By Staff Reporter
ADDIS ABABA – (BORKENA) – The Globe and Mail, Canada’s news media, said that Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed “is facing criticism” for a multibillion-dollar construction project that would reportedly include a national palace and luxury villas for him and his top officials.
The news media reported on its December 08, 2023 issue quoting residents where the new Jungle Palace Project of the Premier is being executed that citizens residing in the project site “are already being evicted to make room” for the new palace project being undertaken on a forested hill overlooking the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa”. Some told The Globe and Mail that “they are being forced to give up their ancestral farms without adequate compensation”.
The Globe and Mail quoted Ethiopian journalists who reported on the cost of the new Jungle Palace project, which is said to cost USD 10 to 15 billion. This is a huge amount of money being spent while the country is in need of billions of dollars in foreign loans to rebuild and rehabilitate its war-shattered economy, The Globe and Mail said.
The Globe and Mail recalled the government’s need of US$20-billion in funding for postwar reconstruction, including at least US$2-billion from the International Monetary Fund. The government has also received billions of dollars in humanitarian aid from the United Nations and other relief agencies in recent years as conflicts mounted, according to The Globe and Mail.
The construction work of the Jungle Palace Project will cover 500 hectares and include three artificial lakes, a luxury hotel, conference halls, a waterfall, a zoo, a cable car and imported palm trees, The Globe and Mail said.
The project will be funded by international and domestic donors. The close ally of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the United Arab Emirates, is expected to be a key contributor. But the funding is shrouded in secrecy, and parliamentary scrutiny has not been allowed, the Globe and Mail indicated.
According to the news source, the private sector in Ethiopia is compelled to finance various projects that are reportedly carried out to beautify the city, including the Jungle Palace Project. One businessman told The Globe that he was heavily pressured by government officials to contribute to a fund for “beautification” of the capital, which could include the Palace project. He said he received endless phone calls, threats and warnings that he could be banned from receiving official contracts if he failed to donate. The Globe is not naming the businessman because he fears retribution from the government.
To execute the palace project, government workers are bulldozing land, chopping down trees, destroying older homes and evicting hundreds of residents to make room for new roads.
“We lived in this land for over a century and it was passed to us by our ancestors, but all of a sudden I was told I did not have a title deed to my own home and was forced to vacate it with no compensation,” said Alemayehu Tadesse, a 74-year-old farmer whose home is near the palace site.
He was devastated when he realized he was losing his ancestral land. “I have not just lost my home but also my livelihood as a farmer,” he told The Globe.
Another farmer, Kibret Getahun, said he was forced to abandon a large portion of his land, with little compensation. He is now a security guard at a church.
“Our farms have now been replaced with paved roads. We are becoming strangers in our own home,” Kibret told The Globe and Mail.
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Kibret Getahun, a farmer – Source The Globe and Mail