The History of Expropriation in Ethiopian Law

Author:Daniel Weldegebriel Ambaye
Pages:283-308
SUMMARY

Expropriation is a compulsory taking of land by the state for public purpose and upon advance payment of fair compensation. After describing its nature and basic contents, this article attempts to construct the history of expropriation in Ethiopia based on primary and secondary sources. It covers the historical and legislative period of pre-2005 Ethiopia. It is argued in this article that because ... (see full summary)

 
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283
The History of Expropriation in
Ethiopian Law
Daniel Weldegebriel Ambaye
Abstract
Expropriation is a compulsory taking of land by the state for public purpose
and upon advance payment of fair compensation. After describing its nature
and basic contents, this article attempts to construct the history of expropriation
in Ethiopia based on primary and secondary sources. It covers the historical and
legislative period of pre-2005 Ethiopia. It is argued in this article that because
of lack of urbanism in pre-twentieth century Ethiopia and because of the strong
religious ethic of the kings not to abuse their power, there was no much
expropriation practice of urban land in Ethiopia before the establishment of
Addis Ababa in the late nineteenth century. Expropriation received formal
recognition after the 1908 Addis Ababa Land Charter. In all the historical
records that are found, there is evidence of payment of compensation upon
expropriation of urban land although it might not be conclusive.
Key words
Land, Expropriation, Compensation, History, Ethiopia.
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v7i2.4
__________________________
Introduction and Method
Expropriation is a compulsory taking of land1 by the state for public purpose
activities and upon advance payment of fair compensation. Expropriation is an
LL.B, MSc, PhD; Assistant Professor of Land Law and Vice Director of the Institute of
Land Administration at Bahir Dar University. This article is partly based on the PhD
work of the author.
1 Land signifies in most countries as including the ground and any fixture thereon such
as building and trees and associated rights such as servitude. Under Ethiopian law,
property is classified as movable and immovable (Art. 1126 of the Civil Code,
hereunder cited as CC.) Land and buildings are considered as immovables (Art. 1130
CC). Ethiopian law follows the French Civil Code Art. 518, which says “land and
building are immovable by their nature”. The difference is that while the Ethiopian
Civil Code is ambiguous as to whether or not building is by default part of the land,
the French Civil Code puts a clear stand by stating, under Arts. 552-554, “ownership
of the ground involves ownership of what is above and below it.” Unless restricted by
statutes, the owner of land is considered as owning also the minerals inside the land
and the airspace above the land. In Ethiopia, there is no such kind of encompassing
provision in the Civil Code. On top of that, presently, as envisaged under Article 40(3)
284 MIZAN LAW REVIEW Vol. 7 No.2, December 2013
inherent power of the state that stems from the very existence of the state, and
hence it is argued that the constitutions only give recognition to it instead of
authorization. Expropriation assumes different names in different countries such
as, compulsory purchase in the United Kingdom (UK), expropriation in
Continental Europe and eminent domain in the United States (US). Ethiopia,
predominantly follows the Civil Law legal system, and uses the word:
expropriation. In this article, the term expropriation is employed with due
regard to the possibility of using the other two terminologies as well whenever
necessary.
The purpose of this article is to briefly narrate the history of expropriation
laws in Ethiopia in a bid to understand the past so that it can serve as a base
toward evaluating the unfolding events witnessed so far in Ethiopia. This article
is not as such investigating and evaluating the existing expropriation and
compensation laws as I have already done that in great lengths elsewhere.2 In
this introductory part, an attempt is made to describe the methodology
employed. Section 1 acquaints readers with the concept of expropriation and its
limitations; Section 2 briefly narrates the history of expropriation in pre-1931
Ethiopia; Section 3 deals on the history of expropriation in post-1931 Ethiopia
covering the period until 2004; finally Section 4 summarizes the important
points. It is, however, to be noted that land confiscation and dispossession that
occurred in Ethiopia as a result of feudal expansions during the various eras of
Ethiopian emperors is outside the scope of this article. Moreover, the land
nationalization measure carried out by the Derg in 1975 is not the subject matter
of this article. Focus is rather made to the history of expropriation in Ethiopian
law (which is different from nationalization and confiscation).
The article traces back the expropriation law and practice in Ethiopia until
the enactment of the current law in 2005. Its purpose is to briefly account its
& (7) of the FDRE Constitution, ownership of land is vested in the state and the
people, while ownership of building is given to the individual. In spite of this duality
of ownership of land and building, in this article expropriation of land shall mean also
expropriation of other attachments (building and other fixtures thereon) on the ground
since the loss of the ground would necessarily be followed by the loss of such
proprieties and thus eligible for payment of compensation.
2 Daniel W. Ambaye (2009a) Land Valuation for Expropriation in Ethiopia: Valuation
Methods and Adequacy of Compensation, 7th FIG Regional Conference. Hanoi,
Vietnam; Daniel W. Ambaye (2009b) Compensation during Expropriation, In Muradu
Abdo (ed.), Land Law and Policy in Ethiopia since 1991: Continuities and Changes,
Ethiopian Business Law Series, AAU Faculty of Law, Vol. III; Daniel W. Ambaye
(2013a) Land Rights and Expropriation in Ethiopia, Doctoral Dissertation, KTH,
Stockh olm; D aniel W. Amb aye (2013b) Compensation for expropriation in Ethiop ia and
the UK: Comparative Analysis, Bahir Dar University Journal of Law, Vol.3, No. 2, pp. 279-
295.

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