Ketema Wakjira Debela, Centre for Federalism and Governance Studies, Addis Ababa University
Adama is one of the rapidly urbanizing secondary cities of Ethiopia with a comprehensive master plan since 2004. The city is, however, characterized by rapid but mostly informal urbanization which in turn reveals the ineffectiveness of urban land use planning implementation. In so far as half of Adama’s municipal revenue comes from urban land related incomes, urban land use planning is the key source of municipal revenue that very much determines the municipal service provision. Assessing the practice of urban land use planning in Adama is therefore relevant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it shows the responsibility of the urban local government (ULG) in urban land use planning. Secondly, it identifies which level of government actually regulates urban land use planning, and to what extent the virtues of decentralization have gone to the local level. Thirdly, since urban land use planning is a multilevel issue that cannot be addressed by a single urban local government, it is the nature of horizontal and vertical relations that determine the implementation of the land use plans at the ULG level.
Adama Land Use Planning before the Adoption of Federalism, Pre 1991
The first land use plan for Adama was prepared by the Italian colonial force in 1937. This plan had envisioned the segregated urban settlements for the foreigners and the local community. It was in 1971 that the master plan for Adama was prepared by the then Department of Municipalities of the Ministry of Interior under the imperial regime. This later plan lasted for two and half decades and entirely guided the city during the military or military regime (1974 to 1991). According different sources, the 1971 land use plan had played important roles in the urban growth of Adama, especially in the areas of social services, industries, infrastructure, housing, and trade. The southward expansion of Adama was mainly attributable to the influence of the 1971 Master Plan. As highlighted above, the planning for Adama was initially an imposed type of planning, as it was first introduced by the colonial force, Italians. It was by and large this imposed plan that guided the city till 1971 which was by itself prepared by the support of Italian architects under the highly centralized unitary state of Ethiopia. Before the adoption of federalism, suffice it to state that the urban land use planning of Adama as elsewhere in Ethiopia was simply a top-down design of rulers and the architects they recruited.
Urban Land Use Planning of Adama in Post 1991
After the adoption of the federal system in Ethiopia, the power over (urban) land is shared between federal and regional states. The Federal Constitution separates the power over land into legislative and administrative powers. Legislatively, the federal government has the power to ‘enact laws for the utilization and conservation of land’ (Article 51(5)). The same Constitution (Article 52 (2d)) grants the power ‘to administer land and other natural resources in accordance with federal laws’ to regional states.
In the Ethiopian federation, the urban policy in general and the urban land development and Management (ULDM) in particular were adopted in 2005 and 2011, respectively. Prior to the formulation of ULDM policy in 2011, the urban land lease laws were proclaimed without a specific policy framework. Since 1991, the federal government has enacted three land lease holding proclamations. The most recent Urban Land Lease Proclamation no 721/2011 is considered as one of the policy interventions of the federal government to create a steady source of revenue for municipalities that in turn could improve municipal service provisions as well as allow to control informal settlements beyond the local development plan and master plan. This lease was also enacted to improve the urban land governance system through developing the necessary urban land information system.
At the federal level, the Federal Ministry of Urban Development and Housing Construction (MUDHCo) is mandated to implement the urban land development policy. To this end, Article 32 of the Urban Land Lease Proclamation no 721/2011 grants the following powers and functions to the MUDHco: (i) to follow up and ensure the proper implementation of the land lease proclamation in all regions and city administrations; (ii) to provide technical and capacity building support to regions and city administrations; (iii) to adopt and follow up the implementation of a national standards real properties data base; and (iv) to prepare model regulations, directives and manuals to be issued for the implementation of these proclamations. In fact, Article 33(1 and 2) of the same Proclamation states that the regional states have the power to administer urban land.
The federal government has also enacted the Urban Planning Proclamation no 574/2008 which aims to regulate and guide urban centers by sound and visionary urban plans to bring about a balanced and integrated national, regional and local development. The objective of the proclamation was to promote well planned urban centers; to regulate and facilitate development activities in urban centers. The Urban Planning Proclamation sets several principles, need to be considered in the processes of urban plan initiation and preparation, including: conformity hierarchy of plans; shared national vision and standards, capable of being implemented, consideration of inter-urban and urban-rural linkages; ensure public participation, transparency and accountability. The power to initiate an urban plan is not, however, conferred on any level of government. The practice obviously shows that the initiative mostly come from the regional state and federal governments. The final draft of any urban plan (structure and local development plans) has to be ‘deliberated upon and approved by city councils and communicated to the concerned regional or federal authorities’. The same article has granted the power to suspend the (approved) urban plan to the regional state or federal government if the plan is found non-conforming to the principles set out by the Urban Planning Proclamation no 574/2008.
The Urban Planning Proclamation no 574/2008 empowers the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing Construction on urban planning preparation, strategies, manuals, standards, guidelines, checklists etc. The respective regional urban development and housing bureaus are given the mandate to implement the urban plans according to the framework set by the ministry. Moreover, the MUDHCo can evaluate the urban planning institutes of the regions; identify the good experiences and can offer harmonized urban planning preparation and quality control; organize urban planning information centers; and make the urban land information, documents and file accessible throughout the country. Thus, the ultimate power to revise urban plans has vaguely been granted to the upper level governments – regional state or federal.
Oromia regional state, the region that defines Adama as one of its first grade cities, has decentralized the land administration to the city through the City Proclamation no 65/2003. Article 8(2(d)) of the Proclamation no 65/2003 states that the city administers urban land and houses in accordance with the law. Besides, the city has the power to prepare, revise, update and implement its city plans. Urban land supply and delivery is one of the municipal functions which are assigned to the city by the regional city proclamation. Since the adoption of the federal urban land law and policy in 2011, the regional State of Oromia has gone through a number of urban land institutional and regulatory reforms. On the positive side, the regional State of Oromia has already undertaken a number of reforms to improve the administration of urban land and to implement the urban land use planning in the region. To this end, two regulations and several directives have been issued towards implementing the federal urban lease policy.
Prior to 2013, the land management and administration was under the responsibility of the City of Adama and run along with the municipal service delivery functions. However, with the coming of the third Urban Land Lease Proclamation no 721/2011, the regional State of Oromia has established a separate Urban Land Development and Management Agency (hereinafter the Agency). The general manager and deputy manager of the Agency are nominated by the President of the Oromia regional state and appointed by the administrative council of the region. According to the proclamation that establishes the Agency, the Urban Planning Institute of Oromia is also accountable to the Agency. The Caffee, regional parliament of Oromia, determines the powers and functions of the Agency, while the regional cabinet enacts the regulation for the implementation of the Proclamation no 179/2013. On its side, the Agency prepares the directives for the implementation of the urban land development and management. Nonetheless, the model regulation template, directives, and operation manuals are elaborated by the Federal Ministry of Urban Development and Housing.
Adama Urban Land Use Plan since 1995
Rural local governments are explicitly recognized by the Regional State Constitution of Oromia, but this does not apply to urban localities. In the first phase of decentralization from 1991 to 2002, urban local administrations of the region were simply subsumed under rural district and zonal administrations. Under Proclamation no 26/1999, for example, the City of Adama was designated as ‘Special Zone.’ This status has made the town administration directly accountable to the region, and there exists no other administrative structure between the city and the region. This was, however, changed in the period after 2001/2 with the launching of a second wave of decentralization for the implementation of development policies. A number of city proclamations were issued by the regional state councils and the Caffee created the city administrations through city proclamations.
In 2003, the designation of Adama as a town was abandoned by the Proclamation no 65/2003. This proclamation sets the council-mayor model of municipal governance for Adama. Accordingly, the mayor should be elected by the city council from among its members, and the mayor is accountable to the city council and the President of the Oromia region. This was later amended by Proclamation no 116/2006 and the mayor’s accountability to the city council was abrogated, and the appointment and accountability of the Mayor of Adama has been granted to the President of the regional State of Oromia. No doubt, the appointment and upward accountability of the mayor hinders local democracy as the selection of the mayor is not anchored in the local electorates. The challenge of this mechanism of mayorship has been practically observed in the case of Adama because there have been several changes of mayors short of the five years’ tenure period of the city councilors (one mayor has averagely served for about six months since 2009). It has resulted in weak level of institutionalization in the sense that the key positions like the mayor are unstable and the institutional memories are perturbed by the time an individual vacates from the position. As highlighted above, the legal status of Adama as an urban local government could be interpreted as a means by which the political elites, from above, control the city in general and the land use plan in particular.
In another registry, with the introduction of federalism and/or decentralization policy, one would not expect the urban planning to remain the same as it was during the centralized unitary system of Ethiopia. It appears in this light that the 1971 master plan for Adama was revised in 1995, the year when federalism was formally adopted, by the National Urban Planning Institute (NUPI). This revised plan could be criticized in the sense that it did not introduce ‘major changes to the original one’. Unlike the previous land use plans under the unitary regime, the 1995 master plan by NUPI is claimed to have brought ‘balanced expansion of Adama to the north and south’.
In practice, the city’s land use change and urbanization had been against the NUPI 1995 master plan. The plan proposed an expansion of the city to all directions of the built-up areas at the time. But in practice the expansion was predominately to the north. This shows that the city had expanded regardless of the 1995 revised master plan.
Adama got the most comprehensive master plan in 2004. This plan has developed the city area up to 13,650ha from 4520ha under the NUPI 1995 master plan. According to the study by the Adama ‘Revised Master Plan Project Office of 2004’, all the previous plans couldn’t effectively delineate the city boundary. This loophole gave rise to ‘illegal selling of land by the farmers in the municipal boundaries delineated by previous Master Plans’. Nonetheless, even after the city has started to apply the lease law and to implement the 2004 revised master plan, the formal expansion could not catch up with the informal expansion. The city has been experiencing the highest levels of informal expansion amounting to 1,595.68ha in 2010, 1,366.01ha in 2011 and 1,138.34ha in 2012. Adama had a formal expansion of 60ha in 2013 but the city has experienced unprecedented informal expansion of 758.89ha in the same year. Information from the Adama city’s Urban Land Development and Management Agency reveals that there were above 28,000 informal holdings round about the enactment of the urban land lease holding Proclamation no 721/2011. In 2017, the estimate amounts to more than 40,000 informal holdings which could account for about 40 per cent of the housing units that exist in Adama city and the number is not showing any decline. At present, the information from the city shows that nearly half of the settlements in Adama are informal.
Despite its comprehensive master plan as of 2004, the City of Adama has been undergoing rapid but mostly informal urbanization. This shows that the urban land use plans have not been effectively implemented. To this cause, a number of factors could be identified but four major factors are worth noting. The first reason is related to the urban land policy and law making frameworks. The competency of the federal government has not been restricted to urban land policy and law making as established by the Constitution, but engaged in setting the regulatory frameworks for urban land use planning and administration. The instruments of urban land policy implementation, including regulations, directives, manuals and checklists, came from above, the MUDHco. That said, little room has been left for the regional states in designing and implementing urban land policy in general and urban land use planning in particular.
The second reason is related to the frequently changing but insecure legal and administrative status of Adama. This condition has resulted in weak institutionalization of urban land use planning. The third is accounted for by the top-down urban planning approach. As indicated by the urban planning law, which was enacted in 2008, the power to initiate an urban plan is not conferred on any level of government. If, however, the plan is found non-conforming to the principles set out by the Urban Planning Proclamation no 574/2008,the power to suspend it lies with the regional state or federal government. The ultimate power to revise an urban plan has therefore been granted to the upper level governments – regional state or federal. Besides, the place of the local people and the autonomy of the urban center have not been explicitly framed throughout the regulations, directives, standards and manuals. This has put ULG in the weakest position with regard to the urban land use planning. Hence, the supra-local orders of government- regional state and federal- have been using urban planning as point of intervention and regulation from above.
Last but not least, the political exigency of Oromia and the party system have contributed to the ineffective implementation of urban land use planning in Adama. When the most comprehensive master plan of Adama was designed in 2004, there was a huge political push from the federal and regional state leadership to implement the plan for political and electoral contingencies.Moreover, it has been said that the length of tenure of the Mayor of Adama primarily depends on his/her loyalty to the ruling party and the regional state executive, not on accountability to the city council or the electorate.
Given the rapid and mostly informal expansion of Adama as described above, the informal land acquisition and construction of squatters are relatively pervasive in the surrounding rural local government of Adama- outside the city’s municipal boundary. On the one hand, the City of Adama cannot administer the land outside its municipal boundary because the land is under the rural local government of Adama. On the other hand, the farmers have the right to transfer their land use rights or sell their use rights or inherit their land holdings to anybody they like. Consequently, as the expansion of urbanization of Adama city is increasingly approaching to them, farmers in the surrounding rural administration are subdividing their farm lands and selling plots to informal seekers anticipating that the government would take their land either for free or with meager compensation payments.
A committee comprising the city and surrounding rural administration is often established for identifying the intensity of informal settlements and to report on the condition of informality at the fringe to the city. Such ad hoc committees were often established through party channel and personal networks for handling mutual concerns of controlling informal land acquisition and settlement. This, therefore, shows that there has been a weakly institutionalized urban and rural governments’ relation for managing land use planning between urban and rural local governments.
Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (1995)
Revised Constitution of the Oromia National Regional State (2002)
Establishment of Urban Local Governments of Oromia Proclamation no 65 /2003
Proclamation no 116/2006 for amending the Proclamation no 65/2003 for Establishment of Urban Local Governments of Oromia
Urban Planning Proclamation no 574/2008
Urban Land Lease Holding Proclamation no 721/2011
Establishment of Oromia National Regional State Urban Land Development and Management Agency Proclamation no 179/2013
Regulation no 155/2013, A Regulation for the Administration of Urban Land lease in Oromia
Regulation no 182/2016, Revised Regulation for the Administration of Urban Land lease in Oromia
Directive no 3/2016, A Directive on Property Registration and Organization of Land Information and Files, Oromia Urban Development and Management Agency OUDMA and Bureau of Urban Development and Housing (BoUDH)
Directive no 4/2016, A Revised Directive for the Administration of Urban Land Lease in Oromia, OUDMA, BoUDH
Directive no 5/2016, Directive on Regularizing the Urban Land Use without Deeds and Illegal holdings in Oromia, OUDMA, BoUDH
Directive no 6/ 2016, Directive for Urban Land Use Holding and Administration of ONRS, OUDMA, BoUDH
State of Ethiopian Cities Report, Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Construction (MUDHCo) and Ethiopian Civil Service University (ECSU). (2015).
Urban Development Policy (2005)
Urban Land Development and Management Policy (2011)
Adama Revised Master Plan Document (2004)
Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications:
Emana G, ‘The History of Adama’ (MA thesis, Addis Ababa University 1996)
Kefale B, ‘Urban Cadastres for Urban Land Governance: A Socio-Technical Analysis’ (ITC thesis, University of Twente 2015)
Debela K, ‘Federalism and Urban Local Governance: An Explorative Study of Intergovernmental Relations in Cities of Adama and Assosa, Ethiopia’ (PhD thesis, Addis Ababa University 2017)
Mebratu A, ‘Spontaneous Development of Urban Centers, An Analysis of the Transformation Process of Adama and its Primary Commercial Centers’ (PhD thesis, Addis Ababa University 2006)
 Italy occupied Ethiopia from 1936 to 1941.
 Adama Revised Master Plan (2004); Addis Mebratu, ‘Spontaneous Development of Urban Centers, An Analysis of the Transformation Process of Adama and its Primary Commercial Centers’ (PhD thesis, Addis Ababa University 2006) 31.
 Berhanu Kefale, ‘Urban Cadastres for Urban Land Governance: A Socio-Technical Analysis’ (ITC thesis, University of Twente 2015).
 The first was ‘a Proclamation to Provide the Leasehold of Urban Lands’, no 80/1993; the second was Re-Enactment of Urban Land Lease Holding Proclamation no 272/2002; and the recent is Urban Land Lease Holding Proclamation no 721/2011.
 Art 5 of the Urban Planning Proclamation no 574/2008.
 Art 13(3) of the Proclamation no 574/2008 states that ‘chartered cities and urban administrations as well as the concerned regional and federal authorities’ can initiate urban plan.
 Art 16(1) of the Urban Planning Proclamation no 574/2008.
 Art 16(2)of the Urban Planning Proclamation no 574/2008.
 According to Proclamation no 65 /2003, which establishes ULGs in Oromia, first grade cities are those cities with a population above 90,000. The population size of Adama city as of the most recent census of 2007 is 220,212.
 Establishment of Urban Local Governments of Oromia Proclamation no 65 /2003.
 Regulations no 155/2013 and no182/2016.
 Directive no 3/2016 for creating Land holding Property Registration and Organization of the Land Information in Oromia; Directive no 4/2016 for Revising the Directive for Implementing the Regional the Urban Land Lease Regulation in Oromia; Directive no 5/2016 on Regularizing the Urban Land Use without Deeds and Illegal Holdings in Oromia, OUDMA, BoUDH; Directive no 6/2016 for Urban Land Service Delivery in Oromia.
 Establishment of Oromia National Regional State Urban Land Development and Management Agency Proclamation no 179/2013.
 Art 16(1) of the Proclamation no 179/2013.
 Art 10 of Proclamation no 65/2003.
 Art 7 of Proclamation no 116/2006 for amending the of Proclamation no 65/2003 for the Establishment of Urban Local Governments of Oromia.
 Mebratu, ‘Spontaneous Development of Urban Centers’ 31.
 Adama Revised Master Plan (2004).
 State of Ethiopian Cities Report, Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Construction (MUDHCo) in collaboration with Ethiopian Civil Service (2015).
 Art 16(2) of the Urban Planning Proclamation no 574/2008.
 Around 2003 to 2005, there was an attempt to shift the capital of the region from Finfinnee/Addis Ababa to Adama. This unpopular project was, however, abandoned the region’s seat was brought back to Finfinnee following the victory of opposition party over Finfinnee in the 2005 National election.