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Skepticism about explosion surfaces as death toll from Garbage Dump Landslide hits 125

A week after deadly garbage dump landslide in Addis Ababa, with death toll hitting 125 and search to recover bodies still underway, government announced that a team of experts are to study as to what caused the disaster

Garbage Dump Landside-Ethiopia- Addis Ababa - AP Photo
Photo : AP / VOA Amharic

borkena, Ethiopian News
March 18,2017

Explosion and skepticism

Residents who were nearby when the garbage dump landslide happened have told Voice of America Amharic service that they have heard a big explosion -apparently was concomitant.

However, the immediate factor that caused the tragic disaster is not yet known.

For critics of the government, news of the explosion is not something that is taken lightly – not surprising by any measure considering chronic public trust problem that the government has.

Besides, there are critics who would not hesitate to believe that the government in power – of course the reference is to the dominant entity within the ruling coalition, TPLF, – can commit most unimaginable crime if it gets something out of it.

Skepticism in relation to the causes of the garbage dump landslide goes to the extent of pondering if it is rather a clandestinely orchestrated demolition by the government to make way for a project that would benefit the men in power.

The city administration has been hassling and cruelly evicting poverty stricken residents in different parts of Addis Ababa -allegedly for investors. However, underneath the skepticism is partly related to the conception of Ethiopians about the nature and political behavior of the government that has been facing recurrent popular resistance which it dealt with ruthlessly.

As to the tragic incident, federal government belatedly declared three days of national mourning last Wednesday after it was criticized for not doing so.

Funeral for most of the victims was conducted last week.

The city offered family members of victims about 10,000 Ethiopian Birr (that is about $400) to cover expenses for coffin.

Garbage Dump Landside-Ethiopia- Addis Ababa - funeral -
Funeral for some of the victims.
Photo : AP via VOA Amharic

From the point of view of governance and principle of culpability, something nonexistent in Ethiopia-, opposition parties within Ethiopia, Human Rights Organization like Amnesty International and many million of Ethiopians are of the view that the disaster would not have happened had there been a responsible and competent city administration and federal government.

Ermias Legesse was high ranking government official before he defected from Ethiopian government a few years ago to temporarily settle in the United States where he is serving as political analyst for Ethiopian Satellite Television.

He said that residents had concerns about the garbage dump landslide before 15 years ago. Consequently, a committee was set up and there was a project to study the impact of the dump site for residents and the city by a team composed of senior government officials (including Ermias) and sociologists from Addis Ababa University. But it was not followed through.

And there is no sensible answer as to why the project was discontinued. Residents were complaining even in recent months to no avail. And then the disaster happened. Now government want to study as to what caused it.

Team of experts to establish the cause

Yesterday, government announced that team of experts are to establish as to what caused the collapse of garbage dump that serve the city for well over fifty years.

This fact-finding team is drawn from Addis Ababa University and Texas University. However, Dagmawit Moges, Addis Ababa City Administration Communications Affairs Head, did not say anything about the scope of the investigation during her interview with Voice of America Amharic Service freelancer in Addis Ababa, Meleskachewu Amha.

It does not seem to be the case that the explosion narrative from residents is taken into consideration by government. And no information is released as to how long it will take before Ethiopians hear findings of the investigation.

The City Administration and residents’ complaints

Woizero Workenesh left her children and grand children at home when she went out to console a grieving family. When she came back, she didn’t find her house, nor her children or grandchildren – five family members in total. Her house was buried by the collapsed landfill. And she told VOA that she had to pay for an excavator to recover the bodies of her children and grand children.

The city administration thinks that it has done everything in its power to support residents affected by garbage dump landslide and to recover bodies.

Residents, however, complain that government has not done enough either to support victims or recover bodies.

Youth from the neighbourhood have been working long hours for days voluntarily at the disaster site initially in the rescue work and later to recover bodies when it became clear that prospects for survivors was grim days after the disaster.

Surviving members of affected families are now living in a tent. City says that it is supporting them and will continue what it called “rehabilitation work.”

Communication Affairs Minister, Dr, Negeri Lencho, said about 323 families of victims are being “supported” in the rehabilitation work.

Dr Negeri Lencho -Garbage Dump Landside-Ethiopia- Addis Ababa -
Dr Negeri Lencho
Source : VOA Amharic

Saudi Arabian and Ethiopian business tycoon and billionaire, Mohammed Hussein Ali Al-‘Amoudi, donated 40 million Ethiopian birr (about $ 1.6 million US) to the city administration in support of affected families.

Noting that his five-star hotel, Sheraton Addis, is one of the hotels that has been dumping at the landfill for well over fifteen years and aware of hundreds of millions of dollars he made from this business in Ethiopia that enjoys all forms of support from the regime in power, too many Ethiopians are not just indifferent but also dismissive at the same time about his donation. On the other hand, pro-government activists hail his donation as a demonstration of his “good hearted nature.”

Solidarity and support from the lower strata of the population is clearly huge. Ethiopians are stricken by grief because of the incident.

Ethiopian Buna Football club fans marched en masse to console to Koshe area where residents who lost their loved ones. And it was noticed and appreciated aby Ethiopians in the cyber world and in different social media plat forms.

According to City administration numbers, so far only 113 bodies are recovered. Seventy-five of them are women while thirty-eight are men. Others, however, according to VOA, put the number of death toll to 125.

Written by Dimetros Birku. Can be reached on twitter: @dimetros

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