This house in Kirkos District was built in 1898. It is among 127 buildings that will be granted a certificate establishing its value as a heritage site by the Addis Abeba Culture, Arts & Tourism Bureau next week.

Many properties in Addis Abeba, including Taitu Hotel, are designated to receive certifications establishing their place as values of heritage. City officials will issue the certificates to buildings and structures in the capital in the coming week.

A two-month assessment conducted by experts from the Addis Abeba Culture, Arts & Tourism Bureau, partnering with the Authority for Research & Conservation of Cultural Heritage, identified 127 buildings to be heritage sites. Many of these face threat of demolition due to redevelopment works. The Bureau has registered close to 440 heritage sites, including houses and monuments, since 2012. However, the registration is not much of assurance as many buildings of historical importance have previously been demolished despite being listed in the city’s heritage book.

Two properties previously belonging to Ras Abebe Aregay, a patriot during the Italian occupation, were demolished within a month of one another in 2018. Landmark sites off Churchill Avenue, including an 80-year old structure in the National Theatre neighbourhood, were to be demolished last year, after six years of dispute over the historical value of the properties. The Bego Adragot Building, constructed in the 1930s, was among the structures to be razed to make way for the expansion of the Ethiopia Hotel.

Buffet De La Gare, known for its trendiness in the 1970s and 80s, was bulldozed last week to make way for the La Gare Eagle Hills project under development by an Abu Dhabi-based firm.

Registering properties and buildings as protected heritage sites is not enough to save them from demolition, says Dereje Seyoum, director of cultural heritage research and conservation at the Bureau. The Bureau has been taking cases of historic buildings threatened with demolitions to courts.

“When the Bureau takes cases to court, we're usually asked to bring evidence that proves a particular property is designated as historical heritage,” Dereje told Fortune. “The certificate can be used as evidence before judges.”

The Bureau is in a series of legal battles against the Federal Housing Corporation, Noah Real Estate and Ethiopian Full Gospel Believers' Church over the demolition properties marked as historical sites. Close to 80pc of the buildings registered by the Bureau belong to the Federal Housing Corporation. Among the historical buildings designated to receive certificates is a property in front of the newly-built Friendship Park in Kirkos District. It was built in 1898, once owned by Yemtubezenash Habte, a sister of Fitawrari Shimels Habte. It is now under Berhanu Mengistu's ownership, the fifth generation in the family tree.

The property is undergoing renovation works under the supervision of the Authority.

“The renovation work is needed to integrate the house with the surroundings,” Berhanu told Fortune.

He covers the costs of the undertaking. The one-storey property built from wood and mud has been used as a gallery in the last decade.

Located in Piassa, the oldest hotel is on the list. Established in 1905, Taitu Hotel will receive certification during a ceremony hosted by the Bureau in the coming week.

Yohannes Mekonnen, who lectures on the conservation of architectural and urban heritage sites at Addis Abeba University, believes issuing certificates for heritage sites is not a common practice worldwide.

“The historical sites were demolished because there is a lack of commitment from the government," he said.

The existing legal framework governing the protection of heritage sites was legislated in 2009.

According to Yohannes, heritage and historic sites are essential for the common good, passing through generations.

“Issuing a certificate to a particular individual or institution doesn’t take this basic principle into account,” he said.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 29,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1135]

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