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Protest hits Oromia over condominium handover

The Oromia Regional State, which has been the epicentreof public protest from 2015 to 2018 propelling the reformist government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and co. to power, was rocked by a new wave of protest this week in relation to a planned transfer of condominium housing units to residents of Addis Ababa, which was constructed in the outskirts of Addis Ababa inside the special Zone of the Oromia Regional State, The Reporter has learnt.

This time around,the protests were sparked after the Addis Ababa City administration’s announcement to handover thousands of condominium houses. The houses, around 55,000 units,were built in and around Addis Ababa City Administration,where some were inside Oromia Regional State’s special zone.

On March 6, 2019, in a ceremony attended by Mayor Takele Uma and a number of officials, Addis Ababa City Administration Savings & Houses Development Enterprise (AASHDE) announced that it will transfer around 55, 000 houses under the 20/80 and 40/60 housing schemes.

From the total units, more than 7,000 are built in an area called KoyFitche, located within the jurisdiction ofthe Oromia regional State.

Following the announcement, thousands of demonstrators in more than a dozen of cities and towns of Oromia went onto the streets protesting the plan in what can be said to be the biggest opposition the leadership of Abiy and Co. has faced from the Oromia Region since coming to power. The protestors claim, it is another way of reversing the contested Addis Ababa-Oromia integrated Master Plan which was an immediate reason for the public protest back in 2015.

The demonstrators also accuse thatthe condominium units were built after evicting thousands of farmers from their land without a proper compensation.

The protest,which got the blessing of a number of influential figures like Jawar Mohammed continuedall through Thursday, March 7, 2019 and also on Friday. The protest has expanded to towns like Ambo, Guder, Jimma, Adama and Shashemene despite the announcement by Mayor Takele that the city will distribute some of the units to farmers who were evicted from their land in order to build the condo houses.

The protestors have even occupied the condo blocks located in KoyFitche and stressed to the city administration not to handover the houses. Hours after the incident, Jawar who has also protested the decision to handover the houses, have appeared in KoyFitche and delivered a speech to the protestors.

After a pressure from the public,the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) as well issued a surprising statement rejecting Addis Ababa City Administration’s attempt to handover the houses.

“It is inappropriate to handover the houses particularly those located in Oromia region while the boundary administrative issues between Addis and Oromia is yet to be resolved,” reads the statement.

“So we rejected the decision and call for the handover not to be implemented,” said ODP.

In the same token,the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has also issued a similar statement and said the decision to handover the houses was “unconstitutional.”

So far, Addis Ababa City Administration has made no statements regarding the protests and whether it is planning to proceed with the handover of the houses.