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Angola: Mass Evictions Displace Thousands

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Angola, Development, History, Human Rights, Refugees

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011 [1].

A large-scale demolition in Lubango [2], capital of Huíla [3] province, carried out by the government of Angola, has already left in its wake over 5,000 displaced people [4] in the southwest of the country.

During the “Operation combat and demolish slums and anarchic construction in the municipality of Lubango [5]” [pt] not only have the human rights of those directly affected been violated but also journalists who have reported on the case have been persecuted [4]. The vacuum of information in the media [6] [pt] about what goes well beyond a “clean up to construct areas of public interest” has been complemented by citizen media and information from civil society and religious organizations.

Seven families are homeless in the Chimucua area, without basic services (Ocotber 2010). Photo by OMUNGA on the blog Quintas de Debate [7]

Seven families are homeless in the Chimucua area, without basic services (Ocotber 2010). Photo by OMUNGA on the blog Quintas de Debate

Upon reconstructing this puzzle from blogs, the image that persists of the social consequences of the demolitions is tragic. Luiz Araújo summarizes [8] [pt] on the blog Angola Resistente (Resistant Angola):

Desânimo, suicídio, falência dos pequenos negócios de sobrevivência, frustração por não verem cumpridas as promessas de apoio ao realojamento, impossibilidade de prosseguir estudos são efeitos previsíveis do desalojamento e deslocação forçada que têm autores e que devem ser responsabilizados por esses crimes, pois afinal são isso mesmo, CRIMES.

Lack of energy, suicide, bankruptcy of small subsistence businesses, frustration with not seeing promises of rehousing kept, the inability to continue in studies, are all the predictable effects of the eviction and forced displacements, perpetrated by people who should be held responsible for these crimes, as these are in the end exactly this, crimes.

On the blog Folha8, in an article by Kuiba Afonso & Arlindo Santana they provide the historical background [9] [pt] of migration in Lubango:

Por ocasião do reatamento da guerra depois das eleições fracassadas de 1992, muita gente foi obrigada a fugir das suas terras de origem por razões óbvias de sobrevivência. A cidade do Lubango não escapou às consequências dessas efémeras transumâncias humanas e viu-se a braços com a chegada de muita gente vinda das cidades, bualas e outros centros urbanos do sul do país.

On the occasion of the return to war after the failed elections of 1992, many people were forced to flee their places of origin for obvious reasons of survival. The city of Lubango did not escape the consequences of these ephemeral human migrations and saw itself struggling with the arrival of many people from cities, bualas [villages] and other urban centers in the south of the country.

Almost two decades later, Lubango is no longer a shelter for those who have now become homeless Lubanguese [10] [pt]:

Os bulldozers continuaram sob olhar indignado de muitos cidadãos, que a guerra trouxe a cidade do Lubango em busca de segurança, mas transformadas pelas instituições estatais em cenário de violações dos direitos fundamentais do homem, consagrados na Constituição e Declaração Universal. A guerra terminou há oito anos.

The bulldozers continue under the indignant watch of many citizens, who the war brought to the city of Lubango in search of security, but has been transformed by the state institutions into a scene of violation of fundamental human rights, consecrated in the Constitution and the Universal Declaration. The war ended eight years ago.

Luis Samacumbi, on the site Pambazuka news, reported [11] on the beginning of the fear and panic in Lubango:

The demolitions began Saturday March 6th, 2010. The next day raised dustier than other days. It was the dust of homes knocked down the day before.

Three victims did not receive any compensation (October 2010). Photo by OMUNGA on the blog Quintas de Debate. [7]

Three victims did not receive any compensation (October 2010). Photo by OMUNGA on the blog Quintas de Debate.

The result of the March demolitions along the railroad line in Lubando, displacing thousands to Tchavola, 10km from the center of the city, was dramatic. Beyond the “tensions and conflicts between between the local inhabitants and the new tenants” because allegedly fields belonging to the local people were ceded to the new “dropped off” people, Gil Gonçalves of the blog Universidade, wrote about the human losses [6] [pt]:

Várias fontes falam de 7 mortes no total, sendo uma criança que caiu do camião que transportava pessoas desalojadas, uma criança que foi atropelada por carros do Governo que fugiam o apedrejamento de populares no bairro Canguinda, no Domingo, dia 7, um adulto que desmaiou aquando da demolição da sua casa e acabou por morrer hoje no hospital Central. Entretanto, a família do finado já está na Tchavola, lugar onde está a ser depositada a população desalojada, mas não tem lugar para fazer o óbito. Outras pessoas que morreram incluem crianças que teriam ficado numa das casas demolidas .

A number of sources speak of 7 total deaths, a child who fell from a truck transporting the displaced, a child run over by Government cars fleeing stone throwing by people of Canguinda neighborhood, on Sunday the 7th, an adult passed out during the demolition of his house and ended up dying in the Central hospital. Meanwhile, the family of the deceased is in Tchavola, place where the displaced are being dropped, but they do not have a place to hold a funeral. Other people who died included children who had stayed behind in the demolished houses.

According to an article [12] [pt] published on the portal A Pátria (The Nation), the Governor of Huila, Isaac dos Anjos, declared that the families whose residences had been demolished would have to buy land, to which the people replied “it is not easy to construct” with no money or materials. In a comment Ninguém [Nobody] writes:

É louvável que se faça infra-estruturas num país pós guerra,mas desde que seja de uma maneira mais coerente, responsável e razoável para com a população e não esses desalojamentos que fazem como se as pessoas fossem apenas cães rafeiros ou mesmo objectos descartáveis!!!! Seria muito melhor, se o governo fizesse um aviso previo(com dois anos de antecedencia) e antecipadamente [reunisse] condicoes financeiras suficiente para que as pessoas construam suas novas casas para terem onde ficar quando tiverem que abandonar o espaco precisado pelo governo.

It is praiseworthy that infrastructures are built up in a post-war country, but only if in a coherent, responsible and reasonable manner in relation to the people and not these displacements that make out like the people are just stray dogs or even discardable objects!!! It would be much better, if the government gave advanced warning (with two years lead time) and in advance it brought together the financial conditions sufficient for people to build new houses so they would have a place to live when they were to abandon the space needed by the government.

In September [12] [pt], “the wrecking ball returned to spy over the city of Lubango”.

The construction work along a 50m stretch along the side of the river Mukufi, in the center of the city surprised “many families whose houses were not marked for demolition but who saw the wrecking ball destroy their homes without prior warning” in the neighborhoods of Lucrécia, Comercial, 14 de Abril and Favorita.

An unsigned article [10] [pt] shared by the Center for Development and Partnerships of Angola, states that “The path of destruction can only be compared with the damage done in Haiti by the forces of Nature”:

Desolação, lágrimas e frustração a mistura marcam, desde quarta-feira, a vida de perto de duas mil famílias desalojadas pelo governo da província da Huíla, em Angola, seis meses de pois das primeiras três mil vítimas de demolições forçadas, em Março 2010, continuarem em condições precárias na zona da Tchavola.

Displacement, tears and frustration mixed together, have taken a toll since Wednesday, on the lives of nearly 2,000 families displaced by the government of the province of Huíla, in Angola, six months after the first three thousand victims of forced evictions, in March 2010, who continue to live in precarious conditions in the region of Tchavola.

The same article says that “children, the elderly, disabled people, and pregnant women were transferred without any compensation to a place called Tchumucua, where there are no schools, health posts or drinking water” and that “the families affected were given a space of one thousand square feet, where they are forced to restart their lives, through a process of [government] directed self-construction, without any material support from the government”.

Video on the blog ídeo Quintas de Debate: Lubango demolitions of more than one thousand houses - Interview "The Voice of the Victims" to the victims from the area surrounding Mukufi river [13]

Video on the blog ídeo Quintas de Debate: Lubango demolitions of more than one thousand houses – Interview "The Voice of the Victims" to the victims from the area surrounding Mukufi river

According to the website of Voice of America [14] [pt], the consequences of the inhuman conditions offered to the population of Huila, and the frustration caused by the condemnable policies of rehousing in deplorable conditions, is causing weekly deaths of the elderly and of children left behind during the demolitions and has already caused four young people to kill themselves in Tchavola and Tchimucua.

Everything indicates that in 2011 the tragedy will continue with the launch of a new phase of the project.

The blogosphere predicts that another twenty residences [15] [pt] in the Rangel neighborhood “will be left to fate”, a church [16] [pt] constructed in 1948, and the 4 Cine building [9] [pt]. The 4 Cine Residents Association fears they will be left on the street, as the alternative housing presented to them leaves much to be desired:

«É uma mata fora, sem água, sem energia eléctrica nem estrada de acesso. (…) dizem que estão a preparar tendas para preparar o nosso desalojamento, para uma área sem nenhuma condição de habitabilidade».

It's just bushland out there, no water, no electricity and even no access road. (…) they say that they are preparing tents for our displacement, for an area that does not have the least habitable conditions.

The blog Folha8 [9] concludes:

Dizer que todos estes atentados à dignidade se perpetram numa repetição de actos de despejo cometidos “éne” vezes desde que Angola é independente, já se tornou ladainha de pessoas que acreditam num futuro de Angola em que as coisas melhorarão, o que não passa de um simples acto de fé, à maneira de crentes que rezam para que Deus os tire da miséria. Com um pseudo-governo, a agir deste modo, nunca mais!

All of these attacks on dignity perpetrated with repeated evictions, have been committed “umpteem” times since Angola's independence, to the point that it has already become like prayer for people believe in a future of Angola in which things will get better. Nothing more than a simple act of faith, just like believers pray for God to pull them out of misery. With a pseudo-government, acting this way, it will never happen!
Dont tear down my house, Conference about the demolitions and forced evictions. Photo by OMUNGA, on the blog Quintas de Debate [17]

Dont tear down my house, Conference about the demolitions and forced evictions. Photo by OMUNGA, on the blog Quintas de Debate

Alerting others to the scale of the demolitions, Jacques Arlindo dos Santos, of the Association Chá de Caxinde [18], launched a petition [19] [pt]. He directs himself to the President of the Parliament, appealing for the respect of “the sacred rights of citizens” in the face of “archaic push to demolish houses in various cities of the country”.

OMUNGA, an NGO (meaning “Union” in Umbundo language), has appealed [20] [pt] since 2010 for the state of Angola to take measures in a way “which respects the Constitution of Angola and other human rights treaties”. At the time of the March demolitions it requested that  Parliament urgently create a commission [to investigate and evaluate] the breadth of the process of demolitions under way” and called on  President José Eduardo dos Santos [21] to immediately cease activity as long as the “enforcement of all of the necessary preconditions  for actions of this type” are not put in place.

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011 [1].