"[T]he practice of
forced evictions constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in
particular the right to adequate
housing." UN Commission on Human
Across Africa hundreds of
thousands of people each year are forcibly evicted. They are
removed from their homes without notice or compensation and in many
cases are left homeless, stripped of their possessions. Often they
are displaced far from sources of clean water, food, sanitation,
livelihood or education.
Forced evictions violate
international law, yet many governments justify them on the grounds
that they are essential for the development of infrastructure or in
preparation for international events. The tragic outcome in most of
these cases is that the poorest and most vulnerable members of
society are placed at even greater risk.
The UA network has recently
worked on forced eviction cases in Angola and Equatorial Guinea, as
well as taking action in 2005 on the Zimbabwean government's
forcible eviction programme, known as "Operation Murambatsvina"
(meaning drive out the rubbish, and referred to by the police as
In Sudan, approximately
1,800,000 people, driven from their homes by prolonged conflict,
face forced eviction from camps around the capital, Khartoum. They
are often left on barren land in the desert.
In Ghana, hundreds of
residents from the Dudzorme Island (in the Digya National Park)
were forcibly evicted from their homes in 2006. On 8 April, some
evictees were reportedly forced into an overloaded ferry, which
subsequently capsized, leaving around 30 people dead according to
official sources, while many may never be accounted for.
In the last year in Kenya,
tens of thousands of people, including Indigenous peoples, were
violently evicted from forests with no resettlement arrangement.
Many informal settlements in the capital, Nairobi, have been
subject to intermittent demolitions. However, Kenya is adopting
guidelines to prevent and remedy forced evictions.
Forced evictions in Angola’s
capital, Luanda, since 2001 have left thousands of people homeless
when their homes were destroyed. Police and security guards have
shot at, beaten and kicked residents, including pregnant women, and
arrested those who tried to resist the evictions.
In May and November AI called
on the African Commission to adopt a resolution condemning the
practice of forced evictions in Africa. AI also calls on African
governments to acknowledge that adequate housing is a human right,
and to publicly commit to an immediate halt to forced
Oil fuels evictions in
Rufina, a widow with three
children, was forcibly evicted from her home, in the Atepa district
of the capital, Malabo, on 22 July.
She was already at work when
the then Prime Minister and the Minister of Urban Planning arrived
with a demolition team at 8.30am. They were accompanied by
soldiers, who slapped and shoved anyone who complained or resisted
Rufina’s neighbour phoned,
telling her to come home urgently, but by the time she arrived at
midday her house and all her possessions had been destroyed. Her
children, all aged under 10, were driven out of the
Recent forced evictions in
Malabo have left hundreds of families homeless and AI fears that
more will follow. In mid-November, over 360 families in areas of
the capital, Malabo, were given 15 days to leave their homes before
they are demolished between 15 and 30 November (see UA 304/06, AFR
24/012/2006, 14 November 2006). These families have not been given
adequate notice of the eviction. The authorities have not consulted
the affected communities. The communities have not been offered
adequate alternative accommodation or compensation, nor have they
been given the opportunity to contest the evictions in court.
According to reports, demolition work has already begun in one
neighbourhood, known as Obras Públicas, in order to build a new car
park for a casino..
Equatorial Guinea is Africa’s
third main oil producer. The new wealth from recent oil production
has led to pressure on the land for commercial purposes, as well as
luxury housing. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has on several
occasions publicly expressed his wish to eradicate "chabolismo"
(shanty towns) which he says make the city look ugly and may put
off investors. However, many of the houses demolished recently were
solid structures in well-established neighbourhoods where the
majority of the occupants had titles to the land.
No place like home -
Some 600 families in the
Angolan capital, Luanda, were forcibly evicted in March when state
forces swept into their neighbourhoods and destroyed their homes.
Police and private security guards reportedly shot at, beat and
kicked residents, including a pregnant woman and a woman carrying a
baby on her back. A youth was beaten by seven police officers and a
private security guard. A boy of about six was shot in the knee
(see UA 303/05, AFR 12/012/2005, 2 December 2005).
During the 27-year-long civil
war in Angola, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by
the conflict, fleeing to Luanda where they established informal
settlements. But four years after the war ended, demand for land in
Luanda for private and public development has increased. Thousands
of poor families in these settlements are being made to give up
their homes to make way for more powerful interests.
Since September 2004 the
residents of four neighbourhoods in the Luanda municipality of
Kilamba Kiaxi have lived under the constant shadow of repeated
forced evictions and the recurrent demolition of their dwellings.
The land where these neighbourhoods – Cambamba I, Cambamba II,
Banga Wé and 28 de Agosto – are sited was apparently granted to the
Nova Vida (New Life) housing project without prior consultation
with residents or due legal process. This plunged them into a
brutal cycle of forced evictions and other grave human rights
Forced evictions in these
areas started on 28 September 2004 when, without notice, heavily
armed members of the Angolan National Police demolished an
estimated 148 houses in Cambamba I and 192 houses in Banga Wé. A
total of 1,180 people were left without shelter.
The Luanda provincial
government reportedly said that the houses had been randomly and
illegally built on land designated by the provincial government for
private housing and development projects. This is not a valid
reason for evicting people without consultation or due process and
without access to alternative accommodation.
The residents attempted to
pick up the pieces of their devastated lives and re-built shelters
from the rubble. However, in September 2005 armed police returned
and tore down most of the homes in Cambamba I and II, and Banga Wé
once again without an eviction order or assurance of alternative
accommodation or compensation. As before, many refused to leave and
rebuilt basic zinc shelters where their homes had stood. Between
November and December 2005, over 1,000 families were forcibly
evicted and had their homes demolished.
In mid-April, residents from
Cambamba I and II neighbourhoods assembled outside the National
Assembly (The Angolan parliament) to hand a petition against the
forced evictions to the parliamentarians.
On 2 May, the Prime Minister
was called to answer questions regarding forced evictions in an
extraordinary parliamentary session demanded by opposition
parliamentarians. During the session, the PM accused the
non-governmental housing rights organization SOS-Habitat of
inciting people to occupy the land so that they could claim
compensation, after the Kilamba Kiaxi municipal administration had
already consulted and registered 100 residents to receive
compensation. He stated that those occupying the land legally, be
it in terms of statute or customary law would receive compensation.
However, he said, the Luanda Provincial Government had stopped
compensation payments because people who were not eligible were
trying to take advantage of the situation and claim
No justice for victims of
forced evictions in Zimbabwe
In May 2005 the government of
Zimbabwe launched Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Rubbish), a
programme of mass forced evictions and demolitions, which resulted
in an estimated 700,000 people losing their homes, their
livelihoods or both. The victims were among the poorest people in
Zimbabwe and as a direct consequence they were driven deeper into
poverty and exposed to further serious human rights violations (see
UA 148/05, AFR 46/011/2005, 1 June 2005).
Under international law the
government is obliged to ensure access to effective judicial or
other appropriate remedies for victims of human rights violations
committed during Operation Murambatsvina. The government claimed it
would provide housing to those who had lost homes, but a much
publicized "rebuilding programme" – Operation Garikai/ Hlalani
Kuhle (Better Life) – has in reality achieved almost nothing for
During a recent visit to nine
sites, AI found that only a tiny fraction of the victims of
Operation Murambatsvina have benefited from the "rebuilding
By May 2006 only 3,325 houses
had been constructed under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle compared
to 92,460 housing structures destroyed during Operation
Murambatsvina. Construction in many areas now appears to have
stopped. The majority of the houses are uninhabited, and
uninhabitable. Many are unfinished – lacking doors, windows and
even roofs. They do not have access to adequate safe water or
sanitation. Moreover, despite their inadequacy, they are rarely
available for purchase, and even if offered, are largely
unaffordable. The process for allocating the new – albeit
incomplete – houses lacks transparency and the criteria used to
decide who gets a house or plot are unclear. Houses have been
allocated to people who did not lose accommodation during Operation
Kuhle is the only government response to the gross human rights
violations perpetrated under Operation Murambatsvina. No other
assistance or remedy has been offered by the government to the
hundreds of thousands of victims. As such, Zimbabwe is clearly
violating its obligation to provide effective remedy and reparation
to individuals whose human rights have been violated.
The government has also
hindered victims’ attempts to help themselves, frustrated
humanitarian efforts to provide emergency shelter, and subjected
some of the most vulnerable people to repeated forced
AI considers that the
government, by such actions, has compounded its own failure to
provide an effective remedy to the victims.
Until forced evictions are
recognized as serious human rights violations – in Zimbabwe and
elsewhere in Africa – and the victims assisted to rebuild their
lives, forced evictions will continue to push hundreds of thousands
of people deeper into poverty, and lay the foundations for further
human rights violations.