Fears of Mugabe-style slum clearances in Angola over Christmas

By staff writers
December 23, 2006

Angolan authorities could be planning to forcibly evict thousands of squatters living in the capital Luanda in a Mugabe-style slum clearance over the Christmas holiday, UK-based international aid agency Christian Aid has warned.

Thousands of families who fled to Luanda for protection during the 27-year Angolan civil war which ended in 2002, live in squalid, self-constructed slums on waste land.

The capital, home to 4.5 million people, is overflowing, inflating land prices which are among the highest in Africa. Angola's great wealth of resources, mainly oil and diamonds, has led to increased demand for housing, including for foreign workers.

Since 2001, the government has been demolishing poor people’s homes, often to make way for new luxury housing.

In Zimbabwe mass demolitions led to an international outcry last year while Angola's ongoing programme of evictions, which the UN says have been growing more and more violent, has largely gone unnoticed.

According to Christian Aid's Angolan partner organisation, SOS Habitat, which works to defend poor people's housing rights, more than 5,000 people have already lost their homes since 2001. Now there are particular fears for 300 families living in the Cambambas area of the city.

Many families here have already had their homes torn down as many as three times - in September 2004, November 2005 and March 2006.

The Angolan authorities and private security companies used extreme violence, including gunfire, to force families out. The houses were then razed to the ground by bulldozers, often with the family's possessions still inside, including ID cards and school books which has resulted in some children being unable to continue their education.

With no offer to re-house them, no compensation and nowhere to go, Cambambas residents have simply rebuilt makeshift shelters in the ruins of their old homes. But in March 2006 they were forced from the land at gunpoint, and set up a temporary camp nearby. This camp has no sanitation or running water, the majority of its inhabitants are unemployed and conditions are appalling.

Now a radio announcement by the director of the Nova Vida luxury housing project – publicly announcing plans to press ahead with the next stage of the development – has prompted fears that the Cambambas camp itself could be a target over Christmas.

"Previous announcements by the Nova Vida project have been followed soon afterwards by a new wave of evictions and demolitions," said Christian Aid's Angola Programme Manager, Maria do Ros?°rio Advirta.

She continued: "It is outrageous to treat people like dirt that can be swept away just because they are poor. The UN has already condemned these evictions. They are illegal under Angolan and international law."

SOS Habitat director Luis Araujo added: "We're asking the media and human rights groups to keep their eyes open during the Christmas period. We are 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."

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