The Birds Chirp No More. But Addis' Robbers Do

Jul 31 , 2021
By Eden Sahle

Gone are the days where my family and I used to wake up to the singing of the birds nested at our house's old olive tree. Last Friday, I was woken at around 3AM by the sound of a bunch of strangers trying to jump the fence of our house. They were there to rob us. In desperation, I switched on the lights, and that altered them that we have woken up. They went back out the same way they got in. Crisis averted, for the time being.

The day after, our neighbour told my father that his house had been robbed. He lost valuable items. It may very well have been the same robbers, but our neighbours were either sleeping too deeply or the uninvited strangers have taken a lesson and become less noisy as they jumped the fence that time around. The incident has become so familiar that our community has stopped being shocked by such events.

Just a few years back, such intrusions were rare. People in our community used to leave valuable things in vacant spaces inside compounds for weeks and months. They used to get their items back as they placed it. Safety was the last thing we worried about. Such days are surely over now.

Up until January 2020, things used to be different. The police conducted regular community meetings and checked on the civilian guards to ensure that they remained alert during the day and night. They went door to door, asking about security concerns to make sure everyone in the area felt protected. Admittedly, such robberies were low at the time, and apparently, the police were convinced that ours was a low-risk area.

But when the law enforcement bodies reduced their visibility, the robbers increased theirs. When they came back this time, they were not just a few lone individuals breaking and entering. They are usually in groups and bring with them things like knives. Some of the community members that caught the robbers were shocked to find they were underage.

Although such reports of robbery are committed too frequently, they have failed to receive lasting and persistent attention from police and the City Administration. Temporary security measures only scratch the surface of this organised crime. And the more burglary issues are put on the back burner, the more criminal activities can thrive, causing severe harm and chaos.

Considering that Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, this does not surprise anyone. There is often a high correlation between crime and poverty. But it shows how much work the city administration and the police have to exert to support the children flocking around the city's streets, sniffing glue during the day and attacking communities and pedestrians at night.

The police should use a different approach. I have witnessed several times law enforcement officers chasing these homeless children from one street to the other. The children always come back to the parts they were chased from, and the police chase them again. This is not sustainable.

The burden of protecting lives and the properties of the city’s residents lies on the City Administration and police despite the underlying poverty problems that might limit the measures they can take to help the street children. They should step up to the difficult task of developing social support systems and get the children from the streets to schools. They should also actively and effectively execute prevention systems in collaboration with the public that is doing more than what is expected of it.

Given the extensive range of causes of crime in the capital, preventive measures addressing the source of the problem can have a tremendous impact on decreasing crimes now and in the long run. Critical in this is to not lose vigilance and assume that some areas are safe just because police have spent some time carrying out checks. Lasting solutions come from active community policing and engagement with children out on the streets that desperately need to be lifted out of poverty and given opportunities.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 31,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1109]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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