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Good news from Amnesty Ghana – forced evictions stopped

School children take part in Amnesty International's campaign, calling for 'Respect Human Rights in Slums', Ghana, 2010.

On 1 December 2010, vans with megaphones attached to them visited informal settlements next to railway lines in an area of Accra called Agbogbloshie. They ordered people to dismantle their homes and businesses within two weeks with a warning that any structure not dismantled would be demolished.

Agbogbloshie is one of Accra’s largest slums and home to more than 30,000 people. Many of them live along the railway line and were therefore targets of the proposed eviction drive in December. The Ghanaian government recently signed a US$6 billion contract with a Chinese company for the redevelopment of Ghana’s railway system. According to the government, this “revamping” means that “squatters” and “illegal structures” within 50 feet of the railway now need to be removed.

The announcements carried by the vans on 1st December represented a typical forced eviction. The people to be affected were not given adequate notice let alone being consulted about what the government had planned for them and no compensation nor any alternative housing was offered. People were simply expected to dismantle their homes and lives that they had built over several years, in two weeks. Some residents had lived in the area as long as 17 years, and many told Amnesty International Ghana that they simply have no where else to go. The forced eviction would make them homeless and drive them deeper into poverty.

Amnesty International Ghana and our partner organisations have been working with residents of informal settlements, like those next to the railways, to stop the government from forcibly evicting them. But it isn’t easy.

Following the 1st December announcement, we urgently called a press conference in Accra to raise our concerns and put out a call to collect as many signatures as possible to petition the Minister of Transport to halt the eviction and follow due process of law. In a matter of days we were able to collect over 32,000 signatures from Amnesty supporters worldwide. And we had results. On 14 December 2010 no one was evicted from their home in Agbogblosie. In the days that followed too, no one was evicted, and up to today no one has been evicted. In fact, it looks as though, for the time being at least, residents are safe in their homes, although the authorities have yet to make an announcement.

We’re relieved that the authorities chose to do the right thing and did not forcibly evict people from their homes this time. We now call upon them to consult the people of Agbogbloshie, discuss their plans with them and try and work out a solution where the human rights of all are respected.

This story has been posted by Lawrence Amesu, Director of Amnesty Ghana

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