Preservation of historical heritage is of crucial importance in urban planning. It is a norm everywhere. The principle is simple. Building a city should not come at the expense of structures that mean much for the country by virtue of their historical significance. And if identity matters, history matters too.
Unfortunately, Addis Ababa City Administration does not seem to get it. Perhaps, it is happening not because of lack of awareness on the importance of heritage and the need to preserve it but perhaps ethno-nationalists, for decades now, are waging their wars against Ethiopia from within by exploiting government structures and public policy as a tool.
This time around the target is the historic Ethiopia hotel (pictured above).
As Addis Ababa became a hub for African diplomats in the 1960’s with the establishment of organizations like Economic Commission for Africa and what was then Organization of African Union (now Africa Union), expansion of services including in hotel became a necessity to keep up with service demand.
Imperial government of Haileselassie responded to the situation. That is how Ethiopia Hotel came into being. It is a conveniently located in the heart of Addis Ababa and takes only a few minutes of drive to the national palace and the African Union,not to mention proximity to other important facilities in the city.
Ethiopia hotel proudly hosted African dignitaries and diplomats for many decades. During the military government of colonel Mengistu, Ethiopia hotel was owned and administered by government. It is a national heritage by all measures.
A report by Wazema radio indicates that Ethiopia Hotel was already sold with a throw away price (under $ 5 million which is a price of a good house in the current mortgage market in cities like Toronto and Vancouver) by “privatization agency” to a local “investor” some six years ago. Adjacent to Ethiopia hotel is another heritage building hosting strings of service providers. Rental Housing Administration, based on Wazema report, notified occupants to vacate the building in a matter of a month.
Then Belayneh Kinde, the “investor”, plans to demolish the historic Ethiopia Hotel and the adjacent structure and erect a 60 story building.
Of course, government has done unimaginably worst things but still irks – to say the least. It is an act of belligerence on the part of the regime in power and sort of psychological war on Ethiopians.
By Dimetros Birku . Can be reached on twitter : @dimetros