Home Demolitions Displace Thousands
|What is affected||
|Type of violation||
|Date||01 February 2008|
|Region||AFF [ Africa francophone ]|
|- Number of homes|
|- Total value €|
Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)
CHAD: Thousands displaced in home demolitions |
N`DJAMENA, 29 January 2009 (IRIN) - An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people in the Chad capital N’djamena have been forced out of their homes in a government programme to demolish buildings authorities say are on state property.
The demolitions, which began in 2008, are ongoing. “One sees entire neighbourhoods, all the homes marked with a white cross for demolition,” said Merlin Totinon Nguébétan of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) in Chad. “As we speak bulldozers are tearing down homes.”
Residents who have lost their homes told IRIN they have received no compensation from the government or help to find alternative accommodation.
“We have not been offered any money for the house,” said Ousmane Atief, who said his home in Mursal district was demolished on 23 January, about a month and a half after authorities marked the building. Some families’ homes were torn down just weeks after being marked.
“We tried to work out the value based on the number of rooms, but no one has come here to ask us anything about that,” Atief said. As with most families who have been forced out, Atief and his 18 family members picked through the rubble to salvage some of their belongings then went to live with relatives.
Most of the displaced are living with family members, with some staying outdoors, N’djamena residents said. Others are returning to their villages of origin.
The Interior Minister, Ahmat Bashir, says the government is simply claiming land that belongs to the state.
Some people forced out showed IRIN what appeared to be ownership papers, and they have appealed to magistrates to intervene on their behalf. But many of the displaced had simply settled on the land over time, and held no land titles.
One of the problems is that the government did not control those settlements at the time, said UN-HABITAT’s Nguébétan. “And only now they are kicking people off.”
He said even if a municipality has the right to eliminate squatters and develop on state land, the authorities must accompany their actions with measures to avoid homelessness and disorder.
Nguébétan, who is an urban architect, said the Chadian government has drawn up an urban development programme with the support of UN-HABITAT and the UN Development Programme, but the urban planning laws are not yet promulgated.
“Without those [laws], it is difficult to control the situation.”
Magistrates told IRIN they have tried to block demolitions where people say they have the required papers, but local authorities have ignored calls to suspend in order to review the cases. The magistrates union is threatening to strike over the matter.
“Our justice system will have no credibility if this continues,” said Mahamat Tadjadine, secretary general of the Chad Magistrates Union. “The legal process is being ignored. What will that mean for the image of Chad – particularly for investors?”
Despite repeated attempts by IRIN, the mayor of N’djamena was unavailable for comment on allegations that the demolitions are illegal.
Interior Minister Bashir said the authorities are only taking back state-owned land which should not have been built upon. The government says the land is now needed for development projects. A maternity hospital is being built on land the government cleared last year.
“This is a normal part of the work of the town hall,” Bashir told IRIN. “If people are living on state property they must get off. It does not belong to them and they will not be compensated.”
Some Chadians speculate that the demolitions, which began shortly after a coup attempt in early 2008, are aimed at driving rebels from the capital. Chad’s government for years has fought off attacks by rebel groups.
“Some people believe the real reason is much more about trying to uncover the lodgings of rebels who still seem to be in the city,” hu