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19.07.2005 Regional News

15 fire outbreaks in Sodom & Gomorrah


Accra, July 19, GNA- Sodom and Gomorrah, a sprawling slum in Accra, has witnessed about 15 fire outbreaks that destroyed an average of 200 living structures and property since the beginning of the year. This has compelled the residents to construct roads to facilitate the process of protecting their shanties from such disasters. Mr Farouk Brimah, Executive Director of Peoples Dialogue On Human Settlements, made this known to the Ghana News Agency on Tuesday. The contemplated eviction of the squatters mainly traders, by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), to pave way for the multi- million-cedi Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project has created an uneasy calm in the slum.

The stalemate deepened when AMA expressed opposition to the creation of the access routes by the people.

However, non-governmental organisations (NGO's) and other civil society groups had gone to the aid of the squatters, citing potential human right abuses to justify their line of action. Mr Brimah said he had personally witnessed fire outbreaks in the community hence the decision of his NGO to have a stake in the life threatening phenomenon.

"The initiative of the people to construct roads was due to the fire outbreaks and not as a means to entrench themselves in the area", he said.

Mr Brimah said Ghana had ratified international conventions, which respects the dignity and rights of the squatters. He also referred to the Comprehensive Human Rights Guidelines On Development-based Displacement, adopted by the Expert Seminar on the Practice of forced Evictions in Geneva.

Mr Brimah said the guidelines addressed the human rights implications of forced evictions associated with development-based displacement in urban and rural areas.

"The guidelines apply to instances of forced evictions in which there are acts or omissions involving the coerced and involuntary removal of individuals, groups and communities from their homes," he said.

Mr Brimah said states were obligated to ensure that eviction impact assessments were carried out prior to the initiation of any project, which could result in development- based displacement.

He expressed the hope that Government would fight the issues that gave rise to slums instead of the squatters who have been driven by circumstances to converge in big cities to earn a living. The Peoples Dialogue NGO provides technical, administrative and strategic support to the urban poor and homeless to find sustainable solutions to their housing and poverty problems.

It is affiliated to Shack and Slum Dwellers International of South Africa.

Meanwhile the UN Habitat and the Slum Upgrading Facility that seeks to meet the Millennium Development Goals to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, is starting a project in Ghana. The Pilot Project Identification Phase, which spans Accra, Tema and Kumasi would develop a greater coherence of donor intervention and public and private investments.

The facility would attract a combination of sources of investment capital, UN Packaging Law, Shelter Services and Small Business Elements of slum upgrading.

It would utilise financial instruments for each phase of the project, re-package these elements into a comprehensive package and build effective partnership at the local level between development and financial partners.