Friday, September 11, 2009

oh, those dirty squatters....

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly now argues that the 50,000 people living in Sodom and Gomorrah, as the Ghanaian capital's most notorious squatter community is called, are stalling an environmental project that will clean the waters of Accra's lagoon. Peacefm quotes AMA Chief Executive Dr. Alfred Vanderpuiye: "We are pumping money [into this project] and then we’ve another gateway pumping rubbish and feces [back] into the lagoon. Much resources have been wasted…even our donor partners are accusing us of high level of irresponsibility…That is the main reason why the project has stalled. They are putting up structures, buildings and expanding into the lagoon."

This is a classic strategy: call squatters dirty. While it may be true that the community is expanding into the lagoon, the way to confront this is to negotiate with the community to police its own boundaries. And the way to stop indiscriminate garbage dumping and sewage runoff is well-known and simple: to provide garbage pickup and sewers.

And here's Vanderpuiye on how the government will treat the squatters: "There is no compensation whatsoever to be paid to these squatters. There is no budget to compensate the nearly 50,000 people, who will be rendered homeless. Look, we’ve areas in Accra urgently requiring development assistance like schools, hospitals, etc… where they will relocate shouldn’t lie with me alone…there are so many rental places in town so they can go there."

Doesn't the good doctor know: people are living in the squatter community exactly because they can't afford those supposed "rental places in town" that he boasts of. His response amounts to a modern version of "Let them eat cake."

1 comment:

b.wevera said...

Ha! Although no laughing matter, it's interesting how the state always seems to recognize, or turn a blind eye to, ways in which to punish rather than educate the people.

Instead of supplying bulldozers and inconvenient, absurd solutions that could not work, like you said RN, perhaps the state should supply infrastructure and education.

I have a feeling that the government does not wish to do this because it wants to control the land around the water supply as opposed to fight for it later down the road. So not only are squatters 'dirty' (and dangerous as fed by the media), they may even lay legitimate claims to property rights in and around this lagoon if given the time to become established.

Thus, tearing them down, displacing them and keeping them financially strapped is the government's only solution to complacency.

However, the government must realize that it is not complacency, but rather kindling that just needs a few sparks to ignite.

Thank you for all this much needed information!