Tougher laws needed to protect development project evictees


Development projects must ensure that the human rights of those evicted are not trampled, say campaigners, who are urging international donors to do more to insist that those affected receive adequate compensation and protection.

A settlement in Nairobi

Population growth, urbanization and pressure on the land could make such evictions more common in Africa in the future, hence the need for a strictly implemented legal code, they say.

Forced evictions are evictions carried out without legal protections. This means those affected are not genuinely consulted to identify feasible alternatives to eviction nor are they given adequate notice. Communities do not have access to effective remedies such as compensation and are not offered adequate alternative housing.

Marginalized communities living in inadequate conditions in informal settlements and slums are at particular risk of forced eviction, according to Amnesty International (AI) Women suffer disproportionately from forced evictions and often experience a greater risk of violence after they have been evicted.

In a report released on October 7th, Amnesty International (AI) estimates that a quarter of the 12,000 residents of Deep Sea, an informal settlement in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, face eviction without compensation over the construction of a link road. The Kenya Urban Roads Authority is in the process of finding a firm to build the 17km road, which will cost Euros 27m.

It is hoped the European Union (EU) will fund 65% of the project. “Development organizations like the EU which is funding the bypass expected to pass through the Deep Sea settlement in Nairobi where poor people face evictions must ensure that they pressure the government to respect human rights and uphold the basic standards on evictions as is enshrined in international laws,” says Iain Byrne, head of AI’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“Amnesty International is concerned that the EU is not sufficiently engaged with the process for mitigating potential negative impacts of the road construction project and ensuring that the project is implemented in a manner that respects and protects human rights,” says the AI report. “The absence of explicit policy guidelines for ensuring that projects such as Missing Link 15B do not result in human rights violations is a serious shortcoming and further heightens the organization’s concern.

The EU and its member states have a responsibility to ensure that they do not support projects that cause or contribute to human rights violations,” it adds.

In a statement the EU said: “Kenyan authorities will implement a comprehensive and transparent Resettlement Action Plan for people currently living or operating businesses within the project area, and that this will include `fair and legally compliant compensation’”.

Kenya’s Resettlement Action Plan, which documents how those affected will be resettled, only stipulates that transport away from the area where they currently reside will be free. Deep Sea residents appear not to have been consulted.

In Ethiopia, a World Bank inspection panel called for investigations into a World Bank funded villagization project after reports that it had violated the bank’s policies regarding respect for human rights.

The project involved the forced relocation of some 1.5m Ethiopians, including indigenous and other marginalized peoples, and has been marred by violence.

Meanwhile in South Africa, the High Court has given some 1500 families 30 days to vacate a housing cooperative they had established in Norton. In a case that will see thousands of people homeless, the Court ruled that the Norton cooperative had no legal basis to claim occupation of the land they built their homes on.

The land was allocated to the cooperative by the Ministry of Lands and the families had already invested over $200,000 in development costs. They will now lose it all while having to find a new place to live.

Their lawyer, Willshy Nyakudanga, argued that the cooperative was simply a third party who were allocated the property by the Ministry and should not be penalized. But the court saw it differently, SW Radio Africa reported on October 3rd.

This case highlights the chaotic manner in which land deals are being made in Zimbabwe, with top government officials illegally parcelling out land allocated to them and without title deeds, the radio station said..

Former MDC-T Councillor for Tafara, Caspar Takura told SW Radio Africa such illegal deals were widespread and at times civic society steps in to help the victims, but many fear being targeted afterwards.

Residents are now hinging their hopes on a political settlement and appealing for the intervention of President Robert Mugabe and their MP Christopher Mutsvangwa.

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