Church agency opposes Angolan demolition crackdown
While international attention has been directed towards the demolition of poor people's homes and businesses in Zimbabwe, the slum clearance tactic is also being used elsewhere - leading to denunciations from church and development groups.
International agency Christian Aid is among those to protest against the Angolan government's recent actions in harassing housing campaigners.
On 24 November 2005 Luis Araujo, the director of SOS Habitat, and twelve others were arrested and beaten while trying to prevent the demolition of more than 300 homes in the suburbs of the Angolan capital Luanda.
Police arrived at 07:00 and began tearing down homes in Cambamba 1 and 2 neighbourhoods. More than three hundred families have been made homeless.
Eyewitnesses report that those arrested had been beaten and several were bleeding from their injuries. Despite heavy rain, the group was held in a building with no roof. They were freed without charge after being held for 24 hours.
'The police destroyed houses in two neighbourhoods yesterday. It's the rainy season here, and many people had to spend the night outside in the rain,' explained Rafael Morais, an SOS Habitat activist.
He added: 'Tearing down people's homes is a clear violation of their human rights. Luis was arrested and beaten for trying to stop it happening.'
This is not the first time that Araujo and his organization SOS Habitat, which defends poor people's housing rights, have tried to protect Cambamba residents.
Armed police first arrived in Cambamba 1 in September 2004. They destroyed homes in the area with no advance warning and ordered the families who lived there to leave by the next day.
But many families refused to go, and rebuilt simple metal shelters in the ruins of their former homes. They had hoped that, with SOS Habitat's protection, the police would not return to force them out. Following the most recent demolitions, hundreds of families are once again without shelter.
'These demolitions contravene basic human rights and Angolan law,' says Ollie Sykes, Christian Aid's programme manager for Angola.
She added: 'SOS Habitat activists were beaten and arrested for defending some of the poorest citizens of Luanda and Angola from having their homes demolished without warning.'
The houses were apparently torn down to make way for new buildings, but Ollie Sykes says Angola's reconstruction and development must also reflect the needs of the poor.
Another Christian Aid partner in Angola, AJPD, has issued a statement condemning the demolitions and arrests. It also criticizes the government's lack of response to the human rights violations by the police and municipal government.
[Also on Eklesia: Church leaders condemn Mugabe clampdown; UK faces protests over Zimbabwe asylum deportations; South African churches support Zimbabwe homeless; Zimbabwe is facing mass hunger, says archbishop; Kenyan demolition of homeless city angers church; Mugabe attacks churches as UN condemns clearances]