The party claimed 95,129 condo units were illegally transferred to people who have not registered and saved.

Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, known as Ezema, has accused City Administration officials of a massive land grab and illegal distribution of condominium units in the capital. The political party claims that the City Administration, in particular the Land Development & Management Bureau and the Housing Development & Administration Agency, are accountable for the illegal appropriation of 213,400Sqm of land and 95,129 house transfers.

Ezema denounced the land grabbing and illegal transfer of the condominiums it claimed happened through nepotism and called for the accused parties to be prosecuted. The party claimed 96,800Sqm of land in Nefas Silk Lafto; 58,000Sqm of land in Yeka; 15,000Sqm of land in Bole; 21,100Sqm of land in Kolfe Keranyo; and 22,500Sqm of land in Aqaqi Qality were illegally appropriated.

“We've received information from many sources about illegal land appropriation and condo unit transfers," said Nathanael Feleqe, public relations head of the party. "That’s why we decided to undertake a study on the issue.”

The National Executive Committee of the party then deployed a study team comprising four individuals to look into the issue, according to Natnael. The study, which lasted for a month and a half, was conducted in five districts and 25 locations across the capital. The study team collected information from 1,200 interviews and field observations.

"The houses were illegally granted to those who were not registered or did not save money for them," said Natnael. "These houses should have been given to those who saved for 15 years."

The study further claims that this heist was executed by government officials at the City Administration, district and weredalevels, and in collaboration with illegal brokers.

Land grabs may occur, but the Bureau investigates and takes serious measures against those it finds guilty, according to Negash Bacha, head of the Addis Abeba Land Development & Management Bureau.

"Actions were taken against 40 public officials during the just ended budget year," he said. "We've also cancelled 124 landholding certificates."

But farmers fencing off their landholdings or croplands at the city peripheries should not be seen as land grabbing even if it is illegal, according to the Bureau head.

"These claims are only allegations," he said.

Land-related issues have remained a source of complicated problems that resulted from previous revolutions and regime changes, according to Kassahun Berhanu (PhD), an associate professor of political science and international relations who has conducted research on political economies of land.

"Land is the most invaluable resource for human beings," he said. "The government should have wise land policies and strategies to deal with centuries-old, land-related problems."

The governments should investigate the claim and give fair compensation to the farmers who were displaced, recommended the expert, who believes that providing the general public with transparent and sufficient information is crucial.

“Such claims might erode the government’s credibility and at the end of the day its legitimacy," he said. "The reform that the current administration is undergoing should consider the issue of land and housing, because these issues are too big and dangerous to be neglected."

Senait Damtew, head of the Addis Abeba Housing Development & Administration Agency, was not available to comment on the issue.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 06,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1062]

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