February 21, 2019
To Prime Minister-, Dr. Abiy Ahmed
CC: Lemma Megersa, President of Oromia Regional State
Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) pens this letter to express its concern following the demolition and planned demolition of thousands of houses in Legetafo town which left families on the street. This comes as a shock to AHRE which has warmly welcomed the overall reforms in Ethiopia, despite some pressing challenges.
AHRE has published numerous statements concerning forced displacements and other human rights concerns that recurred in the country and intensified to a larger scale in the past couple of years. The mass eviction against thousands of families is being conducted by officials themselves, unlike intercommunal conflicts and displacement in the rest of the country which involved the communities themselves, albeit reports of lower level of officials’ involvement.
AHRE has learned that the town was established in 2008 as a new special Zone along with seven other towns as part of the then Oromo People Democratic Organisation (OPDP) plan to curb the expansion of Addis Ababa to its outskirts. Against the local authorities’ claim that the houses were built violating the town’s master plan, several evicted families have bought the plots of land and built the homes before 2008. Many of them also say they have been paying hundreds of thousands in local currency to the town administration for utilities including electric and water bill, and other land payment fees. Those evicted include children, mothers, new born infants, the elderly, and the handicapped. This is all the more disappointing when evictees were given a short notice (7 days) with no other options of a possible substitute residence.
Dear honourable Prime Minister Abiy, AHRE has in different occasions warmly welcomed and commended the incredible positive steps your admiration took towards bringing peace with Eritrea; releasing political prisoners; opening up the political space etc. Ethiopia is signatory to The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The right to adequate housing mandated by the UN defines forced eviction as “the permanent or temporary removal against the will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of and access to appropriate forms of legal or other protection.” Thus, the measure is in clear violation of the right to housing which Ethiopia is signatory to.
We kindly urge your good office and your administration to issue an order to local authorities to immediately stop mass demolition and evictions; and compensate those families whose houses were demolished.
Executive Director of AHRE
Mobile: +32 (0)486 336 367