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Africa: Forced Evictions

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Oct 6, 2006 (061006)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Forced evictions are one of the most widespread and unrecognised human rights violations in Africa," - Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme. According to research by Amnesty International and the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), more than three million Africans have been forcibly evicted from their homes since 2000.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains press releases on the report, from COHRE and from Amnesty International, as well as an appeal earlier this year to African housing ministers meeting in Nairobi.

For additional background on this issue, and earlier case studies of this issue in Kenya, South Africa, West Africa, and Zimbabwe, see the COHRE website ( For additional reports on evictions in Zimbabwe, see earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins at On Angola, see the Amnesty International report from 2003, at

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Africa: Forced evictions reach crisis levels

4 October 2006

Research conducted by Amnesty International and the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) reveals that the practice of forced evictions has reached epidemic proportions in Africa, with more than three million Africans forcibly evicted from their homes since 2000. The two organizations today called on African governments to halt forced evictions and abide by their international human rights obligations.

"The figures are truly staggering and clearly indicate that forced evictions are one of the most widespread and unrecognised human rights violations in Africa," said Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme.

Although the practice of forced eviction has been recognised as a gross violation of human rights under international law and, in particular, by the African Commission, governments throughout Africa continue to forcibly evict hundreds of thousands of people from their homes each year. Many of these evictions are often accompanied by further rights violations, including the use of excessive force by those carrying out the evictions, such as arbitrary arrests, beatings, rape, torture and even killings.

Jean du Plessis, Executive Director (Acting Interim) of COHRE, said, "Many African governments justify forced evictions on the grounds that they are essential for 'development' and therefore, in the interests of the general public good. However, development that leads to forced evictions is fundamentally counterproductive because forced evictions create homelessness, destroy property and productive assets, and obstruct access to potable water, sanitation, healthcare, livelihood opportunities and education. By carrying out forced evictions, African governments are pushing people into poverty -- not pulling them out of it."

Kolawole Olaniyan of Amnesty International said, "By failing to bring an end to the practice of forced evictions, African leaders are violating their obligations to protect human rights and undermining their expressed commitments to development imperatives such as the Millennium Development Goals and NEPAD."

Examples of forced evictions from across the continent are as numerous as they are distressing. Some recent examples include:

An estimated two million people have been forcibly evicted from their homes and many thousands have been made homeless since 2000 in Nigeria.

More than 12,000 people were forcibly evicted from Dar Assalaam camp in Sudan in August 2006. The majority of the evictees had been previously displaced through conflict in Sudan and settled in camps in or around the capital Khartoum. Authorities have forcibly evicted thousands of people from these camps, resettling them in desert areas without access to clean water, food and other essentials. Currently, there are over four million internally displaced persons in Sudan.

The government of Zimbabwe staggered the international community in 2005 when, in a military style operation, it forced an estimated 700,000 people from their homes, their businesses or both. To date, the government has not taken any effective action to address the plight of those displaced.

In Luanda, the capital of Angola, at least 6,000 families have been forcibly evicted and had their homes demolished since 2001. Many of these families, who have received no compensation, had their property stolen by those carrying out the forced evictions and remain homeless.

In Kenya approximately 70,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in forest areas since 2005, while at least 20,000 people have been forcibly evicted from neighbourhoods in or around Nairobi since 2000.

In Ghana over 7,000 people were made homeless when they were forcibly evicted by the Game and Wildlife Division from the Digya National Park in March and April 2006. The eviction was halted in April only after a boat carrying over 150 evictees capsized, causing the death of at least 10 people. Those remaining in the park still live under threat of forced eviction. Some 800 people also had their homes destroyed in Legion Village, Accra in May 2006, while approximately 30,000 people in the Agbogbloshie community of Accra have been threatened with forcible eviction since 2002.

At least 300 families in Equatorial Guinea have been forcibly evicted from their homes since 2004, when the government embarked on a programme of urban regeneration in Malabo and Bata. These families had title to their property. Thousands more remain at risk.

Africa: Forced evictions reach crisis levels

Amnesty International Press Release

AI Index: AFR 01/009/2006 (Public)

News Service No: 255

4 October 2006

For interviews or additional information please contact: Deanna Fowler Eliane Drakopoulos
COHRE Amnesty International
Tel: +41 22 734 1028 Tel: +44 20 7413 5564
Email: Email:

[press release same as above]


The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Commission), in a landmark decision on forced evictions in Nigeria in October 2001, found that the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights guaranteed the right to adequate housing, including the prohibition on forced eviction (see SERAC and CESR v. Nigeria, ACHRP 2002). In this case, the African Commission incorporated the substance and jurisprudence of international human rights law on the prohibition of forced eviction into the implied right to adequate housing in the African Charter. However, this important decision has not yet been reflected in the jurisprudence throughout the continent nor in governments' practices.

Under international human rights law, including the African Charter, which has been ratified by member states of the African Union, evictions can only be considered as lawful if they are deemed necessary in the most "exceptional circumstances". If such "exceptional circumstances" exist, then certain procedural protections and due process requirements have to be adhered to, including that States must ensure, prior to any planned evictions, and particularly those involving large groups, that all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with affected persons. Furthermore, and in any event, eviction shall not result in rendering individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Governments are legally obligated to ensure that adequate alternative housing and compensation for all losses is made available to affected persons.

The Millennium Development Goals, as set out in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, were adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 18 September 2000. Goal 7, Target 11 calls for governments to "[h]ave achieved by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers".

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is a vision and strategic framework for Africa's development. Its stated primary objectives include, among others: "to eradicate poverty" and "to place African countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development". One of its stated principles is: "Ensuring that all Partnerships with NEPAD are linked to the Millennium Development Goals and other agreed development goals and targets".

A Joint Appeal to African Ministers on urban housing

Amnesty International

AI Index: AFR 32/002/2006

3 April 2006

The African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD) meets from 3-4 April 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss strategies for the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals relating to slums. In light of the ongoing and growing crisis in urban housing in Africa, Amnesty International, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and Hakijamii Trust are calling on the ministers to adopt concrete and human rights-based strategies that ensure the poorest members of African cities can live in human dignity.

In Africa, the process of urbanisation is faster than in any other region of the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 72 percent of the urban population live in slums while in North Africa the figure is 28 percent. In addition to appalling health conditions and lack of access to basic services such as water and sanitation, those living in slums and informal settlements are regularly exposed to forced evictions. Forced evictions - that is those carried out without sufficient justification, consultation on alternatives to eviction, due process of law, and assurance of adequate alternative accommodation - have been recognised by the UN Commission on Human Rights to be a gross violation of a range of human rights, including the right to adequate housing.

On World Habitat Day on 3 October 2005, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that the 'build-up of slums and informal settlements occurs in large part because of policies and exclusionary practices that deny public services and basic facilities -- including water, sanitation, health and education -- to informal settlements' and that 'evictions and demolitions are not the answer to the challenges of rapid urbanization. We must have pro-poor, participatory urban development - with respect for human rights and in accordance with international law.' These challenges and strategies were recognised by AMCHUD in its 2005 Durban Declaration and Enhanced Framework of Implementation and Related Outputs.

The ministerial meeting in Nairobi provides a good opportunity for African states to pronounce themselves opposed to forced evictions, to develop strategies to tackle housing problems in a manner which respects human rights and to learn best practices from each other. For example, Kenya is adopting guidelines to prevent and remedy forced evictions; Botswana has developed a system of certificates of occupancy to ensure secure tenure for residents of informal settlements; South Africa has developed the Prevention of Illegal Evictions Act, which provides for a rights-based approach to evictions and has enabled activists to challenge forced evictions in the courts.

At the same time, across Africa hundreds of thousands of people each year are forcibly evicted, in many cases being left homeless, losing their possessions without compensation and/or being forcibly displaced far from sources of employment, livelihood or education, all in violation of international law, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Forced evictions in Angola since 2003 have led to displacement of over 5000 households and the further displacement of hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and have been accompanied by excessive use of force and grave violations of human rights. Since 2000, forced evictions in Nigeria have left over 2 million people destitute and resulted in serious violations of many other human rights, including rights to health, education and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In Zimbabwe, a government campaign of mass forced evictions in urban areas during 2005 destroyed communities countrywide and pushed the country deeper into humanitarian crisis. In the last year in Kenya, tens of thousands of dwellers, including indigenous peoples, were violently evicted from forests without resettlement while many informal settlements in Nairobi have been subject to intermittent demolitions. In Sudan, mass forced evictions, including of IDPs, in and around Khartoum are of concern: in August 2005, residents of Shikan camp were forcibly displaced to Fateh III, which lacked even minimum levels of essential services. Further relocations, many likely to involve forced evictions, are scheduled to take place in the near future, as the government has announced the re-planning of all 'illegal' settlements.

Drawing on the positive examples and lessons learned across Africa, Amnesty International, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and Hakijamii Trust are looking to the Ministers gathered in Nairobi with the support of UN-Habitat to commit to a positive human rights-based approach to urban housing that implements the Durban Declaration and Enhanced Framework, including by making concrete commitments to:

  1. Develop a human rights based framework for upgrading slums and informal settlements which secures opportunities for genuine community participation and forms part of a plan to achieve progressively the full realisation of the right to adequate housing for all.
  2. Develop guidelines and laws to prevent and remedy forced evictions and declare a moratorium on all evictions from slums and informal settlements until such time as human rights based housing legislation and policies are adopted.
  3. Develop innovative communal and individual land tenure schemes that guarantee a degree of security of tenure to all immediately and establish and implement plans to provide affordable serviced land for low-income housing development.
  4. Prioritise the poor and other vulnerable groups, including those living in informal settlements, in the allocation of financial, technical and other resources for the progressive fulfilment of housing and related rights, including the provision of sufficient safe and affordable water, sanitation and other essential services.
  5. Allow rapid and unimpeded access to victims of forced evictions by local and international humanitarian organisations where the state is unable or unwilling to provide humanitarian assistance.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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