Slumming it in Angola

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This posting is part of our Forced Evictions in Africa Series

A woman sits in the ruins of houses destroyed in the Cambamba neighbourhoods of Luanda, Angola to make room for a luxury housing complex.

Luanda, Angola hosted World Habitat Day last year. UN Habitat’s Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka called upon President dos Santos to allocate 10% of Angola’s oil income to upgrading vital social services such as housing, plumbing, clean water and electricity and praised Angola’s stated commitment toward a slum revitalization program. Approximately 85% of Angolans live in slum conditions surrounding major cities.

In response, President dos Santos stated his government was waging “a sustained war against chaotic urbanization.” I would agree with that analysis. It certainly looks like a battleground when armed forces enter a neighborhood, raze houses, evict families and destroy their homes and belongings. Since 2001, Amnesty International has documented the forcible eviction of more than 10,000 persons from slum dwellings in Angola, often accompanied by violence including police indiscriminately firing their weapons and beating women and children. And the reason why these evictions have occurred? To facilitate urban development projects and the construction of luxury housing.

In April 2009, Angola announced the creation of a special fund to build one million houses over the next four years. That’s great. But three months later in July, three thousand families were forcibly evicted from the Luanda neighborhoods of Iraque and Bagdad, utterly demolishing homes and possessions.

“Armed police, soldiers and presidential guards arrived in both neighbourhoods at 3am on 20 July and ordered people out of their homes before bulldozers began to demolish the houses. The residents stood and watched as their homes were being demolished. Some of those who tried to stop the demolitions were beaten.”

Well, that’s a little awkward Mr. dos Santos. You say you are following up on your campaign commitment to provide housing because you are concerned about social unrest and then you have your government thugs throw families into the street in the middle of the night in winter, beating them up when they try to salvage a portion of their possessions and dignity. Seems like you might want to consider building those houses at a faster pace than the ones you are tearing down.

Help Human Rights Live in Angola. Stand Up Against Forced Evictions in Africa. Take action now.

Where Do Human Rights Live in Zimbabwe?

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This posting is part of our Forced Evictions in Africa Series.

A seven-year-old boy cries after the destruction of his family home at Porta Farm, Harare, Zimbabwe, June 2005. © Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Seven hundred thousand people. That is the number of people forcibly evicted from their homes and business over a three month period in 2005. This is the equivalent of bulldozing the entire city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Seem incomprehensible? Seem reprehensible? Think something should be done about it?  We think so to.

Between May and July 2005, the government of Zimbabwe orchestrated Operation Murambatsvina; a slum clearance program touted by officials as necessary to decrease rising urban populations by requiring people to return to rural areas. In reality, the purpose was to disperse members of political opposition parties and disrupt their ability to organize. Houses and informal businesses were bulldozed, leaving people with nowhere to live and no way to earn a living.

Currently, thousands of informal traders continue to face forcible eviction as the government targets vendor stalls in Harare for demolition. Unemployment in Zimbabwe remains near 90%. These market stalls provide goods at a price affordable by the populace and generate necessary income for those unable to work in the formal sector. The mayor of Harare defended these actions by claiming the stalls were a health hazard and violated city regulations.

As we continue a week commemorating World Habitat Day, Amnesty International calls upon the government of Zimbabwe to cease the harassment of informal traders, discontinue the egregious practice of forcible evictions which violate Zimbabwe’s obligations under the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and provide restitution to those it has previously displaced. Join Amnesty International in its effort to assure that Human Rights Live Here.