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30.11.2019 Africa

Abidjan district demolished for bridge

By AFP
Residents of the Boribana neighbourhood in Abidjan salvage belongings as demolition of the district gets underway.  By SIA KAMBOU (AFP)
NOV 30, 2019 AFRICA
Residents of the Boribana neighbourhood in Abidjan salvage belongings as demolition of the district gets underway. By SIA KAMBOU (AFP)

Residents of Abidjan's Boribana neighbourhood scurried Saturday to save belongings as authorities began to tear down homes to make room for a badly-needed bridge.

A strong contingent of police was present as bulldozers knocked down structures in a densely populated district that was home to 60,000 people, many of whom carried refrigerators, mattresses, televisions, roofing and plumbing material and personal items to roads to be carted away.

"We have no choice. We are saving what we can," said Sanogo Salia, a married father of two children who makes a living by filming ceremonies.

"We don't have money to go elsewhere," he added.

Salia, who rented his home, said he had not received any compensation for his displacement.

Abidjan officials told residents Thursday that the operation which was initially announced last May would take place two days later.

Many residents said they had not been warned, or did not believe it would actually happen.

"The structures destroyed today are those for which owners have already received their eviction compensation," noted Coulibaly Salimata Tiegbala, deputy coordinator of Abidjan's urban transport plan.

"The first studies began in 2016. Renters were identified, though some might have been omitted. Offices are open to help take care of them," she said.

In July 2018, work began on a fourth bridge for Abidjan, with 34 billion CFA francs (51 million euros, $56 million) earmarked as compensation for property owners and programmes to relocate Boribana residents.

The 1.4 kilometre (2.2 mile) toll bridge is to connect the low-rent neighbourhood of Yopougon with the business centre of Plateau and relieve pressure on one of Abidjan's main thoroughfares by providing better access to northern parts of the city where five million people live.

The total cost of 142 billion CFA (216 million euros, $238 million) is part of a much larger transportation initiative unveiled in 2018 with an overall price tag of 3.76 trillion CFA (5.7 billion euros, $6.3 billion) that is to include highways and other road works.

Meanwhile, officials expect 70,000 vehicles to cross the new bridge each day.

They have also planned a fifth bridge, an urban rail link and increased access to a highway that runs north of the city.

A group of homeowners has nonetheless complained that they are not being paid what their property is worth, and several rallies have been held to protest Boribana's demolition.

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