Federal Police Suppress Peaceful Demonstration
The Ethiopian Federal Police, in collaboration with security forces, suppressed a peaceful demonstration held by recently displaced local residents in front of the Sheraton Hotel Sunday morning.
More than 5000 peaceful residents of Woreda 8, Arada Sub-City, who are being displaced from their homes to allow for the expansion of the Sheraton Hotel, gathered in front of the hotel to request legal compensation based on current market prices as promised by government officials and hotel owner Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi. However, before they were able to receive a reply from Al Amoudi, police and security forces quelled the demonstration.
According to an Addis Neger Online source in Addis Ababa, the demonstration was attended by thousands of displaced residents of the Sheraton area, including children and elderly people. Despite the fact that some of them carried photographs of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and signs stating that they were peaceful demonstrators begging justice from the government, the police seized the placards, and dispersed the group.
Demonstrators, disappointed by the police reaction, immediately attempted to regroup in the same location. The police then arrested and detained eleven men and two women accused of initiating the demonstration. From our latest reports, the people are still in jail.
According to one of the residents’ representatives, the first households displaced from the area in order to build the hotel ten years ago were appropriately compensated.
“Those who had been living in their own houses got much better ones than their old ones, while those who used to live in the kebele’ s houses were moved to new ones with relatively low rents. But we are displaced without appropriate compensation,” the representative added. Thousands of households continue to hopelessly await their fate.
According to demonstrators, the kebele administrators gave the displaced homeowners and kebele renters approximately 18 thousand Birr and houses, respectively, as compensation. But the homeowners argued that with such a small amount of money, they could not even purchase a single bedroom condo, let alone build a new house elsewhere in the city. The kebele’ s substitute rental houses are also reportedly in poor condition.
“However, when we asked them to reconsider the compensation, they (the officials) labeled us as ‘anti-development’ and they threatened us, saying, ‘there is some force behind our demonstrations,’ “ said the representative. The representative further commented, “They are explaining that we are happy about this injustice making their cadres to appear in the state television.”
Although the residents did not request permission for yesterday’s demonstration, they explained that they had sought permission from the city administration at different times in the past and were repeatedly denied. “This is not a demonstration but it is rather an appeal for justice,” said the residents.