Drive out of Addis Ababa’s new central business district, with its five-star hotels, banks and gleaming office blocks. Head south, along the traffic-choked avenues lined with new apartment blocks, cafes, cheap hotels and, in the neighbourhood where the European Union has its offices, several excellent restaurants. Go past a vast new church, the cement skeletons of several dozen unfinished housing developments, under a new highway and swing left round the vast construction site from which the new terminal for the Ethiopian capital’s main international airport is rising.Here, the tarmac gives way to cobbles and grit and the city loosens its hold. Goats crop a parched field beside corrugated iron and breezeblock sheds, home to a shifting population of labourers and their families. Children in spotless uniforms neatly avoid fetid open drains as they walk home from school. Long-horned cattle wander. Beyond the airport, the road splits into a series of gravel tracks that quickly become dusty paths across fields, which take you to the village of Weregenu.There is nothing remotely exceptional about Weregenu. It is just another cluster of flimsy homes like many others around, and within, Addis Ababa. Nor is there much exceptional about the series of demolitions here over recent months. As the Ethiopian capital expands, it needs housing, rubbish dumps, space for factories. All land is theoretically owned by the government, merely leased by tenants, and when the government says go, you have to go. So Weregenu’s thousand or so inhabitants know they are living on borrowed time. All have been warned that the bulldozers will come back.
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