Berhan Cultural Center Pleads for Help
The Centre occupies 960sqm of land and is equipped with replicas of Ethiopian culture
Berhan Ethiopia Cultural Center, which is also known as ‘The Little Ethiopia’, received a short five-day notice to demolish its fences sculptured with Ethiopian historical sites, for road construction purposes.
The centre was built 13 years ago with the initial material cost of five million Birr, excluding the intangible cost of design and consultancy provided by architects and engineers who participated in the construction on a voluntary basis.
Founded by Sabella Abay, the centre, located in Qirqos District close to the African Union (AU) headquarters, has been promoting the country with a motto of “Little Ethiopia in Addis & Experience Ethiopia in one place.”
The centre occupies 960sqm of land and is equipped with replicas of the architectural, cultural and traditional treasures of the country, including Fasiledes Castle, Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela, the Wall of Harar and traditional sculptures and carvings of the Southern Nations, Nationalities & Peoples’ regional states of the country.
Recently, the Kirkos District Land Management Bank & City Renewal project Office warned the owner of Berhan Ethiopia Cultural Center to demolish the fence.
The Office posted a letter on the wall of the centre on July 11, 2017, notifying her to report to the office within five days, mentioning the land which the fence rests on is designated for road construction, which extends from Bole Airport to AU. The construction of the road, which is 30m wide, was already started two years ago, reaching over 75pc completion. The Addis Ababa City Roads Authority (AACRA) budgeted more than half a billion Birr for the whole project.
The owner refuses to let experts of the Office take measurements of the area that is going to be cleared for the road, reads the notice letter of the Office.
Sabella objects to the accusation that she resisted allowing them to take measurements at her house. She said they did not notify her in advance, they just came and posted the warning at the centre.
“They already entered and took the measurements five metres towards my home,” said Sabella.
Samuel Biyadeglign, an expert from the Kirkos District Land Management, Bank & City Renewal Project Office, argues differently, claiming AACRA made the measurement, not the Office.
AACRA has the mandate to design and redesign the plan of the project. And the Office will only prepare the amount of the compensation by calculating the materials on the item to be demolished, according to Samuel.
“We know that the centre is a treasure of the country,” said Samuel. “But our task is to implement the design of AACRA.”
Tiumay Wolde Gebriel, director of the communication affairs directorate of AACRA, agrees.
“The claimant has been pleading for five years,” he said. “Nothing is going to be changed because the Mayor’s office makes the decision.”
To not see her centre demolished, Sabella has been communicating with higher officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, the City Administration Council, the District and the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, but the response she received was disappointing, she claims.
The district officials claim that they have communicated to the Addis Ababa Culture & Tourism Bureau and the city administration the worthiness of the centre as a cultural wealth for the country.
“This is all we can do,” said Adugna Kassa, Kirkos District Wereda 05 Culture & Tourism Bureau head.
Minister of Culture & Tourism, Hirut Woldemariam, commented that the situation is difficult because it is connected with the city Master Plan and the plea has already been submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office. But the state minister of culture section is closely following up the case.
Berhan Ethiopia was established in 1987 in Lima, Peru, when Sabella was promoting Ethiopia with the maxim “Other Face of Ethiopia”.
The cultural centre came to Ethiopia when her friend, Amarech Tademe, donated her inherited home 24 years ago to Sabella. From that time on she has been promoting Little Ethiopia in Addis Abeba.
Sabella has also established a cultural and heritage centre in Adwa by the name of “Berhan Adwa for Africa”.
BY BERHANE HAILEMARIAM FORTUNE STAFF WRITER