Ethiopia: Poor maintenance of historical buildings

A few days ago Arefe of Addis Journal posted a picture of a historical building in Addis Ababa from the 1920s, and has now posted one of another building from the same period complaining about the poor maintenance of such building. He says: “…there is a booming of buildings which most of them seem to be copies of Western style. New buildings of glass and granite are sprouting here and there on the Addis skyline. But when it comes to preserving the cultural treasures of the city, the concerned officials have been slow to act”.



    Buildings, languages, artifacts, and landscapes encapsulate the past we all share. Indeed, we are shaped by our past. That is why nations go to great lengths to preserve their heritage and instruct the young about its past.

    When a nation destroys a physical structure, depresses a language or engages in smuggling ancient artifacts it is destroying the foundations of its very existence.

    By maintaining a sense of time and place cultures are promoted, the creativity of communities is preserved, and the uniqueness of humanity affirmed. That is the purpose in the United Nations maintaining a specialized office on World Heritage.

    We’ve heard a lot about the international attention the Axum Obelisk received recently. It was a cause Professor Pankhurst spearheaded with great success and for which he should be greatly appreciated. The ruling minority simply latched onto the idea to usher in a “millennium” and a “renaissance” designed for international and regional consumption. What we don’t hear as much is the destruction of our heritage quietly taking place locally. Here are some instances,

    . Qanyazmach Belehu Degefe’s house was razed to the ground;
    . Emperor Haile Selassie’s train and coaches are left abandoned, not preserved or restored for use;
    Early models of Ethiopian Airlines planes;
    . The Train Station in Addis may soon lose its identity and dominance when the planned skycrapers are built very close to it;
    . Prayer books and religious artifacts are being auctioned off in Europe;
    . The landscape in Addis is fast being parcelled out to real estate agents; hills surrounding the city are denuded and spotted with glittering homes;
    . English language is gaining grounds on Amharic because current rulers harbor grievances against the language [faintly aware they are undermining their own Semitic heritage.]

    We believe Addis Ababa University could play a role in the preservation of historic sites by informing the public and organizing seminars for engineers, city administrators, government officials and parliamentarians, etc.

    In other words, destruction of historic sites could only be stopped with proper education, a sense of history and with the recognition that office holders are accountable to the public. That was what the Taliban lacked when they decided to demolish a statue in the face of protests from around the world. The difference between the Taliban and Ethiopian authorities is that the former operate within the bounds of stale religious ideology and the latter within unrestrained consumption habits.

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