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Ethiopia: “Koshe” Victims Pays the Price for Government Negligence

by B. Aklilu, Toronto, Canada

The irresponsible TPLF led government, in this 21st century, has quietly watched when its citizens pick garbage for living and make a living out of it. As if that wasn’t enough, on March 11 2017 around 8pm local time, Koshe, a land fill in Addis Ababa collapsed in a land slide bringing with it a mountain of debris that destroyed adjacent make shift homes and killed more than 113 citizens. This has prompted a huge outcry from the city’s residents for immediate response and actions. Following this tragic event, the population of Addis and Ethiopia as a whole has shown big support for the affected families by donating clothes and other necessities that could help them.

 

The koshe land fill had been in use for more than 50 years

The koshe land fill had been in use for more than 50 years and has surpassed its capacity a long time ago. Koshe was just a wide expanse of land to begin with and it was not designed to be a landfill for the capital with more than 4 million people. But koshe was being used way after it has surpassed its capacity until it closed in early 2016. It was replaced by a supposedly “well designed” Sendafa landfill.

Mahlet Fasil, in her article In Depth Analysis: Qoshe Garbage Dump Collapse, details about the government receiving huge amount of funds in relation to cleaning up Koshe and constructing a modern landfill in Sendafa in deals much of the public was left in the dark. Mahlet further describes how the cities official and high ranking government officials in a trail of corruption have inaugurated the Sendafa landfill project, which has already missed several deadlines, without it being complete. This has resulted in waste seeping through the land and polluting a nearby river and completely polluting the atmosphere with strong odor. Sendafa in simple words turned into another koshe as opposed to being a sustainable waste treatment and recycling plant. Locals were forced to stop drivers from dumping in the area. This meant that Koshe was back online only after six months of closure further adding to the ever-increasing mountain of garbage.

Operations of an already over capacitated landfill was allowed to continue, with complete disregard to consequences of the people around it. The land fill not only posed a physical threat but also a health risk to the surroundings area as foul odor and various gases were emitted.

Mahlet further continues to point out that most of the residents of the make shift homes that were built near the koshe land site were not out there voluntarily. They were mostly relocated from other parts of the city for developmental projects. These are the people which basically the city rejected to make place for high rise buildings that were mostly owned by the inner circles of the ruling government. Most of the relocated residents did not even receive enough compensation to afford to live somewhere safer. The people were herded like sheep for slaughter.

The devastating landslide happened three weeks after a government mandated construction effort was bulldozing and excavating the base of the mountain of garbage where the land slide happened for “important government project”. Residents in the area asked municipal officials to stop the construction works which would destabilize the whole area andendanger their homes. Some rumbling sounds were also being reported by the residents following the construction works before the landslide.

The land slide occurred at around 8 pm that fateful night but emergency response was no where to be found until early morning and has resulted in many more deaths. Excavating machines only arrived a full 10 hours after the landslide and has reduced the chance of finding survivors. The meagerly resources sent to the scene by the government was far from enough. The families of victims had no choice but to rent machineries at their expense to recover the bodies of their families.The death toll so far has reached 113 people and counting. 113. This is not just a number on a screen. These are lives, souls, human beings, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children. These are our people that were killed by severe negligence on the part of the government. This is infuriating as this was a simple matter that was visible to the naked eye. Instead of relocating people out of this area, the government is doing the exact opposite.. In countries like Canada, where a citizen’s life is valued, serious lawsuits can occur if a man-made structure collapsed and caused human injury or damage including property damage. In the Elliot Lake mall collapse case in June 2012, two people lost their lives and about 20 suffered non-lifethreatening injuries and the Engineer responsible faced a serious law suit and could have faced life imprisonment.

The people of Koshe do not deserve death. The TPLF led government of Ethiopia declares a mourning day on Wednesday, a full three days after the landslides. This comes after other countries have lowered their flag in honor of the lives lost. Looks like other countries care more for the victims of Koshe. It is horrific that all these lives are lost and the government barely shows any effort of emergency response. Three days later and officials are blaming residents of the area for “living near an accident waiting to happen”. What???

This begs the question: Does the government even care for its people? Shouldn’t a government stand for more than just a minority ethnic group? Do the people need to be from a specific ethnic background to receive help from the government they elected?

The mayor of Addis DiribaKumsa should resign from his post for allowing this to happen in his watch. Concerned officials at the Addis Ababa Waste Recycling & Disposal Project Office should face trial. The city of Addis should also learn lessons from this and take steps to make sure this never happens again.

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