Fears for the safety of displaced people in Angola

By staff writers
December 19, 2006

The aid organization SOS Habitat has raised the alarm over fears that the Angolan authorities may swoop on poor families over the Christmas period, forcing them onto the streets.

According to SOS Habitat, hundreds of poor families living in makeshift shelters in the Angolan capital Luanda are at risk.

These families, from the Cambambas, Banga We and 28 de Agosto neighbourhoods, were forcibly evicted earlier this year to make space for a new luxury housing development. Since then many have been staying in a tumbledown camp within a stone’s throw of their former homes.

Now a radio announcement by the director of the nearby housing project has led to concerns that the camp itself is now a target.

The director of the ‘Nova Vida’ project this week publicly announced plans to press ahead with the next stage of the development, which is building smart new apartments worth up to 500,000 US dollars.

“We’re very concerned because previous announcements by the Nova Vida project have been followed soon afterwards by a new wave of evictions and demolitions,” explains UK partner Christian Aid’s Angola programme manager, Maria do Rosario Advirta.

“We’re asking the media and human rights groups to keep their eyes open during the Christmas period,” says SOS Habitat director Luis Araujo.

He continued: “We’re worried that the authorities may try to move in over the festive period when they think no-one is looking. We have to make sure they know that people will be watching.”

The Angolan authorities and private security companies used extreme violence, including gunfire, to force poor families from their homes in previous evictions. The houses were then razed to the ground by bulldozers, often with the family’s possessions still inside.

During Angola’s 27-year civil war, hundreds of thousands fled to Luanda for safety, and built shelters wherever they could. Many of these families have now lived in the city for more than 20 years.

Now their homes are under threat as the government and private businesses search for new land on which to build, in a city which is vastly overcrowded. With 4.5 million inhabitants, Luanda’s population is now almost ten times what it was before the war.

There have been hundreds of forced evictions and illegal demolitions as poor families’ homes are bulldozed to make way for newer, smarter developments. Many families are given no warning – the first they know about what’s happening is when the bulldozers arrive.

"These people are being literally brushed away, out of sight, as if they were human rubbish instead of Angolan citizens who just happen to be poor," says Araujo.

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