The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has released a press statement on March 31, 2023, addressing the serious concerns raised by the demolition and forced evictions in Sheger City, Oromia region. The EHRC emphasizes the importance of following the legal process for demolishing illegal constructions, and considering the social crisis such actions may cause, stresses the need for alternative solutions.
According to the press release, the EHRC conducted an investigation in response to petitions submitted by individuals and groups from affected areas such as Burayu, Sebeta, Legetafo Legedadi, Menabchu, and surrounding locations. The investigation involved contacting complainants, relevant city administration and security agencies, collecting information and evidence by visiting the affected areas, and observing the demolition process.
Affected individuals explained to the commission that they had acquired land or houses from previous owners, received water and electricity services from social service institutions, and paid fees for various development projects in their areas. They argue that they were unlawfully evicted without sufficient prior warning.
The Sheger city officials stated that the city administration is demolishing buildings that “do not have legal ownership certificates” following the establishment of the new city. They claim that discussions were held with the owners of the houses at the sub-city, district, and kebele level to create sufficient awareness, and after the houses to be demolished were first marked, they were given time to demolish the constructions themselves.
However, the EHRC’s investigation revealed several gaps in the house demolition and forced removal measures in terms of human rights, and the corrective measures that should be taken. Some of the key concerns raised by the EHRC include:
- The action was not done properly: The EHRC found that houses of different legal statuses were demolished without proper identification and verification.
- The action was carried out without sufficient advance warning: Many evicted residents told the commission that they were not informed in advance that their houses would be demolished.
- Existence of discriminatory action: The EHRC observed discriminatory actions in some places where demolitions took place, with some houses being spared while others were demolished.
- Arrest, physical and psychological harm, and abuse: Some residents reported violence, abuse, physical and psychological harm, and imprisonment during the eviction process.
Dr. Brightman Gebremichael, director of the Social and Economic Rights Work Department of EHRC, stated that although it is the government’s responsibility to protect against informal properties, “demolition and forced removal measures should not cause people’s lives to be disrupted and families to be separated; instead, it should be ensured that social and economic rights are respected.” The EHRC urges the regional government and city administration to facilitate alternative solutions and respect human rights, as well as to arrange for legal housing and compensation for affected individuals as soon as possible.