The Special Task Force set up by the government to clear illegal structures along watercourses in Accra says it will continue the demolition exercise, in spite of the protests by the displaced residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.
According to the task force, which is spearheaded by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), although the displaced persons had expressed their views, their actions would not prevent it from continuing the exercise.
“We will continue the exercise until we finish because as of now, we need to dredge the Korle Lagoon and as such, we need space for the excavators to move freely. We cannot [therefore]say that the demonstration will halt the exercise. It is not possible unless we are done with what we intend to do and that is the dredging of the Korle Lagoon”, the Public Relations Officer of the AMA, Numo Blafo, said.
Sodom and Gomorrah
Sodom and Gomorrah is the biggest slum community in Accra and home to more than 70,000 low-income earners, mostly from northern Ghana.
Although there is no record of how the settlement, named after the Biblical anecdote of Sin City because of the harsh living conditions and rampant crime, was set up, the community has served as a dumping ground for waste, especially scrap metals and electronic waste materials.
Located on the banks of the Korle Lagoon, northwest of Accra’s Central Business District (CBD), residents also come from various communities in the country, who are mostly engaged in one form of trade or another.
Besides the inhabitants in the area, the community, which is also a business centre, houses very vibrant onion, timber and scrap metal markets from where items bought were distributed across the country.
Structures, mostly made of wood, are often meant for temporary sheds but in no time, they become permanent homes for the inhabitants and then gradually spread like wildfire along the banks of the lagoon.
As the community is poorly planned, sanitary and healthcare facilities are almost non-existent. The area is completely covered in filth, making it difficult for one to walk not more than 100 metres without limping.
There is also a heavy stench from the open drains and poor sanitary facilities, which makes breathing difficult and even worse when it rains. However, despite such insanitary conditions, inhabitants cook and sell within the market to their clients.
Following these living conditions, successive governments have made several unsuccessful attempts to move the illegal settlers in order to restore the ecosystem along the lagoon.
Their attempts are mostly met with calls from various civil and human rights organisations who mostly describe the intended removal of the inhabitants as an infringement on their rights.
Others from the political perspective threaten on various media platforms that any attempt to demolish and move structures from the crowded settlement might affect their performance during elections because most of the inhabitants come from the north and the area is allegedly a stronghold of a particular political party.
President hints of demolition.
However, during a recent inspection of the dredging of the Korle Lagoon, President, John Dramani Mahama, hinted that the slum community would be cleared to pave way for the implementation of the Korle Lagoon Restoration Project.
The project has stalled for years partly because squatters have virtually taken over the catchment area of the lagoon and this is said to have also been partly responsible for flooding in some parts of the capital.
Earlier this month, 159 people lost their lives because of a flood and fire disaster which occurred at the GOIL fuel station located at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra.
Responding to a question on whether the displaced persons would be relocated to Adjen Kotoku as indicated by the Chief Executive of the AMA, Mr Alfred Okoe Vanderpuiye, when the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment, Science and Technology called on him in January 2014, Numo Blafo said the relocation was not for the displaced persons but for the people involved in business activities.
These include the yam, timber and onion markets, among other businesses adding, “They are the ones we plan to relocate but not the residents”.
However, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, a Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr Isaac Nii Lantey Vanderpujie, said the ministry was putting together some measures to help alleviate the plight of the displaced persons.
These measures, he said, included the identification of the areas that needed to be demarcated by the AMA and the scope of project to be undertaken by the assembly.
He said the ministry was coordinating efforts to see how “together, we are going to provide shelter for those who have been displaced by the demolition exercise”.
Additionally, he said the ministry also intended to collaborate with the opinion leaders and chiefs of the community to support the displaced residents who were willing to go back north by providing them with buses and some financial support.
Mr Vanderpujie also said the ministry was trying to work with the utility providers to restore utility services to the area, especially, water, adding “water, especially because we are in the month of Ramadan and they need water to perform their ablution and to cook food for their families”.
Finally, he said the ministry had called for a stakeholders’ meeting involving the chiefs and community leaders of Sodom and Gomorrah, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), AMA, and the National Security to discuss the way forward and alleviate the plight of the displaced persons.
Mr Vanderpujie, however, appealed to the displaced persons to exercise restraint and trust the government, which was working in their interest .
“I want them to understand that this is not the time for people to be used for political gains and also play politics with what has happened. We want to pursue the interest of the people, especially the women and children in the community who have been affected”, he said.
Source: Daily Graphic via Peace FM
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