Nov 18 , 2023

Loading and unloading activities in the capital will be met with a sweeping reform as the Peace & Security Administration Bureau under the Addis Abeba City Administration is set to introduce regulation.

Individuals from the capital's 'peace army' comprised of nearly half a million residents will join the movers' associations and are expected to partner closely with the security officers in their respective Weredas. The voluntary group was formed last year and added to the security apparatus following a regulation signed into operation by Mayor Adanech Abiebe in September.

Members of a movers association must be above 18 years old, and free of any substance abuse or criminal history. They need to provide proof of unemployment, abide by an internal regulation, carry a badge and wear uniforms during service hours according to the draft.

According to Solomon Mamo, director of the Planning, Budget Monitoring & Evaluation at the Bureau, the group's role in the capital has been instrumental. He expects an increased role in loading and unloading goods to bring a semblance of order.

"We are responding to the frustration of citizens," he told Fortune.

Solomon stressed that no one is required to use the services of these associations with options to refuse service if better options are available. He reasoned that the Bureau's involvement would bring better coordination in decreasing issues of contention due to the 'tried and tested' competence they have exhibited so far.

"There are already visible changes," he told Fortune.

As frustrations rose between urbanites and movers, the Bureau launched a citywide campaign in May against illegal associations of movers, managing to arrest 97 individuals across 44 associations. Currently, around 1,072 legal associations with over 6,000 members operate in the capital.

Residents expressed a welcoming sentiment on attempts to regulate a trend which had become a growing nuisance over the years.

Nahom Yayehyir recently moved into a single-bedroom flat around the Gerji area and was accosted by four young men while unloading items from a small pickup truck.

"They demanded a month's rent," he humorously told Fortune.

While he does not expect the introduction of the legal framework to stop contentions that may arise entirely, he finds the simple attempt of regulation to improve the bargaining power of residents.

The pending directive is currently awaiting approval from the Ministry of Justice. Officials suggest that setting prices would require more attention before the directive gets the green light.

Dagnachew Yismashewa, head of the Bureau in Wereda Five Yeka District confirmed that they have begun to disband associations without formal organisation and identification. He expects the recruitment of movers from the peace army to provide citizens with a channel towards the security apparatus, reducing the exaggeration of minor conflicts.

"Citizens have the right to refuse prices when it does not suit them," he told Fortune.

An association of movers cannot have more than a dozen members. All must be residents of the area where they seek work or have proof that they are not members of an association in their residential area.

Dagnachew indicates the importance of calibrating the requirements for membership. The flow of goods into the area is an indicator as some neighbourhoods are light on new movers.

"We don't want them to be members of an association and then remain idle," he said.

The directive states that associations will have two-year lifespans from the day of formation but could be subjected to dissolution if they engage in any obstruction of justice or crime.

A 2019 study by Adam John Westall on voluntary patrols in the urban landscape illustrates the need for calibration between maintaining the independence of the voluntary group and their services in the prevention of crime.

Girma Ibsa, a young man in his late 20s around the Jemo area does not pass up a chance to help movers into the neighbourhood. He has recognised the lack of regulation as a source of contention. He said prices are usually the problem, with the primarily unemployed youth taking advantage of the situation to cash in on some extra income.

"No one will object if the prices are fair," Girma said.

Academics who research the dynamics of functional urban environments emphasise that proper regulation requires primary input from residents who bear the brunt of issues in their neighbourhoods.

Tekalegn Arfecho (PhD), an urban planning and policy researcher, acknowledged how challenging it has become to change homes in Addis Abeba's neighbourhoods. He stressed the need to allow self-movement modalities.

He pointed out that prices should have some sort of regularity as items loaded onto a pickup truck should not cost as much as those piled onto giant moving trucks.

"Prices and selection of members need to remain a priority," he told Fortune.

PUBLISHED ON Nov 18,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1229]

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