Thursday, December 24, 2009

fire in Sodom & Gomorrah

The Accra squatter community known as Sodom & Gomorrah has had its fourth fire of the year. This one claimed 2,000 structures, but no lives, Joy Online reports.

The squatters "had difficulty accessing water to bring the fire under control, because some of the [water] pipelines had been disconnected because they had been illegally connected," the article reports.

This, of course, is a form of official discrimination against these communities. Don't provide water and don't allow illegal connections to function either. This policy marks a war of attrition against squatters.


John said...

I must say I've never seen a blog centered on squatters before. Your attempts to humanize are noble since most of us tend to look the other way whenever we can.

Did you ever write any material on how squatter colonies can be transformed into something more progressive? I have silly ideas about it now and then but I can't say if they'll work.

Do share those if you have thoughts on the matter.

BigBen said...

@John. Surely the impetus behind squatters settling on land is a desire for transformation: the material transformation of redundant land into homes or communities. Through this act they may challenge their marginalized position in society, and develop (or dare i say it "progress".
If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend Robert's book "shadow cities" for a compelling view on the act of squatting around the globe.
@Robert, where can i find your email address buddy?

rn said...

BigB: great point in answer to John.

Here's my email: squattercity[at]yahoo[dot]com

John said...

For sure they turn the squatter lands into "communities". But I also think it ends there. I don't think I've ever heard of a squatter community progressing into something more (like a commercial area for example).

No I have not read the book. Is it an e-book?

BigBen said...

John, like any legal community, squatted areas encourage and atract commerce. I am confused by your description of purely 'commercial areas' as 'something more'..somrthing more then what? is a predominantly residential are lesser then a primarily commercial one? are you suggesting that squatted sites stagnate the process of gentrification, and if so, why is this a bad thing?

here's a link to robert's book at amazon, i wholeheartedly suggest you give it a try..

Tatu said...

To John squatter communities evolve, change, transform in ways main stream communities do not notice. The whole idea of marginalization is that the community in need is separated from and denied access to services that would help them "advance or "progress"
Squatter communities are actually highly commercial areas...the definition of informal means the commercial activity in these areas does not function like the rest of society e.g. people don't always have premises they sometimes walk around with their goods or have temporary places to sell them. People usually go into the slums to find goods or services at a very affordable cost but most are in and out pretty fast not wanting to spend too much time there...and many people living in slums make their living from trade only thing is they don't make enough. Another thing i have found in analyzing the history of slums in Nairobi and studying about other slums all over the world is how lucrative slums are to a very selfish few who benefit from keeping the poverty level in slums very low and restricting services to the slums so that they are the monopoly providing few services to the community they in fact make an absurd amount of money from them.
It is all a very sad and confusing thing but the more people learn about slums the sooner the corrupted mess will change. For the most part mainstream communities have taken refuge in the distance they have from conditions in the slum and chosen instead to blame the denizens of these communities for their problems rather than analyze the reasons such communities exist in this day and age.
If you have questions about the slums John all you have to do is seek the answers in books, press or articles there is so much info. out there we just have to be interested in finding it and then hopefully use it.

John said...

Hi Bigben & Tatu! I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of slum communities is pretty limited and I have no first hand experience. I have an odd theory though, and this is what I mean by 'progressing into something more.'

The starting point is a slum area (residential and informal commercial as you discussed). One path to progress may be for the government (probably under the trade department) would spearhead or training programs (for handicrafts as an example) and will sponsor supplies and equipment. So if you train 20-30 people from the slum area and convert the area into a residential-commercial area for that particular trade (like an entire street for basket making), it could provide good livelihood for that community. This may be a more effective method than having lots of people attend a livelihood program and then leave them to their own devices.