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.

Nairobi River Clean-up Could Leave More than 100,000 Kenyans Homeless

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This posting is part of our Forced Evictions in Africa Series

A boy stands in a polluted water course that runs through Soweto East, one of the many villages in Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya. March 2009 © 2009

A boy stands in a polluted water course that runs through Soweto East, one of the many villages in Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya. March 2009 © AI

Nairobi is the world headquarters for both the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the UN Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat), which are responsible for promoting green development, sustainable cities and adequate shelter for all. Yet these agencies’ presence hasn’t prevented the widespread pollution of the Nairobi River Basin or the growth of Kibera into the 2nd largest slum in Africa. More than one million people live in Kibera, crowded onto just 550 acres of land, most living in tin shacks without electricity or access to basic services like toilets and clean water.

The Kenyan government, UN Habitat and UNEP have developed ambitious plans to clean up the polluted Nairobi River Basin and restore its damaged ecosystem in order to improve the quality of life for city residents.  There’s only one problem: about 127,000 people have settled there. Kibera residents live in uncertainty – they hear rumors that they may be forced out of their homes near the river any day, but they don’t know when it will happen.

Benson has lived near the banks of the Nairobi River in Kibera for 15 years. He runs a small kiosk and his 7 kids attend a neighborhood school.  If the government evicts him, he will lose not only his home and all his possessions, but also his business and his children will no longer have access to education.

Benson’s fears are not unwarranted.  In recent years, more than 20,000 Nairobi residents have been forcibly evicted from their homes, often with little advance notice.  Their homes were demolished and they were left homeless, without compensation or relocation to other neighborhoods.  In July 2009, the Kenyan government evicted more than 3,000 people living Githogoro Village and destroyed their homes. Left without shelter or assistance, many were forced to sleep out in the open by the ruins.

Why doesn’t the Kenyan government come to Kibera to explain the Nairobi River Basin project to its residents, inform them of the timeline for relocation, and help them move to alternative homes in other, less environmentally sensitive areas of the city?  Isn’t that better than forcing them out and leaving them homeless without livelihoods?

Tell President Kibaki that the people of Kibera deserve dignity. The government should adopt eviction guidelines that respect human rights laws, hold genuine consultations with affected communities, identify alternatives to evictions and develop a comprehensive relocation and compensation plan.

By Ann Corbett, AIUSA Kenya Country Specialist