Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Africa: Tougher laws needed to protect development project evictees

Photo: Tommy Trenchard/IRIN. Most slum dwellers lack titles to the land they live on and, are often faced with the risk of forced evictions

Source: IRIN

Development projects such as new roads, or dams to boost electricity production, 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.

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.

In a report released today, 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.

“Our families have lived in Deep Sea for years, but recently, we just saw government surveyors come here and they told us a road will pass through our residences. We are living in fear because we haven’t been consulted, and we don’t know when they will come to do the evictions,” Diana Angaya, who has lived in Deep Sea for the past 25 years, told IRIN.

“We are not against the road, but we are asking that those who are affected are provided with alternative land to settle.”

The Kenya Urban Roads Authority is in the process of finding a firm to build the 17km road, which will cost 27 million euros. It is hoped the European Union (EU) will fund 65 percent of the project.

In a separate incident in Nairobi in May some 400 families were evicted from the Carton City informal settlement near Wilson Airport, after a private educational institution laid claim to the land on which they were living. The eviction was carried out by hired youths under the supervision of the police.

“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,” Iain Byrne, head of AI’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, told IRIN.

“They have the leverage to ensure governments which they fund, including that of Kenya, uphold human rights including when doing evictions for development projects.”

“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,” said 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 added.

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 1.5 million Ethiopians, including indigenous and other marginalized peoples, and has been marred by violence.

Corruption, weak laws

Experts like Aggrey Nyange, an urban planning lecturer at the University of Nairobi, told IRIN that while it is incumbent upon donors and/or governments to protect the poor against forced evictions, there is a need for countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia to enact laws that protect evictees.

“International development organizations could be reluctant to call for respect for rights in evictions because they might be expected to go out of their way to pay the compensation money,” said Nyange, adding that even in cases where there are agreements between the funding organization and the recipient government on the need to follow due process, many African governments might not be honest in their dealings.

“At times a donor agency will say, you have to consult the affected community, but governments will simply send officials in the area to bulldoze the poor and claim full consultations happened. The only sure way is to enact laws to outlaw forced evictions,” he said.

According to Justus Nyangaya, head of AI in Kenya, while certain evictions are legally justified, forced evictions required legal frameworks setting out how they should be carried out.

“Some of those evictions happen following a court order and such orders have to be obeyed, but the police must do them according to the law. Such a law guiding them must be in place and put into consideration internationally accepted standards of carrying out evictions,” Nyangaya, said.

In past evictions in Kenya only those with title deeds to the land they lived on received any government compensation.