Bulldozers have begun demolishing homes built in the shantytowns of Abidjan, the commercial capital of the Ivory Coast, leaving thousands without shelter as authorities carry out plans to build a buffer zone around an international airport.
This comes as large numbers of Ivorians are leaving remote farms and villages for a better life.
The demolitions even destroyed the neighborhood mosque, charged Imam Issa Sankoudouma.
“We said at least leave the mosque, smash the homes, but they smashed everything,” he said. “So the mosque has gone, we are here, we got what we could from our homes.”
Residents of Adjouffou, with some 200,000 residents, said they were notified just days before the evictions. Many did not know where to go next.
“We’re leaving, but where are we going?” high school student Epiphanie Djossou asked a reporter. “I had to leave my stuff with family members and I don’t know how to get it back so I can go to school.”
Habitat for Humanity estimates the housing deficit to be 20,000 houses per year. Urbanization is adding to the problem, with almost half of the country’s growing population now living in towns or cities. In rural areas, the need is also immense.
Communications Minister Sidy Toure defended the evictions, saying the squatters posed air safety and security problems.
Evictions are frequently the government’s tool of choice to eliminate slums in areas slated for development. Last November, bulldozers demolished part of Boribana, one of the biggest slums in Abidjan city with a population of nearly 60,000 in order to build a bridge. A small compensation was paid to the displaced. It is not clear where their relocation took place.
Meanwhile, President Alassane Ouattara is hinting he might run for a third term in elections later this year despite a pledge to step down as required. Addressing thousands of supporters at a rally, Ouattara said: “I want everyone in my generation to step aside.”
But “if they decide to be a candidate, then I will be a candidate,” he said, referring to Laurent Gbagbo, 74, and 85-year-old former president and ally, Henri Konan Bedie.
SOURCE: Global Information Network