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General News of Monday, 5 October 2009

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CJA on SODOM &Gommorah


ON THE OCCASION OF WORLD HABITAT DAY: “PLANNING OUR URBAN FUTURE” On the occasion of World Habitat Day, which is being observed throughout the world under the theme “Planning Our Urban Future”, the Committee for Joint Action (CJA) wishes to draw the attention of our government and local authorities, that are planning to forcibly evict and displace poor urban dwellers in overcrowded tenement zones, enclaves, slums and informal settlements, to the human rights of the poor that they have a right to be treated in a humane and respectable manner.

We support the statement of the UN that “better, more equitable urban planning is essential” but that the urban poor need improved tenure and access to land”. It is an undeniable fact that in our urban areas, both the poor and affluent sections of the society have been guilty of building settlements in unapproved areas. In Accra alone, we hear of many plush houses built in water courses, a situation which results in floods whenever it rains. Such residences have been allowed to remain in spite of the severe adverse environmental effects that they have on our cities. It is because of this that we find as unacceptable the rush by some metropolitan and local authorities to single out the poor and disperse them without finding suitable locations for them.

It is regrettable that the decision to disperse the poor is being done with in-built bias with local authority politicians describing the poor in the slums in judgemental language. If our local authorities are allowed to evict the poor without finding them alternative locations and accommodation, the scale of suffering among the victims will be colossal while the security facade behind which local authorities are hiding will be tremendously aggravated.

The agenda for effective urban planning should be guided by feelings of humanity and social rights. We support the UN statement that proper urban planning will work only “where there is good urban governance “where the urban poor are brought into the decisions that affect their lives”. We oppose any decision to forcibly evict the urban poor without consideration of the views and needs of the victims.

On the occasion of World Habitat Day, the pronouncements of the MCE of AMA on Sodom and Gomorrah are extremely unacceptable. The issue of urban slums, to our knowledge, is a result of a plethora of factors including lack of housing and employment opportunities.

Our urban areas need environmentally friendly public transport, housing security, clinics and public services. We would encourage local authorities to factor these in all planning and move away from the “macho” and power games that some are tending to play against the poor.

On this World Habitat Day, we convey our feelings of solidarity to all urban dwellers that face the threat of forcible eviction. Finally, we call on central government to intervene in all cases of threatened forcible evictions and ensure that the human rights of potential victims are respected.

Bernard Mornah On Behalf of the Committee for Joint Action (CJA) 5th October 2009