The Committee for Joint Action (CJA), has described the current spate of demolitions in the country as “a perversion of the rights of the poor to fend for themselves and their families and it is an indictment on state institutions for wilfully refusing to recognise the human rights of the poor to decent livelihood.”
Since the beginning of the year, several demolition exercises have taken place in some suburbs of Kumasi and Accra rendering thousands of residents homeless.
In some cases, market women have lost their stalls, sheds and wares.
These demolitions were undertaken by state agencies or private individuals with support from the security agencies.
Some Members of Parliament (MPs) condemned some of the demolitions but the CJA in a statement has expressed concern over “the loud silence of central government over these callous acts against the poor by state institutions and other individuals.”
The CJA is thus calling on government “to take urgent measures to ensure that hundreds of children who have been affected by the mass evictions have access to education, as required under our Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Article 17).”
Below is the full statement
STATEMENT BY THE CJA ON THE DEMOLITION OF DWELLINGS OF THE URBAN POOR
The Committee for Joint Action (CJA) wishes to express serious concern about the spate of demolition of dwellings and the forcible eviction of residents by local authorities, development corporations and other public institutions throughout the country. Our concern emanates from the fact that these demolitions and evictions are undertaken without any consideration of the rights of the evicted persons to be treated in a humane and respectable manner.
In the last few weeks alone, demolition of residential dwellings have taken place in Adjei Kojo (Tema), Takoradi, Adenta and more lately, Kumasi (by a private landowner). About four weeks ago an ex-magistrate was forcibly evicted from her accommodation in the continuing saga of the grabbing of state lands. Furthermore, there have been demolitions by other state institutions.
It is strange that in Kumasi, a private entity assisted by the police went on the rampage and demolished market stalls without the knowledge and participation of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly.
Some of the affected occupants have resided on those lands for as long as 30 years. Although it is claimed that the evicted persons had no planning permission or did not have rights to those lands, these government institutions virtually acquiesced to the occupancies since they looked on while these lands were being encroached upon. In some cases, the authorities actually legitimised the occupation by collecting taxes for the use of those lands by the so-called encroachers.
While we support policies for effective urban planning, we consider it wrong to allow people to occupy lands for several years only to demolish their properties under inhumane conditions, sometimes involving the use of brute force leading to death and injury.
Ghana already suffers from a huge deficit in the provision of accommodation. Apart from the regimes of Kwame Nkrumah and General Acheampong, no other government of Ghana has made any attempt to build accommodation or developed policies for the building of affordable, low-cost housing for the ordinary people of this country. The few that were built by other governments were sold to the occupants who have also become landlords and ladies.
The national institutions that are currently demolishing dwellings of ordinary people are oblivious to the feelings of marginalisation, alienation, social exclusion and sheer trauma that their victims suffer. It is appalling that when decisions are made by state institutions to demolish the dwellings of ordinary poor people, there is no attempt to secure alternative accommodation for them beforehand. They have no regard to the effects on the livelihoods, the health and the education of the children of the victims.
It is usually the case in Ghana that it is only when state officials identify rich individuals and developers to develop luxury houses for the rich that a decision is made to evict the poor occupants. What these state institutions and officials are doing, is effectively waging a class war against the poor, whose only desire is to secure shelter for themselves in the wake of the state’s refusal or reluctance to provide for them.
It is despicable that instead of providing the urban poor with improved tenure and access to land, those poor people are treated in ways that are neither fair nor equitable. It is an undeniable fact that in our urban areas, both the poor and affluent sections of the society have been guilty of building settlements in unapproved areas.
However, in Accra alone, we hear of many plush houses built in water courses, but which have been allowed to stay in spite of the severe adverse environmental effects that they have on our cities. It is because of this that we find as unacceptable the rush by some metropolitan and local authorities to single out the poor and disperse them without finding suitable locations for them to resettle.
The current spate of demolitions is a perversion of the rights of the poor to fend for themselves and their families. It is an indictment on state institutions for wilfully refusing to recognise the human rights of the poor to decent livelihood.
We note with concern, the loud silence of central government over these callous acts against the poor by state institutions and other individuals. We also condemn the deployment of unnecessary state violence against citizens in the course of carrying out the demolitions.
We call on the government to intervene to stop these wanton acts of callousness. It is not enough to send NADMO to give blankets to evicted people left to the mercy of the weather. We believe that those who ought to be punished are those officials who, knowing that encroachments were taking place, sat idly by until people had invested their hard-earned money in the dwellings.
We also call on the government to take urgent measures to ensure that hundreds of children who have been affected by the mass evictions have access to education, as required under our Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Article 17).
February 24, 2014
By: Efua Idan Osam/citifmonline.com/Ghana