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Meskel Square undone

Addis Fortune

A blue corrugated sheet metal was placed about a week ago in front of an area that is considered historically, culturally and religiously significant – Mesqel Square. The reason for this would only become clear weeks later. In the meantime, excavators dug it up until it no longer resembled its old self. Even the famous crescent-shaped steps, scene to religious festivities, morning joggers and, once, giant portraits of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin, were not spared.

A double-decker parking lot is expected to accommodate over 1,500 vehicles at once. Six LED screens, close to 30 shops and around 80 toilet stalls are also planned to be constructed as well. Having been contracted to the Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC) for 2.5 billion Br, the Mesqel Square facelift and parking lot construction, which is

The construction has caused controversy for several reasons, including the awarding of the project to the Chinese company without a bidding process.  There is a justifiable reason for this, according to the Addis Abeba Construction Bureau. Since the Chinese construction company was willing to be paid entirely in local currency, the City Administration considered the offer to be too favourable to risk passing up.

Most of the controversy though has had to do with the lack of public consultation on a project affecting one of the city’s most recognisable places. The complaint was also raised by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which the City Administration hastened to placate.

Deputy Mayor Takele Uma met with delegates from the Church at Meskel Square to explain the overall aim and details of the project and assure them that its image will not be altered significantly. City officials pledge that construction would be completed in time for the annual Mesqel festivities, which are held in late September.

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