Africa's Human Rights Scandal

This posting is part of our Forced Evictions in Africa Series


This is how a man in Chad’s capital N’Djamena described to us the destruction of his home in February 2008:

I bought this place more than 38 years ago. On 29 February, some policemen and the people from the mayor’s office came and covered the walls in paint. They told us that we had six days to leave. When we asked them why, they said we did not have the right to ask questions because it was a state of emergency. We could not get together and talk about it among ourselves, it was forbidden. The residents took their personal belongings and left. Some of them who have money will not have any difficulty in renting another house, those without money will go to their village or to Cameroon.

Together with him, 52 other people who lived in his compound lost their home. In the whole city, tens of thousands have been made homeless by their own government.

Chadian authorities are not alone in this blatant abuse of human rights and international law. Across Africa – in what can only be described as a human rights scandal – hundreds of thousands of people each year are forcibly evicted. In many cases, this means being left homeless, losing one’s possessions without compensation and being denied access to sources of clean water, food, sanitation, livelihood or education.

Today is World Habitat Day, and many organizations like UN Habitat or Habitat for Humanity are raising awareness on issues of adequate housing and shelter. This year, Amnesty International is joining them by launching today its one year campaign to end forced evictions in Africa. We are specifically calling on the governments of Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe to end the practice of forced evictions and to ensure compensation for victims. While I don’t think that hard numbers can capture the amount of human suffering that is created by forced evictions, here is a brief overview of the facts:

  • Angola: More than 10,000 families in Angola’s capital, Luanda, have been made homeless after being forcibly evicted from their homes since July 2001.
  • Chad: During the past two years, tens of thousands in Chad’s capital N’Djamena have been left homeless after being evicted by force and having had their homes demolished by the government.
  • Equatorial Guinea: About 1,000 families have been forcibly evicted from their homes to make room for roads, up-market housing and hotels and shopping centers since 2003.
  • Kenya: More than half of the capital city Nairobi’s population – two million people – live in informal settlements or slums where they have no security of tenure, putting them at risk of eviction and homelessness. 
  • Nigeria: More than two million people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in different parts of Nigeria since 2000.
  • Zimbabwe: From May to July 2005, government security forces launched Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order), a program of housing and informal business demolition that displaced approximately 700,000 people.

The phenomenon of forced evictions in Africa is a massive scandal that should be stopped immediately. As long as governments can force people from their homes without being held accountable, thousands of people remain at risk of forced evictions and of being stripped of their dignity.

PS: To see shocking satellite images of housing demolitions in Chad and Zimbabwe, check out our new Science for Human Rights website.

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17 thoughts on “Africa's Human Rights Scandal

  1. What possible motive could the Chadian government have for forcibly evicting citizens from their homes? Are they using the now empty homes for something?

  2. What possible motive could the Chadian government have for forcibly evicting citizens from their homes? Are they using the now empty homes for something?

  3. While the Chad situation is terrible I must say that I am a bit bemused considering the lack of condemnation against Israel which has been doing the same thing on a much greater scale for years and doing so on illegally occupied Palestinian land. Where is the rage for justice?

  4. While the Chad situation is terrible I must say that I am a bit bemused considering the lack of condemnation against Israel which has been doing the same thing on a much greater scale for years and doing so on illegally occupied Palestinian land. Where is the rage for justice?

  5. @ Joe: we are concerned that these continuing evictions in the capital are directly related to the current military crisis of Chad’s ongoing civil war, and the resulting political pressure on the government of President Idriss Déby Itno. Targets have included particular neighborhoods which share their ethnicity with leaders of the armed opposition, and homes of government critics, who are often accused by the government of supporting the armed opposition forces whether they do or not. Since the civil war is continuing, pressure on the government is ongoing, and we are afraid that these demolitions will continue as a form of threat against any who might support the opposition. Moreover, many Chadian exiles who are already living in refugee camps in other countries, some of whom are government critics and political opposition members, have since had their homes demolished, and have no homes to which they can return.

    @Ian Crowe: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/tag/palestinian-author
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGNAU2

  6. @ Joe: we are concerned that these continuing evictions in the capital are directly related to the current military crisis of Chad’s ongoing civil war, and the resulting political pressure on the government of President Idriss Déby Itno. Targets have included particular neighborhoods which share their ethnicity with leaders of the armed opposition, and homes of government critics, who are often accused by the government of supporting the armed opposition forces whether they do or not. Since the civil war is continuing, pressure on the government is ongoing, and we are afraid that these demolitions will continue as a form of threat against any who might support the opposition. Moreover, many Chadian exiles who are already living in refugee camps in other countries, some of whom are government critics and political opposition members, have since had their homes demolished, and have no homes to which they can return.

    @Ian Crowe: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/tag/palestinian-author
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGNAU2

  7. @ Joe: we are concerned that these continuing evictions in the capital are directly related to the current military crisis of Chad’s ongoing civil war, and the resulting political pressure on the government of President Idriss Déby Itno. Targets have included particular neighborhoods which share their ethnicity with leaders of the armed opposition, and homes of government critics, who are often accused by the government of supporting the armed opposition forces whether they do or not. Since the civil war is continuing, pressure on the government is ongoing, and we are afraid that these demolitions will continue as a form of threat against any who might support the opposition. Moreover, many Chadian exiles who are already living in refugee camps in other countries, some of whom are government critics and political opposition members, have since had their homes demolished, and have no homes to which they can return.

    @Ian Crowe: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/tag/palestinian-author
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGNAU2

  8. @ Joe: we are concerned that these continuing evictions in the capital are directly related to the current military crisis of Chad’s ongoing civil war, and the resulting political pressure on the government of President Idriss Déby Itno. Targets have included particular neighborhoods which share their ethnicity with leaders of the armed opposition, and homes of government critics, who are often accused by the government of supporting the armed opposition forces whether they do or not. Since the civil war is continuing, pressure on the government is ongoing, and we are afraid that these demolitions will continue as a form of threat against any who might support the opposition. Moreover, many Chadian exiles who are already living in refugee camps in other countries, some of whom are government critics and political opposition members, have since had their homes demolished, and have no homes to which they can return.

    @Ian Crowe:
    http://blog.amnestyusa.org/tag/palestinian-authority/

    http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGNAU200803314354&lang=e#

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  11. Hey, I can’t find your contact information but your web design was messed up on IE and firefox. Anyways, i just suscribd to your rss.

  12. @ Ian Crowe; I just think the core problem and the lack of justice should not lie in the fact of comparison, i.e., in which country the number of those evicted from their homes are more, and in which they are less, the terrifying reality and the absence of justice is that all these harassing actions simply take place and they continue, and they actually happen in front of our vision, our authorities witness this blindly, the whole world does, I do, and this process is still going on, no matter where it is, in which continent. Though I somehow believe in the power of international awareness, (maybe public claims and International Courts restrictions were the reason why, for instance, there were no reports of politically forced disappearances in Equatorial Guinea in 2008, which is quite surprising, however, there were so many other abuses and violations there, that maybe it must have been just a coincidence), it seems that our claims do not find their recipients. I mean what can we do instead of just claiming or writing to them, or sending reports, saying that's "it's so wrong, stop abandoning innocent people from their shelters"?

  13. @ Ian Crowe; I just think the core problem and the lack of justice should not lie in the fact of comparison, i.e., in which country the number of those evicted from their homes are more, and in which they are less, the terrifying reality and the absence of justice is that all these harassing actions simply take place and they continue, and they actually happen in front of our vision, our authorities witness this blindly, the whole world does, I do, and this process is still going on, no matter where it is, in which continent. Though I somehow believe in the power of international awareness, (maybe public claims and International Courts restrictions were the reason why, for instance, there were no reports of politically forced disappearances in Equatorial Guinea in 2008, which is quite surprising, however, there were so many other abuses and violations there, that maybe it must have been just a coincidence), it seems that our claims do not find their recipients. I mean what can we do instead of just claiming or writing to them, or sending reports, saying that’s “it’s so wrong, stop abandoning innocent people from their shelters”?

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