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Moon houses

Back some time ago, there was a lot of complaint about the government demolishing illegal houses in Addis. I have to admit that I felt sad for the households that live in these houses. They have probably lived in those houses for several years, and extended their families. At some point, they may even have forgotten that they are illegal settlers even though they do not have title deeds on the houses. The thing with illegal settlements is that, one feels confident that the government will not take action against such illegal settlements if the settlers are large enough in number. I believe that what goes in the minds of such settlers is that ‘there are so many others in the neighborhood that have settled illegally so the government will not do anything to us because we are large in number’. Their large number is I believe like an insurance against measures by the government. This mentality reminds me of a saying in Amharic that goes like ‘Wushet sidegagem ewnet yimeslal’. It translates to ‘a repeated lie becomes a truth’ or ‘when a lie is repeated it becomes a truth’.

I have always wondered why the government keeps silent when the first action towards building an illegal house takes place. Why keep silent when people first start to enclose the lands they do not have titles to? Illegal houses in Ethiopia are called ‘Chereka Bet’ or literally ‘Moon houses’. I came to learn that what that means is that the houses are built when the night falls and the moon is up. So nobody sees the owners building the houses during the day. I believe that that in itself is a bit silly because if the area was first illegally enclosed during the night, government officials will see that it is actually enclosed when the sun is up. An enclosed area means that through the next moonlight, another step in the construction process will take place. So when government officials see the enclosed areas during the day, why don’t they take any measures to stop the process of construction?

I live in Nefas Silk Lafto, and nowadays I am becoming used to the sight of big chunks of land enclosed with metal sheets. I remember there were initially only few enclosures. At first, I thought these enclosures were legal. And then I heard that the lands that are being enclosed are already leased out to investors although construction has not yet taken place. In no time, I saw that the illegal land enclosures took over the whole of the leased out land. What’s even funnier are the large sizes of lands that are being enclosed and the fact that the enclosures did not even leave space for the cross country electric poles that are planted on those lands. So much lawlessness! And if the government keeps silent again and let the land invasion boom, it will have its own consequences on the security situations in the areas neighboring to the illegal land enclosures. Those who have enclosed the land will not easily let go of their enclosures if the construction of the illegal houses have already taken place!

Honestly, I am one of those who are relieved to hear that the government is finally going to take measures against illegal settlers. I hope the government will keep its words and take real action! The damage of taking measures later is much worse than the damage of taking measures now! And besides, we the citizens need to know that there is a government that assures the respect of the rule of law! We need to know that we have a functioning government!

Contributed by Tsion Taye
Contributed by Tsion Taye