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Angolans Left Homeless or Detained After Forced Evictions

  • Kim Lewis

The international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, said it is concerned over the forced eviction of five thousand residents living in an informal settlement in the Maiombe neighborhood of Luanda, Angola’s capital. The evictions were carried out between February 1st and 3rd by Angolan police. In addition, dozens of people have been arrested and convicted for peacefully protesting the evictions.

According to Human Rights Watch, residents say they were not forewarned about the evictions. They also say authorities failed to provide the evicted people access to alternative shelter, or have the opportunity to secure and safely remove their personal property.

Leslie Lefkow is deputy director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. She said that the residents were squatters who had been living in the neighborhood for some time.

“The government has a right to move squatters who are occupying land that’s owned by others, including states. The problem is with the way these evictions are done. People are not given any warning. In this case the security forces swooped in, in the early morning. Helicopters, military forces, really caused panic in the community, and started bulldozing homes without given any warning to people; without giving them a chance to collect their belongings; organize their move; and unfortunately without giving them any alternative shelter or services,” explained Lefkow.

She emphasized that the way in which this eviction and other evictions have been carried out is extremely problematic from a human rights point of view. Lefkow also pointed out that there are very clear standards for how evictions should be conducted, under international law.

“There’s the need for advanced warning, adequate notice to people, to be able to organize themselves. In some cases compensation for example, if homes are going to be bulldozed, or if possessions are going to be lost. And certainly there’s a need to make sure that people have access to shelter and services,” said Lefkow, who added that, “what has happened in this community is that they have been moved to another area that doesn’t even have running water, so people are in quite a desperate situation.”

Lefkow said a second major problem is that security forces have cracked down very harshly on the community. She explained that many people, at least 40 and possibility up to more than 100, who were peacefully protesting, were arrested and are now detained.

Human Rights Watch also noted that authorities provided a number of vehicles to help transport people to another area, away from the Maiombe neighbor, however when speaking with residents, they told them that they were not given enough time to pack their belongings.