Tuesday, October 08, 2013

evictions continue in the Kenyan capital

Amnesty International's report on forced evictions in Nairobi was largely lost in the coverage of the horror of the Westgate attack and follow-up reports detailing how Kenyan security forces looted stores in the damaged mall.

While that may be an understandable news judgement, it's worth noting that Amnesty has documented 9 cases of forced eviction in the Kenyan capital in the past two years. Eviction seems to be quasi-official government policy in Nairobi.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Death in Durban

A 17-year-old girl was shot dead by the police at a demonstration by Cato Manor squatters in Durban, South Africa. The Daily Maverick has the tragic story of the death of Nqobile Nzuza.

The squatters suggest that it was outright murder. The police contend they felt their lives were in danger and shot into the crowd. Either way, there's no defense for shooting people exercising their constitiutional rights.

According to the police, the officers involved used "necessary force." KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni said, "We acknowledge and respect that the public has a constitution right to demonstrate but the police also has a constitutional mandate to maintain law and order. Violent protests are not acceptable and the police has responsibility to protect property and lives during these violent protests."

Apparently, the police in Durban think this gives them a license to kill the poor.

For more background on the awful history of violence on the part of the authorities in Durban and the ongoing dirty war being waged against the courageous squatter organizing group Abahlali baseMjondolo, read this article.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

proud of being a squatter

“What we all want is to live with dignity. This means for me to able to be proud of who I am – a slum dweller.”

Those are the words of Bright Dzila, a resident of Old Fadama, the largest shantytown in Accra.
Think Africa Press offers a sympathetic account of the decade-long fight this neighborhood of 80,000 people alongside the Odaw River and the Korle Lagoon has been waging to stave off eviction and be allowed to live in freedom and dignity.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

tons of money, but who benefits?

China has allocated $5.73 billion for upgrading shantytown neighborhoods this year, China Daily reports. For some perspective, that's more than ten times the yearly budget of UN-Habitat.

Of course, if the past is any indication, China will probably use the money for demolition, destroying longstanding communities to make way for luxury highrises.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

the World Cup runneth over

The Guardian offers a view of the Brazilian street demonstrations from Fortaleza, capital of the northeastern state of Ceará and, according to the United Nations, the 5th most unequal city in the world.

Money quote:

For Forteleza's poor, the World Cup has meant changes including the forced removal of 5,000 people from communities Lagoa da Zeza and Vila Cazumba to areas without schools, and fears that the tournament will increase exploitation of children in a city that has been trying to shake off its reputation for sex tourism.

Money stat:
While 133,000 people in Fortaleza live in extreme poverty, 1/3 of them without any sanitation services, the city spent $230 million to renovate the local soccer stadium.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

squatter water torture

Let's hope that Bangladesh follows through on this promise to bring water pipes to every Dhaka shantytown and squatter community in the next two years. As I said in a recent talk at TEDx Hamburg (not online yet, but it will be soon): if government's won't provide water, it's socially good for squatters to steal it. Two million people a year die of water borne diseases--and, whether squatters steal municipal water or government brings it, providing potable water to neighborhoods that have previously been denied it could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Istanbul at war with itself

what passes for redevelopment, Sulukule, Istanbul, 2009
"Across the city, the urban poor are being paid to leave their homes so that contractors — many with ties to government officials — can build gated communities."

This factoid was buried in a New York Times article about the Taksim Square protests in Istanbul.

For years, the government of Tayyip Erdogan has taken an oddly punitive attitude towards poor neighborhoods. They were part of his power base, but also areas that politicians selected for eviction and what was very loosely called redevelopment. Roma neighborhoods like Sulukule, Avcilar and Tarlabasi were among those in the cross hairs.

By 2009, 12,000 people had been forcibly removed from their homes -- but millions more were threatened as city officials proposed to 'rebuild' more than a million homes.

The government's methods were questionable, as the New York Times article suggests: As one Avcilar merchant told the paper, “One day we just got a notice, and bam, before we could put up a proper fight, 300 to 400 police came and held us back from intervening with the bulldozers that knocked down our restaurant. They said we didn’t have deeds for the property, but we do. We showed them. They argued that we only had a deed for part of the property, so they knocked the rest down.”

Of course, the majority of title deeds in Turkey are partial -- conveying what is called hisseli tapu, an ill-defined right to a shared interest in a parcel. By this standard, almost every neighborhood in Istanbul could be considered at risk of eviction and demolition.

Up until now, the Erdogan demolitions have succeeded because they destroyed neighborhoods with little political swat. Now officials have turned to Taksim--a popular crossroads for young people and tourists--and there's more pushback. In respose, Erdogan called the protestors "looters" and "bums" and denounced "a menace which is called Twitter."

A Hurriyet columnist suggests that the roots of the current protest stem from "the so-called “table operations” nearly two years ago and the symbolic tiny streets were “cleared off” from tables serving alcohol."

The suggestion seems to be that this is part of Erdogan's social war against secularism. But the eviction drives over the past five years suggest that this is a far wider war for the shape and soul of the historic city.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

eviction depiction

Brazil's plans for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics have forced 30,000 people from their homes and is making Rio de Janeiro "an even more unequal city, which will exclude thousands of families and destroy entire communities," a study by a consortium of non-profits has concluded.

"Our fears are being confirmed. The benefits and social legacy that are so widely trumpeted really hide a dark legacy: an elitist, segregated and unequal society. It is a sad thing to see," said Orlando Alves dos Santos Jr., a sociologist and urban planner and one of the coordinators of the study issued by the Comité Popular da Copa e das Olimpíadas. In particular, the reports authors contend, investments and evictions for the two sporting events seem designed to push poor people to the outskirts--and this can be seen in a vast ramp-up in property values all around Rio.

The report concludes that the two events amount to "a project that will appropriate the majority of benefits for a select few economic and social agents."

Inter Press Service has details.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

the ultimate in favela tourism

Now there are two cable cars in Rio de Janeiro: Pao de Azucar and Complexo do Alemao. The Associated Press, via Philly.com has details.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spain's new shantytown

Al Jazeera visits Madrid's outcasts in La Canada Real.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Corrala Utopía

The Guardian reports on the real occupiers--an organization of a network of squatted buildings in Spain. Learn more, in Spanish, here.

Money quote from the article:
In 2010 Spanish banks foreclosed on more than 100,000 households. Macarena, the district of Seville in which Corrala Utopía stands, now has the highest eviction-rate in the city. Yet in Seville's greater metropolitan area alone an estimated 130,000 unsellable, unrentable homes are lying empty.
It's simple math: thousands of families made homeless, not through any fault of their own, but because they were victimized by the financial crisis and continuing austerity budgets + thousands of unsellable, unrentable homes = a natural match.

There are now 5 million umemployed people in Spain. That's the Labor Ministry's number. Not to worry: the official statistics agency lists more than 6 million people as unemployed in the country--which means more than 1/4 of the country's working population is out of work, and the economy's set to contract by 1.4 percent this year.

For a contrasting tidbit, it's been a good year for Amancio Ortega, the Spaniard whose Inditex empire includes the global fast-fashion firm Zara. He's now the 3rd wealthiest man in the world, worth $57 billion.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

is is demolition one of the millennium development goals?

A dozen buildings in Monrovia have been demolished in a so-called clean up drive as Liberia is set to host a high-level UN panel on the millennium development goals later this week.

“We want to make this city the greenest and cleanest city in West Africa,” Monrovia Mayor Mary Broh told the UN's Inter Press Service.

Money quote: The two contrasting images of a meeting of world leaders at a five-star hotel in downtown Monrovia as blocks away locals decry the demolition of their homes raises questions about the purpose and substance of the meeting and the implications it will have for this post-war country, student activist Janjay Gbarkpe told IPS.

Indeed. If this doesn't make you angry, and doesn't make you question whether the UN's Millennium Development Goals are serious or meaningful, what the hell will? As the protestor's sign says, with dignified understatement, "All is not well."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gentrification hits Vidigal

The BBC reports on the massive property boom in Rio's favelas. A huge rise in prices is pushing people out. To what extent is this fueled by the Olympics and the World Cup?