The state-owned transport giant, the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC), has been severely criticized by the Public Enterprises Standing Committee of the House of People’s Representatives on Thursday in connection with variations compensation payments as well as mishandling of cases demanded by farmers.
Issues related to the construction of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway line not been resolved, as compensation saga continues between the project owner – the ERC – and compensation claimants – the farmers.
The standing committee summoned officials of the corporation after conducting field visits to the claimant during the mid-year parliamentary recess.
According to the MPs, several farmers have not been compensated despite their farmlands being damaged. MPs also said that thousands of “tearful” farmers complained that they have not been treated fairly by the Corporation.
“After their farmlands are taken away, most farmers have been forced to go to the streets while some suffer from lack of finance for medical treatment,” an MP said, while challenging the Corporation officials.
“What I am telling you now is a real fact that has even been proved by local administration officials. For example, there is a woman whose land was taken for a development project while she suffers from cancer. If that woman is about to die, what has the development got to do to her if she doesn’t stay alive,” the MP said, accusing the Corporation neglecting the woman.
The MPs have also voiced many issues which, according to them, have not been solved by the Corporation. Some even highlighted shocking evidences that farmers’ livelihoods have been affected due to the development project.
Other cases that were raised by the MPs include payment variations. Some get higher payment while others received a lower amount of compensation for the same plot of land. There are other farmers as well who did not receive compensation at all while their neighbors were paid.
They also indicated that the corporation made payments for those farmers who threatened, while powerless poor people have been denied compensation for the land they lost to government’s development projects.
While responding to questions raised by MPs, the Corporation’s officials were more defensive, which eventually provoked the MPs once again.
Right Off Way and Compensation Department head of the Corporation, Fadil Ibrahim, confirmed to the standing committee that there have been unequal payments for similar farmlands. He cited the case of two kebeles where in one kebele, 25 birr has been given per square meter, while up to a maximum of 300 birr was given per square meter in another. He, however, told MPs that the payment they concluded was in accordance with the valuation they received from local administration. Since this is not our responsibility, we should not be taken accountable,” he told MPs.
He also defended his Corporation stating: “We are not the organization to blame for the delay of compensation. We pay, when the wereda administrations present the compensation rate. It is not our mandate to carryout valuation.”
The ERC project is jointly owned by the governments of Ethiopia and Djibouti and constructed by China Railway Group and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).