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"They Pushed Down the Houses": Forced Evictions and Insecure Land Tenure for Luanda's Urban Poor


About this resource

Resource type:Research, reports and studies
Keywords:Land issues, Poverty, Shelter and housing, Urban
Agency:Human Rights Watch
Date published:May 2007
Publisher:Volume 19, No. 7(A)

In Luanda, Angola’s capital, the government has forcibly and violently evicted
thousands of people living in informal housing areas with little or no notice. In
violation of Angola’s own laws and its international human rights obligations, the
government has destroyed houses, crops and residents’ personal possessions
without due process and has rarely provided compensation.

The evictions have taken place in a city where the majority of the population lives in
informal housing areas with lack of clarity over land possession and ownership, and
consequent insecurity of land tenure. The victims are poor and vulnerable Angolans.
They include women supporting families on their own, elderly persons and children.
Many fled to Luanda during the country’s long civil war, seeking shelter and protection
from conflict zones or from agricultural areas destroyed by fighting and insecurity. The
government’s large scale evictions have resulted in further displacement and left many
individuals homeless and destitute with no access to legal remedy.

This report focuses on 18 mass evictions carried out by the government between
2002 and 2006 documented by Human Rights Watch and the Angolan organization
SOS Habitat. Other small-scale evictions that took place in the same areas and over the same period are also included in this research. In total, more than 3,000 houses
were destroyed and many small-scale cultivated land plots were seized, affecting
some 20,000 people.

By documenting forced evictions that occurred between 2002 and 2006, this report
provides evidence that such evictions were neither sporadic nor isolated events in
Luanda. The forced evictions represent a pattern of abusive conduct on the part of
the Angolan government that has not significantly changed over the past several
years or been fully addressed. Despite calls from national and international
organizations and victims, the government has neither taken the steps necessary to
ensure forced evictions end nor provided accountability for abuses associated with
these evictions. The Angolan government has also not adequately compensated the
vast majority of evictees as it is required to do under Angolan and international law.

Human Rights Watch has not received information that large-scale forced evictions
have occurred in Luanda since the field research was completed for this report.
However, the residents of the large informal areas of the city remain extremely
vulnerable to both new and repeated forced evictions due to the government’s
failure to date to effectively address the question of insecurity of tenure.
Evictees from the evictions researched for this report and SOS staff members who
witnessed such evictions told Human Rights Watch that uniformed police officers
and local government officials used intimidation, violence, and excessive force when
carrying out evictions.

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