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Forced evictions are a human rights scandal
AI Index: AFR 01/003/2005 (Public)
On World Habitat
Day (3 October) Amnesty International and the Centre on Housing
Rights and Evictions (COHRE) are challenging African governments
to end the practice of forced evictions, describing them as one
of the most widespread and unrecognised human rights violations
on the continent.
violate international law, yet many African governments are justifying
them on the grounds that they are essential for the development
of infrastructure, housing and office buildings, 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 — when evictees are made homeless or are relocated.
hundreds of thousands of people each year are forcibly evicted;
in many cases they are left homeless, lose their possessions or
are relocated far from sources of employment, livelihood or education.
Examples from across the continent are as numerous as they are distressing.
More than 1
million people have been forcibly evicted in Nigeria since
2000. In April 2005 some 3,000 residents were forcibly evicted from
their houses in the Makoko area of Lagos, on the basis of a court
order, issued in 2000, granting ownership of the land to a private
family. Houses, churches, and medical clinics were demolished as
part of the forced evictions and the officials involved kicked and
beat residents, including five young children.
May 2005, the government of Zimbabwe orchestrated a programme
of mass forced evictions and demolition of homes and livelihoods
that has directly affected at least 700,000 people, and indirectly
affected more than 2 million others. Homes, schools and clinics
were bulldozed and torched, and entire communities displaced. The
government has attempted to forcibly relocate people to rural areas
– where food shortages are already causing considerable suffering.
Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) now
face a humanitarian crisis.
approximately 1,800,000 IDPs, driven from their homes by prolonged
conflict and marginalisation, reside in and around the capital Khartoum.
Despite strong objections from the international community, the
government continues to arbitrarily and forcibly relocated IDPs
to locations lacking even the most basic essential services. Criminal
activity and clean up efforts are often cited as justification for
these acts. Most recently, on 17 August 2005, armed police surrounded
the Shikan IDP camp, located in Omdurman, Khartoum, loading over
700 families into lorries - with no consultation - and transporting
them to far flung areas with limited or no essential services.
In early 2005,
amid an international uproar, the government of Kenya threatened
to evict over 3,000 families from the Mau Forest. In May 2005, despite
a court order temporarily suspending the eviction, the government
evicted more than 300 of these families, all of whom claimed to
have title deeds. Starting on 13 June 2005, over 50,000 people were
evicted and their homes and several granaries were destroyed.
evictions in Luanda, Angola, started in 2001, thousands of
families have been forcibly evicted from their homes. Some have
been relocated to areas 40 km away, where they lack access to schools,
health care or employment. In the latest evictions on 28-29 September
2005 in Bairro Cidadania, 200 families were left homeless after
the national police forcibly evicted them from their homes which
were then demolished.
some 30,000 persons continue to face forced eviction from the
Agbogbloshie community in Accra.
But there have
also been positive developments in Africa.
A landmark decision
of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on forced
evictions in Nigeria in October 2001 contributed to international
jurisprudence in relation to the right to adequate housing. The
Commission declared that in carrying out forced evictions, the Nigerian
Government had violated the African Charter on Human and Peoples’
In some countries
communities and other groups are coming together to take action.
Groups in Kenya, for example, scored a major victory in the first
half of 2004, convincing the Government of the National Rainbow
Coalition to shelve its plans to evict hundreds of thousands of
shack dwellers living on land reserved for new roads or too close
to railway tracks, roads and power lines in the informal settlements
of Nairobi. Since then, Nairobi community groups and the national
and international organisations that support them have been formulating
and, in some minor but nonetheless significant cases, have started
implementing alternative eviction-free development plans
for some of the affected areas.
need to build on such positive developments and work for an end
to forced evictions across Africa.
and COHRE are calling on African Governments to:
acknowledge that an adequate standard of living, including adequate
housing, is a human right.
commit to an immediate halt on forced evictions until such time
as appropriate legislation is passed which prohibits forced evictions.
In the meantime, any other eviction should only be carried out
in the most exceptional circumstances and after all feasible alternatives
have been explored. Furthermore, evictions must also be based
on a court order and after genuine consultation with those affected.
Finally, adequate alternative land and housing should be provided
to all affected persons.
- Give instructions
to all relevant authorities that any evictions may only be carried
out in full compliance with international human rights law and
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