Role Conflict between Land Allocation and Municipal Functions in Addis Ababa

Author:Elias N. Stebek
Pages:241-282
SUMMARY

The current accelerated growth of Addis Ababa has caused tension between the favourable aspects of urban redevelopment, and the corresponding wake-up calls against the risks of transforming various parts of the city into haphazard ‘concrete jungle’. I argue that there is role conflict in municipality authorities that are entrusted with the power to lease out urban land, and at the same time carry ... (see full summary)

 
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241
Role Conflict between Land Allocation
and Municipal Functions in Addis Ababa
Elias N. Stebek
Abstract
The current accelerated growth of Addis Ababa has caused tension between the
favourable aspects of urban redevelopment, and the corresponding wake-up
calls against the risks of transforming various parts of the city into haphazard
‘concrete jungle’. I argue that there is role conflict in municipality authorities
that are entrusted with the power to lease out urb an land, and at the same time
carry out the regulatory function of revising and implementing urban master
plans and providing municipal services. It is argued that the land provision
function of municipalities (and their corresponding interest in enhancing
revenue from lease) induces them to lease out urban land to the detriment of
green areas, neighborhood play fields, public parks, open spaces, riverbanks,
street alignments and adequate space for bus and taxi terminals (menaheria).
Such role conflict not only enhances administrative discretion and corruption,
but also weakens urban land holding security, represses municipal services and
adversely affects the propriety and effectiveness of urban plans.
Key words
Property rights, role conflict, land rights, urban plan, expropriation, municipal
services, Addis Ababa.
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v7i2.3
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Introduction
The commendable pace of urban redevelopment in Addis Ababa including
infrastructure improvements evokes mixed feelings of appreciation vis-à-vis
concerns for the adverse impact of declining open spaces and steadily increasing
LL.B, LL.M, PhD; Associate Professor, St. Mary’s University, School of Graduate
Studies. Email: elstebek@gmail.com, eliasnr@smuc.edu.et
Some parts of this article are improved versions of sections in the second and fifth
chapters of the research titled “Property Rights Protection and Private Sector
Development in Ethiopia” which was submitted to Private Sector Development Hub at
the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations. The author is grateful
to Private Sector Development Hub for sponsoring the research in partnership with
SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). I am also grateful to
the two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the earlier draft of the article.
242 MIZAN LAW REVIEW Vol. 7 No.2, December 2013
problems related with urban utilities, waste management, transport management,
noise pollution, glaze, sewerage, and alternating extremes of urban warming and
floods. Undoubtedly, urban redevelopment in the context of Addis Ababa and
other Ethiopian cities is expedient. But a caveat that should accompany this
pursuit is the concern for a holistic conception of wellbeing which recognizes
the physical, psychological, economic, social and environmental dimensions of
‘good urban life’ in sustainable cities.
In legal regimes which recognize transfers in land rights as a predominantly
private pursuit, municipalities merely play their conventional roles in urban
planning, urban plan implementation and municipal services such as urban
utilities (i.e., water supply, electricity, etc.), waste disposal, green area
management, and many others. In other words, municipalities are custodians of
the utilities (such as water supply and electricity), streets, parks, open spaces,
etc. of the city they administer, and are not providers of land for construction.
The intervention of the state under such circumstances is minimal, other than
measures of expropriation for ‘public purpose’ such as roads and other public
utilities, and few incidences of intervention to facilitate ‘efficient’ utilization of
urban land resources.
The other extreme relates to what was experienced in various countries as a
result of ‘Marxist’ policies. Under this setting, the state intervened as the
custodian of public property including urban land. However, land allocation was
based on grants (and not lease sale), thereby rendering it usually insusceptible to
conflict of interest between generating revenue through land allocation and
commitment to a sound master plan. This is because land market was considered
irrelevant in soviet-model command economies while on the contrary, the
absence of land markets in a market-driven economy causes the inefficient
allocation of land and loss of government tax revenue from private sales
transactions.1
The function of municipalities in Ethiopia varies from the aforementioned
two scenarios because it creates vested interest in municipalities to generate
revenue from urban leasehold allocation of land which conflicts with their roles
as sources and custodians of urban master plan and as entities that are expected
to give prime attention to municipal services (in ensuring water supply,
electricity, waste management, public parks, green areas, efficient
transportation, and other public needs and amenities). It is against this backdrop
that the following sections examine the conflict of interest on the part of
municipal authorities in Addis Ababa which are in the midst of role conflict
1 Li, L., & Isaac, D. (1999). Development of urban land policies in China. In J. J. Chen
& D. Wills (Eds.), The impact of China’s economic reforms upon land, property and
construction (p. 17). Aldershot, England: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Role Conflict between Land Allocation and Municipal Functions in Addis Ababa 243
between their interest in enhancing revenue from land lease and their municipal
responsibilities of implementing urban master plans and providing municipal
services.
The first section highlights the need for balancing the tension between the
transfer of urban land to its most efficient user and the equity to which the
persons who are being dispossessed should be entitled. Section 2 examines
whether the Ethiopian legal regime restricts the economic value of home
ownership to roofs and walls. Sections 3 and 4 briefly discuss the challenges of
administrative discretion in the definition of ‘public purpose”, urban plan
revision, expropriation, complaint procedures, compensation and examples of
arbitrary revocation of title deeds. Section 5 highlights the role conflict between
Addis Ababa Municipality’s functions as custodian of the city’s master plan and
as the provider of land on leasehold sales. And finally a brief reflection on the
‘problem tree’ is made in the sixth section.
1. Equity, Efficiency and Property Rights in the Context of
Urban Redevelopment: An Overview
1.1 The balance between rational self-interest and public interest
Economic development involves the private sector, the public sector and a third
sector which does not fall under the two categories. The latter includes civil
societies, non-governmental institutions/organizations and social/cultural/
religious entities. These three sectors operate with the citizenry/populace as their
foundation, which can be regarded as their raison d’être. The extent to which
people are informed and engaged (as participants and beneficiaries) thus
determines the degree of achievements in these three sectors.
The functions and objectives of these three sectors have reinforcing
correlation within the context of commonalities and variation. The pursuits of
the entities address (a) the interest of private persons; and (b) social interest that
transcends and at the same time facilitates the realization of private interests.
Rational self-interest is expected to be driven by the needs, values, behaviours
and pragmatic desires of the individual person. This is accompanied by the
wider context and setting of public interest (such as the common good or shared
aspirations) which facilitates the fulfillment of a ‘rational’ individual’s self-
interest. The issue of property rights is relevant from both dimensions.
Property rights have been subject of discourse from extremist and pragmatic
perspectives. On the one hand, there is an overstretched conception of ‘do as
you please’ interpretation in which the private individual or the legal person
behaves as the master of natural resources, while the other extreme takes an
acrimonious stance against private property. The latter runs the risk of elite
capture by paternalistic authorities who consider themselves as ‘custodians of

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