The Addis Ababa Master Plan is Constitutional –    Destaw Andargie (PhD)

13 mins read

December, 2015
masterplanOromo university students are once again protesting against the expansion of the city of Addis Ababa, claiming that it would result in displacing Oromo farmers living around the capital. Whether the students are opposing the Integrated Regional Development Master Plan (Master Plan) per se or merely seizing the opportunity to vent deep-seated grievances or, if possible, spark a full-scale revolt against the regime in power may be a subject of debate. What is certain though is that the protest is a projection of a narrow ethnic question. In other words, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is reaping the fruits of its primordial ethnic policy. To be sure, as far as ethnic politics is concerned, TPLF and these protestors are on the same page. The protestors are not against TPLF’s ethnic policy; quite to the contrary, they are challenging TPLF to remain true to its ethnic politics.
 
That is what makes the flurry of support the protestors are mustering, including from those who would otherwise decry TPLF for its ethnic policies puzzling. It is tragic that people have reportedly been killed and that brute force is the customary response of the government to protests like this. Yet, condemning government brutality is one thing, declaring solidarity with protestors is another thing altogether. Illegal killings ought to be condemned regardless of who does the killing and who gets killed. The students’ right to peacefully protest must be defended as well. At the same time, however, one must have the courage to call the protest for what it is-a pure tribal issue. In an ironic twist of history, the TPLF tribal government is being challenged for not being tribal enough.
 
Most of those who declare solidarity with the protestors are understandably cautious not to align their support with the protestors’ questions, for that in effect would mean to endorse TPLF’s ethnic policy. Instead, many simply condemn the government, without any reference to the legitimacy of the protestors’ questions. It is, however, easy to imagine that such support is based mainly on a utilitarian calculus- a misplaced hope that the protest may metamorphose into an all-out revolt that may end TPLF’s dictatorial rule. On the other hand, however, there are some (all of them ethnically-minded, one must add) who espouse the protestors’ demands. Some even claim that the Master Plan is unconstitutional. But is it? That is what I wish to discuss here. Before that, however, a word or two on the normative existence of the FDRE constitution is in order.
 
Is the FDRE Constitution Still Alive?
Ethiopia has never had a constitution that survived its makers. Not just because they were all imposed, but also because none of them could fetter the arbitrary powers of their makers. A constitution that does not serve as a common normative standard of behavior both for the governors and the governed is dead in spirit. The constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (the constitution) is hardly in a different category. That casts doubt on the point of any discussion about it. That does not bar us, however, from dispelling the ‘legal arguments’ against the Master Plan.
 

  1. The Master Plan is Designed in Secrecy

Detractors oppose the Master Plan based on the lack of transparency in its design. That is a legitimate question, but a procedural one-it doesn’t represent an objection to the Master Plan per se, but on how the Master Plan was designed and ought to be implemented. It is all about how the government ought to do business. It is separate from the substantive question of whether or not the Master Plan is constitutional. Crucially, the transparency question, while legitimate, is completely irrelevant to the demands of protestors. The protestors are not asking for transparency or good governance; they are calling for the Master Plan to be scraped altogether. The protestors are not prepared to accept the expansion of Addis Ababa’s municipal boundary nonmatter how transparent the process is. They just do not want to see the expansion of a cosmopolitan city (and you can see their point). They cannot accept a cosmopolitan Addis being integrated with neighboring towns! That is the message of the outrageous misrepresentation of a planned infrastructural development as a ‘cultural genocide’ of the Oromo people. (If you didn’t know, the town of Sabeta is cultural epic center of the Oromo, and once you build a road connecting Addis with Sebeta, Oromo culture is gone once and for all…)
 

  1. Addis Grabbing Oromia’s Land?

Article 40 (3) of the FRDE constitution declares: ‘Land is a common property of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia.’ It is strange that these abstract entities, rather than citizens own all of the country’s land. But one thing is unambiguous: no part of the land in Ethiopia belongs to this or that ethnic group. All the land is the common property of them all. That is, no ethnic group is entitled to a particular piece of land, as opposed to some other piece of land. Hence, those who claim about an Oromo land or an Amhara land are completely disregarding the law. Importantly, if all of the land in the country is the common property of all Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples (whatever they are), it is legally impossible for Addis Ababa to grab Oromo land, as there is no such thing as an Oromo land in the first place.
 
Interestingly, those who accuse Addis Ababa of robbing Oromo land at the same time make an unabashed claim that Addis is itself an Oromo city! The claim is of course ludicrous in the extreme. The two claims contradict each other squarely. You cannot accuse an Oromo city of stealing an Oromo land. One cannot accuse the town of Sebeta of stealing Oromo land. Unarguably, Addis has never been an Oromo city, an Amhara city or a Tigre city, and it will never be one. There is no historical, legal, sociological or whatsoever basis to enclose the proudly cosmopolitan city within the confines of a narrow ethnic envelope. Never mind that Addis is fast growing into a modern international metropolis, for those who care about peoples’ voices, Addis Ababans of all ethnic backgrounds have unmistakably rejected primordial ethnic politics back in the 2005 elections. In fact, that is probably the most important and heartwarming message one can take from that election.
 

  1. The Master Plan Alters State Boundaries?

Some even believe that the expansion of Addis requires constitutional amendment, as it results in altering state boundaries. They invoke articles 46 and 47 of constitution to present the expansion of Addis as an alteration of states boundaries. These provisions are, of course, completely irrelevant simply because they are about member states of the FDRE, and Addis Ababa in not one. Even if Addis Ababa were a state and its expansion represented an alteration of Oromia state’s boundaries, it would still be a nonissue as long as both ‘states agree’ (Article 48 (1)). Needless to state, that any such agreement does not require constitutional amendment. Hence, the claim that the Master Plan violates constitutional amendment procedures doesn’t stand elementary scrutiny.
 

  1. Human Rights Claims

The objection of the Master Plan on human rights human rights grounds is likewise devoid of merit whatsoever. To be sure, the protestors are not even for human rights. Human rights are universal values. Embracing human rights requires going beyond narrow ethnic religious, or political enclaves and embracing humanity. You cannot be so tribal and cosmopolitan at the same time. Clearly, these protestors wouldn’t have problems if the rights of non-Oromo speakers living in Oromia were at stake.  Importantly, the expansion of the capital per se is undoubtedly constitutional, and one cannot violate the human right of anyone without violating the constitution.
 
It is true that the constitution guarantees every Ethiopian who wants to earn a living through farming access to farm land free of charge (Article 40 (4)). That doesn’t mean, however, that the government cannot take away land from farmers. Never mind about land, which farmers (citizens) do not own, Article 40 (8) of the constitution explicitly declares that the government may even expropriate private property subject to commensurate compensation. If the government, for instance, demolishes your house in connection with road expansion, you will be entitled to receive compensation for the house, not for the land, for individuals don’t have ownership right over land. I am in favor of private ownership of land, and consider the government’s land policy arbitrary and tyrannical. Yet, as things stand now citizens have no ownership right over land.
 
Some argue that evicting farmers from their farms violates their right to adequate standard of living or of their chosen work. Of course, that is a ridiculous claim. If those affected choose to continue to be farmers, they are entitled to land free of charge. Otherwise, no one is entitled under the constitution to a particular piece of land. There is no doubt whatsoever that the government has the authority to lawfully evict farmers from their land. Indeed, not just the Ethiopian government, virtually all governments in the world have what in property law is known as eminent domain– the power to take (expropriate) private property for public use without the owner’s consent. This power is normally delegated to lower administrative units of government, in some countries even to corporations. In the case of Ethiopia, land isn’t even a private property. The government may thus legally evict farmers from their farms even without compensation. That is perfectly constitutional. It is the law. If you believe that is morally unacceptable, as I do, the solution is to fight for the private ownership of land.
 
 
 
In sum, to state the obvious, cities and towns do grow, naturally. Addis Ababa is no exception. The capital has been expanding constantly all along. Change is simply inevitable. You cannot stop growth; you just grow along.
 
Peace
 

25 Comments

  1. Only if you think the Oromos are not the citizens of the country and therefore it is okay to displace hundreds of thousands of people to give it to the Tigrians. If this definition is correct, then why are we opposing the annexation of a large part of Gondar to Tigrai. The problem with all the past and current leaders of Ethiopia is that Oromos are not Ethiopins and therefore they do not have the rights other groups have. May be this narrative needs to change.

  2. Thank you Sir. This is the only sensible, balanced article I have read so far. The protest has no meaning at all. It is instigated by OLF. The best article Sir.

  3. I think this article is way too biased. When Tigray takes Gondar, it is an issue. I understand the uneasiness that the issue creates for those who oppose ethnic politics. You mentioned eminent domain… but forgot to stress “just compensation.” If there was just compensation, this should not have been an issue at all. I wish your parents were farmers and are the once being displaced, and that you would say the same thing. Addis Ababa has been expanding at the expense of the surrounding poor farmers. Addis Ababa has been so hostile to the surrounding Oromo communities for decades and you know it very well if you are from Addis. I do not believe city expansion issue is only Oromia’s problem. I am sure the same problem is happening in Amhara, debub regions. However, they all share the same problem…. eviction without “just compensation.” I agree that land is not privately owned, but owned by the public. That does not mean you can take land from one person and give it to someone else, if we agree citizens are equal under the law. If this was for road expansion I am okay with it. But this is for people to use to for housing. It is also baffling that you state the government compensates people for structure on the land, as though the value of their house is only the structure. The value is based on location not the mere stone and bricks. Remeber, Woyane members into selling land and not giving it away for free. I completely agree with you that the current protest has a ethnic undertone and I agree that this is the fruit of Woyane policies. However, we cannot deny the eviction of thousands of farmers around cities without compensation are the cause of the uprisings. I understand you hate Oromos, but we know that when it is your people you will cry foul. The reality is, it is mostly Amharas who are in the cities of other regions and when expansion is resisted, you cry foul because you know people are against your people grabbing their land. So please grow up, and don’t try to hide behind the constitution gibberish and say what you mean. Bese Qusil InChet SidedBet. You want poor farmers’ land for your people without compensation. You do not even believe in the constitution. No one is against development….

  4. It looks like protesting voices are deleted from the comment section here. I showed how biased this article was. Yigermal! I was hoping this was a forum for debate.

  5. Typical neftenga hate against Oromo. They are bout to give big chunks of Amhara lands to Sudan, I hope you see that as consitutional right too

  6. Very well put. Many people have problems of putting the words together. Thank you for illustrating and explaining the whole scenario very well.
    My comment is not a match at all but if I may I would add the followings.
    People need to know about what is people’s right and what is expected of good government. In this case I completely agree with the writer that those protesters are the same kind of ethnocentric people as the TPLF who do not want to live in peace with the rest of Ethiopians. They never protested when their neighbors and other Ethiopians in other parts of Ethiopia were violently forced to evacuate their homes and livelihoods. Most probably some of them could have participated in that violent evictions of their neighbors.
    This hidden dark ages of bad ethnic zone policy started by ignorant TPLF in a dark alley, designed to create problems and conflicts between different cultures by giving one wrong impression that one ethnic group controls its ethnic territory when the country actually belongs to it’s all citizens.

  7. There is no democracy in Ethiopia in general, there is nothing unique to Oromo. No Ethiopians said Oromos are not Ethiopians citizens? It is olf saying they are not Ethiopian, but Oromo and create fake new country Oromo within Ethiopia. This will never work because it is not based on truth. All lands belongs to all Ethiopians. It does not matter whether land is put in Gonder or Tigrai. Mengistu Hailemariam used to change administration as it he deems necessary and there is no land for Amhara or Tigrai specially. It is true there is land where majority Amharas live, Tigreans live, Oromos,… live, but no land on the basis of ethnic. Ethiopia needs democracy, and every Ethiopians needs democracy and democracy has nothing to do with race or ethnic or tribe. It is about equality based on humanity.

  8. Abay Rebel, as the saying goes “one man’s trash is the other man’s treasure”, the protest instigated by OLF has no meaning for you, but has an immense significance for millions who embrace it. If this is not of no concern to you, just ignore but do not judge how others view the significance or meaning of what Oromos and/or OLF does. Yes, the protest is not instigated but organized by the OLF. There is more to come until the TPLF and its surrogates kneel down to their final capitulation. We are fourty million, we are ready to give millions in order to get to that point. The publisher of this article seems to be quite alien to the Oromo predicament in Ethiopia or is not willing to know it. We have no where to start polemics with these sorts gibberish.

  9. I smell tplf on the above topic and wroter.why? We know tplf and OLF sign this things you talking.but before Tplf and Olf this lands were used by oromo .even a long time ago these land were on the handa of Oromo farmers.now sre we different countries yet?nop.the students were not demanding the split of addis vs oromiya.but they said donot evict my family,do not sell mt family lands to strangers,they said thwy donot need tplf help of master plan. I don’t belive Olf is behind any thing.but the people voice is due to tplf agenda of evicting fsrmers from their ancesetors land.the rest of things are poleticians try to dipict what they thinks is fair or un fair.the fact the truth is oromo is agrier than ever to stand against tplf odds.

  10. I admire the intelligence and courage of the writer who simply wrote the truth.
    The young people who are in the so called oromia zone have never been told to be ethiopians or to love ethiopia. Instead, the TPLF and OPDO were preaching to them about oromia and oromo kellel. Now Woyane is reaping what it saw for the last 25 years. Such problems never stop unless ethnc federalism is abolished once and for all and the only way to stop land related corruption is to privatize land.

  11. Kitaw Gugsa, where did the writer say he hate Oromo? He is not biased. He just told the facts.He told you constitutional the land belongs to the government. I believe even though the land belongs to the public the people have to be consulted and things must be done in a transparent way to avoid complications like this.I failed to see where this writer said he hates Oromo? He said there is no Oromo or amhara land? Is that Oromo hate? The land in Ethiopia does not belong to anything.I also believe the way things are done may not have been transparent. However, I believe this is being exploited by OLF and Bekele Geriba. Whatever, this is a good lesson for the regime to listen to the Ethiopian people and reform its ethnic aparthied policy or go away. I still do not believe in anarchy because these can be done peacefully. I am also aware cadres has a lot of power and abuse ordinary people and even take land for their own person use. Anyway, this article is the best article and we need more like this.

  12. Qorsho-Morsho, well,I respect your opinion. But I believe you are an ethnicist by reading your snippets? You can correct me if you think I am wrong. I do not believe there is systematic discrimination or marginalization of Oromos by this regime. Actually, the very ethnic who are systematically targetted in Ethiopia are not Oromos, but Amharas. OLF started burning Amharas in Asusa and Arusi in 1990 and continued until it was kicked out from the transitional government. The Oromo extremists actually because the worst Nephetegneas by exploiting the Woyane Ethnic aparthied. The real victims in Ethiopia are no Oromos, but the Amharas and Anuak. As you have confirmed yourself, this is actually not about Oromo farmers or Addis Ababa city master plan or about land, this is purely organised Shabia, OLF, Egypt. But myself as Ethiopianist who believe in full democracy, fairness, equality, justice, … I abhor your bluffing about your population size. You must know there are other Ethiopians who has history, culture, pride, … like you. Do not be narrow, for me its sounds, you are not only OLF, but also Islamicist because only Islamicist think in population size. Your attitude is not liberating, but anarchic. You need to liberate yourself from ignorance. No country is faring by anarchy. you must think of the suffering that can come with anarchy. You probably have not tasted it, but we know how bad is anarchy and war to any human being. I suggest group up and think out of your ethnic box.

  13. Qorsho-Morsho, well,I respect your opinion. But I believe you are an ethnicist by reading your snippets? You can correct me if you think I am wrong. I do not believe there is systematic discrimination or marginalization of Oromos by this regime. Actually, the very ethnic who are systematically targetted in Ethiopia are not Oromos, but Amharas. OLF started burning Amharas in Asusa and Arusi in 1990 and continued until it was kicked out from the transitional government. The Oromo extremists actually became the worst new Nephetegneas by exploiting the Woyane Ethnic aparthied. The real victims in Ethiopia are no Oromos, but the Amharas and Anuak. As you have confirmed yourself, this is actually not about Oromo farmers or Addis Ababa city master plan or about land, this is purely organised by Shabia, OLF, Egypt since Egypt president met OLF and Issayas 1 years ago and this was what they were cooking for us. But myself as Ethiopianist who believe in full democracy, fairness, equality, justice, … I abhor your bluffing about your population size. You must know there are other Ethiopians who has history, culture, pride, … like you. Do not be narrow, for me its sounds, you are not only OLF, but also Islamicist because only Islamicist think in population size. Your attitude is not liberating, but anarchic. You need to liberate yourself from ignorance. No country is faring by anarchy. you must think of the suffering that can come with anarchy. You probably have not tasted it, but we know how bad is anarchy and war to any human being. I suggest grow up and think out of your ethnic box. Population size does not matter. Israel is 7 million people who beating about 1.5 billion Muslims because every Muslim hates Jews. But 1.5 billion could not match 7 million. No one gives a hoot to your population size bluffing.

  14. you talk about your garbage “hige-mengist” not constitution. we as the people never ever constitute a country with consent. Since 19 century who ever got gun has been presenting his non-sense law. Nobody can decide on our land, that is why we are fighting.

  15. The Oromos are don’t understand the difference between the right to oppose and the duty to abide by the law and order. They have every freakingc right to oppose the TPLF policy but they should have known that they can be burned alive when they crossed the line of destroying private and public properties. Neither Jowhar nor Bekele Nega will come to their rescue. In this forum, shabiya dogs and OLF rif rafs are accusing the writer as woyane lover and hypocrite instead of challenging his view or opinion with their own argument. I believe the gov’t was late in rounding up those thugs who are burning properties and send them to the wilderness to work 24/7 with no pay. It should also close the schools and keep them in the dark as they are no use for their family and the nation.

  16. The problem is no land is free. There are farmers on the land that thier life are endangered. It is also irrisponble to change farm land to cities (shanty cities) when you dont feed 15 million people. Are you going to wait for Canada wheat after using the farm land for bulky city with no water and proper electricity?

  17. Summii Diina,the way Oromo elites think is wrong. Your line of thought is in clash with the entire Ethiopia. You never talk about Ethiopia. You only talk about ethnic Oromo and Oromia. I have observed this for many years. you have a mindset problem of me me only ideology. Your ideology is much worse than TPLF itself. You have no respect for others and your ideology is racist, exclusive. The amharas or Nephetengneas you hate or dread so much never do or did what you do or say. I think I prefer the Nephetegnas than OLF and TPLF. Anyway, this the best lesson for TPLF in 25 years it will abolish now its dangerous OLF ethnic aparthied. There has never been a land called Oromia in Ethiopian entire history and there will never be one today, tomorrow, in the future. Oromos have equal right with the rest of Ethiopians,but no special right or special land. You can not create a country within Ethiopia out of vacuum because you think in chauvinists way. Be advised brotherly, you need to think out of the ethnic box. Racism does not help any human being. Democracy or right does not include violence or racism or ethnic, do not be blinded by your ethnic view. I admit 100% the regime we have never work with people, but we can change the regime if we unite for one common national vision. Creating anarchy when the country is battling to finish one important project is tantamount to allying with Shabia, Egypt. The people have right to protest or oppose without destroying anything. I have lived for the past 25 years in democratic countries, never seen people destroying things to oppose or to express their grievances, can do so without involving violence that causes death and destruction because you can not violate rights to seek or demand rights. This is anti democracy and does not help even for a good cause.

  18. For those of you who are saying the land belongs to the government, which government are you talking about? As far as I am concerned there is no legitimate government that represent all Ethiopian people; there is only a “government” of self appointed TPLF thugs and Tigrean opportunist bloodsucker elites who are trying hard to look like patriots scribbling here and there their venom with their Amara/Oromo sydonyms in support of their dying regime. If there were a legitimate Ethiopian government, this article could have given some sense. Otherwise, it is just another gibberish from another TPLF elite with Amara name. Thanks.

  19. You are an OLF, Egyptian mercenary trying to fool people by ethnic? I wanted to tell you good news, the OLF anarchy will be crushed whether you like it or not. Ethiopians are not stupid to join you. You are on your own now. There has never been Oromia and will never be one. you can call us woyane or TPLF whatever, it does not matter. You can not even put one sentence well reasoned argument apart from bashing people based on ethnic because they differ with you in their views. Ethiopia will prevail today, tomorrow and in the future. No man under the sun can change Ethiopian ancient land mark.Ethiopia will rule regardless what is happening now.
    No Arab mercenary can change our history.

  20. The writer of this piece is entitled to his own opinion. However, the writer’s futile attempt to try to divert our attention to the merits and demerits of the points raised by the protesters at this moment is tantamount to condoning the war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetuated by the terrorist TPLF that is controlling the state power in Ethiopia. The burning issue at this very moment is stopping the killing of innocent school kids by the terrorist TPLF for exercising their God given right to expression of their ideas no matter what it is. We may agree or disagree with the issues raised by the school kids. We may be for or against the issues the protesters are raising. We can have different opinions on different issues. We are not expected to agree or disagree on one issue or the other. Nevertheless, we all are expected to agree as Ethiopians, compatriots or people of the same country, or indeed as human beings, on the God given rights of all Ethiopians including the protesters to expressing their ideas as long as they do it peacefully. We all have to defend their rights to supporting or opposing a particular policy or a project irrespective of the merits or demerits of the policy or the project from our own perspective. That is what a sane person is expected to do first at this gloomy time for our people and country. Dragging us to discussing the merits or demerits of the issues and concerns raised by the protesters at this difficult time is a pure diversionary tactic meant to obstruct the unity of our people. Although it is very simple to show that the piece written above by Daniel is a pile of trash and does not stand the slightest common sense scrutiny, I refuse to be distracted and urge everyone ones else to do the same. We all have to refuse to be distracted and play into the hands of the terrorist TPLF. Let us unite to defend the rights of every compatriot Ethiopian to expressing his/her ideas whether or not we agree with him/her. Let us unite to stop the madness of the blood thirsty terrorist TPLF.

    • How is destroying public and government properties peaceful? They must protest peacefully otherwise, there is no right to destroy properties and there is no right to impose Latin on other Ethiopians. The protest is not an Oromo Agenda. The protest is an Egyptian agenda. The Oromos are being taken for a ride by Egypt. This will never benefit Oromo but destroy them. This is not about freedom. This is Islamic agenda and Oromos taken for a ride and has nothing to do with freedom, land, ….
      This writer is the best writer, logical, rational, based on facts, objtive reality, not based on hatred, bias, prejudice and ethnic. This is the most balanced, reasoned argument, scientific article. This article is immaculate, pure , blameless. Those who attack this writer are not rational people but ethnicist, racist, bigots, hateful, biased, prejudice, filled with hatred, revenge. Every person who tell the truth is bashed, then where is the beef? Anyway, the writer has done a great job by telling the truth.

  21. I do not even waste my time your stupid, rubbish piece article. You are trying tell the world that the Oromo do not own land and the Addis Ababa master plan is constitutional. Totally disagree with article.

  22. I agree that such instablity is the side effect of ethnic politics. There needs to be a radical change in how the regions/killils(a term i hate btw) governed goin forward. It is unsustainable. The longer we wait the more isolated and independent the regions will become. Good luck putting down a revolt of larger scale. If this was the intention when ethnic federalism was designed, it is working. If it was based on a foolish idealist theory, well, wake up….it has failed.

  23. The Addis Master plan is the same to the Berlin conference of 1880’s of scramble for Africa. African were divided among European in the absence of African.
    It is land scramble by few riches and TPLF mafia junta where Oromo people are excluded and robbed for the last 205 years.
    As African free themselves from colonial system, Oromo and other Ethiopians have also only themselves to free themselves from TPLF mafia collonilist mindset.

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