The Guinean government has razed thousands of homes in the country’s capital, Conakry, leaving families struggling to find adequate housing, Human Rights Watch said today. The government has provided no alternative accommodation or compensation to those displaced, in contravention of international human rights law.
Between February and May 2019, more than 20,000 people were displaced after bulldozers and other heavy machinery demolished buildings and forcibly evicted residents from the Kaporo-Rails, Kipé 2, Dimesse, and Dar Es Salam neighborhoods. Guinea’s government said that the land belongs to the state and will be used for government ministries, foreign embassies, businesses, and other public works.
“The Guinean government hasn’t just demolished homes, it has damaged peoples’ lives and livelihoods,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The failure to provide alternative housing or even immediate humanitarian assistance to those evicted is a violation of human rights law and shows a blatant disregard for human dignity.”
In March, April, and June, Human Rights Watch interviewed 40 victims of evictions in Conakry, as well as government officials, lawyers, nongovernmental organizations, religious leaders, and politicians. Human Rights Watch also reviewed satellite imagery, which showed that at least 2,500 buildings were demolished in the Kaporo-Rails, Kipé 2, and Dimesse neighborhoods in February and March and more than 385 buildings in Dar-Es-Salam in May.
The Ministry for Towns and Planning, which oversaw the evictions, maintains that the evicted areas were state land. However, many of the people whose homes were demolished said they had documentary proof that their families had decades-old property rights over the land. “It’s devastating to lose everything you have in 30 minutes,” said Makia Touré, a mother of six who said her family had lived in Kipé 2 since 1985.
International law also provides protections from forced evictions to any occupant of land, whether they occupy the land legally or otherwise. Governments should give victims adequate notice and compensation and should ensure that those evicted have access to alternative housing.
None of the evicted residents Human Rights Watch interviewed had received assistance from the government to find alternative housing, meaning that many were temporarily or, in some cases permanently, homeless once the evictions began. The Ministry for Towns and Planning said that residents either had other properties they could live in or were able to move in with their extended family.
However, Human Rights Watch interviewed several people who, weeks after the evictions, were living in flimsy wooden shelters or squatting in schools or mosques left standing after the evictions. “We have nowhere to go, so we’re just sleeping near to our ruined home,” said a Dar-Es-Salam resident, who slept with more than a dozen people in a wooden structure protected from the rain by canvas sheets.
Other residents who have found alternative accommodation have had to spread family members across different homes or leave Conakry altogether. “My family has left for the interior of the country,” said one Kipé 2 resident. “I’ve stayed near my home but I go to my neighbors’ houses to bathe and eat.” Some people’s new lodgings are far from their place of work and their children’s schools. “Children aren’t attending class anymore because they have left the area,” a middle school teacher from Kipé 2 told Human Rights Watch.
The Guinean government should ensure that residents who have been forcibly evicted get access to alternative housing of comparable quality to their demolished homes. Guinean authorities should also immediately take steps to create an effective and independent mechanism capable of promptly adjudicating and administering compensation claims related to the evictions.
“Any effort to redevelop land should respect the rights of existing residents,” Dufka said. “The government should immediately stop evictions until it finds a way to compensate those affected and provide them alternative housing comparable to what they left behind.”
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Human Rights Watch (HRW).