials for ethnic discrimination against non-Oromo nationals. 

“The officials skip houses owned by Oromo nationals in the same place while they are demolishing houses that belong to other ethnic groups. They don’t even demolish a house that belongs to an individual with an Oromo spouse,” Mohammed added.

Kedir Ali, another victim of the demolishing campaign from the same neighborhood, said that the sudden demolishing of houses has impacted the lives of several households leaving families homeless and forcing children to drop out of schools. 

Kedir said some individuals who physically confronted those who came to demolish the houses were beaten and the security force shot and wounded a woman who is currently receiving treatment. 

Kedir also said that there is ethnic discrimination by the local officials that they only focus on demolishing houses that belong to non-Oromo nationals.  

“We would have been able to look for solutions beforehand if the administration had notified us prior to taking this action”

Mohammed Kassa, Victim

The victims have complained that the administration has been destroying the wealth they had been accumulating for long while demolishing the houses.

Getachew, who asked to be named only by his first name is another victim whose house was demolished and he was gathering what’s left of his destroyed house in the area when approached by Addis Standard journalists. 

He affirmed that his house, where he lived for about ten years, was demolished suddenly without any notice. Being an ethnic Oromo himself, Getachew however debunk Mohammed and Kedir’s claims that houses that belong to the Oromo nationals wouldn’t be demolished.

“I’m an Oromo but as you see me, I’m one of the victims,” Getachew said. 

Nevertheless, the residents said they are impacted severely by the demolition  of their houses and that they have been left scattered on the roads together with their families including children.  

Having denounced the complaints and allegations of the victims, the mayor of the Sheger city confirmed to Addis Standard that the administration will continue its actions against illegal land grabbing in the city.

Mayor Teshome Adugna (PhD), said, “the administration is taking legal action against illegally constructed houses, only those houses that do not have any license from the administration are being demolished.”

“The administration is taking legal action against illegally constructed houses, only those houses that do not have any license from the administration are being demolished”

Mayor Teshome Adugna (PhD)

“The city administration is  taking legal action against illegal land grabbing and it will continue executing that,” Teshome told Addis Standard, refuting allegations of ethnic discrimination describing it as “false and groundless”. 

“The administration is taking action against all illegally constructed houses in row, the mayor said, further noting that, “the administration will never tolerate any illegal trends in the city and that the campaign against illicitly constructed houses will continue”. 

Speaking at the inaugural assembly of the city’s council held in January, Dr Teshome said that the first objective of establishing the city is to expand market centers and infrastructure developments to ensure rights and interests the Oromo people should get from Addis Abeba and the surrounding.

The decision to establish the new mega city was passed by the Oromia Regional State government by merging towns like Burayu, Sululta, Laga Tafo-Laga Dadhi, Galan and Sebeta and some villages in neighboring districts of Addis Abeba that belong to the former Oromia Special Zone Surrounding Finfinnee, such as Welmara, Sululta, Barak, Akaki and Sebeta Hawas. AS

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