- Land allocation system for embassies in Addis Ababa sparks questions
The Diaspora Housing Scheme, which the government has offered to Ethiopians in the diaspora, was unable to proceed further due to the Addis Ababa City Administration’s failure to provide plots for the construction of the proposed houses, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said on Tuesday.
The scheme, which is more than two and a half years since its inception, is said to have attracted tens of thousands who have shown strong interest by registering through their respective embassies and consulates.
Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD) appeared before the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) to present his ministry’s eight-month performance report.
Workneh told MPs that in spite of his ministry’s efforts in mobilizing and registering tens of thousands of people to take part in the scheme and the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing completing the design work in time and procrastination of the city administration to avail plots for the construction is hobbling the progress of the project.
Workeneh, who rather had a longer day in the parliament as several MPs raised questions following his lengthy report, causally revealed that the housing scheme has stalled for years now due to lack of land for construction.
In addition, the minister also talked foreign diplomacy and internal structure of the ministry as well as the political role of MoFA as parts of the executive branch of government.
While explaining the various diplomatic missions’ activities, Workneh highlighted efforts to reach out to the Diaspora communities abroad to convince them to take part in development activities back home, as well as take advantage of government’s incentives packages such as the low cost housing project.
According to him, the Diaspora Housing Scheme, which was aimed at providing access to residential quarters for members of the diaspora community, similar to the 40/60, 20/80 and 10/90 condominium housing schemes designed for local residents, was one of the most notable programs crafted to draw in educated Ethiopians in the diaspora so that they could contribute to the development of nation.
To that end, the diplomatic missions in various countries have been working tirelessly to mobilize the Diaspora community in their jurisdiction to both consider investment opportunities in Ethiopia and benefit from government’s housing projects.
Hence, the Ethiopian embassies and consulates abroad have been registering beneficiaries in their respective stations, the minister said.
“The design work and the determination of the required initial cost of the project were undertaken by the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing. However, the Addis Ababa City Administration could not provide the required plots of land for building the houses,” Workneh told MPs.
He also stressed the need to establish specific structures or legal frameworks to implement the Diaspora Housing Program. According to Workneh, there is a need to work out how the housing program would proceed in the future, whether it would be conducted via Housing Cooperative Unions or through government’s housing agencies.
The Reporter’s attempt to get comments from the Addis Ababa City administration was not successful until press time.
In a related development, MPs also questioned Workneh regarding the request of some foreign diplomatic missions in Addis Ababa for additional plots either for expansions or building new embassies.
Their question highlighted requests of some embassies that have been stationed in Addis Ababa for many years and are already in possession of large tracts of land for additional land.
MPs went on to question Workneh about the legal system, which is used to entertain such requests; particularly in a scenario where land is becoming quite expensive in the capital these days.
Workneh’s report also touched up on the issue when discussing the request of three embassies based in Addis Ababa each demanding more than 15,000 square meters of land for expansion.
Workneh was candid enough to tell MPs that he too shares the concern of the House regarding the recent uptake in request for more plots to build embassy facilities.
He, however, argued that most embassies have held their title deeds for a long time and that there is no specific system which governs how land request by foreign governments is entertained apart from the bilateral relations between the two nations based on quid pro quo (give and take).