Fire outbreaks are becoming far too common in Accra. Over 200 structures were destroyed after a fire outbreak in Avenor today. I estimate that over 1,000 people are affected. For the news story, visit here. There is a photo gallery here.

It is easy to demonize the people living in these structures as squatters. The media outlets are calling the affected homes “illegal structures.” But people are living here because they cannot afford the high price of housing in Accra. These structures are close to their workplaces. Housing is too expensive in Accra for the ordinary Ghanaian. Yet people live in the city because it is the only place they can find work.

It is time for the authorities to take these disasters seriously and confront the housing challenges of the city. They need to act on the National Housing Policy–the act has been drafted but there has been no legislation to date. We cannot keep watching our communities burn.

In the meantime, I call on NADMO to come to the aid of the fire victims.

Here are some photos from the scene.

The wooden structures burn down.

Not much left.

I spoke to residents to inquire whether they had any organization or representative.

 

 

 

 

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This has to stop.

There was another demolition in Adenta on Friday morning. For details of the demolition, read the story here.

It is not time to point fingers and blame. It is time to come together to ensure that the human rights of ordinary Ghanaians are not trampled on. We need a process that is fair so that forced evictions do not destroy the livelihoods of Ghanaians. Residents did not receive proper notice about the demolition.

I am tired of visiting disaster sites. In Adenta, residents were crying and powerless. This is why the Slum Union of Ghana will serve as a unified voice for slum residents in Ghana.  We need to make sure that we are listened to.

Here are some photos from the demolition site.

Nothing is left from the 10 structures that housed hundreds of people.

An angry resident talks to Joy FM.

I reported the demolition to Amnesty International. It is important that all demolitions and forced evictions are reported.

The site of the demolition.

A man who lost is home considers how he will recover his losses.

The residents were sad and angry and many did not know what to do.

 

This past Thursday representatives from ten slums across Accra met near Nkrumah Circle to form the Slum Union of Ghana. We were joined by Bernice Naah (Coordinator for the Demand Dignity Campaign, Amnesty International–Ghana), Lawrence Amesu (Director, Amnesty International–Ghana), and Yaw Asante (Self Help Initiatives Support Services). They pledged their support for our union.

The union is a group of residents and workers in Ghanaian slums who have come together to fight against forced evictions, advocate for the economic, social and cultural rights of slum dwellers, and to form a united voice of slum dwellers across the country. We are different from other organizations because we are led by slum community members.

We will engage in four major activities to improve the lives of slum dwellers:

  1. Lobbying the government to end forced evictions and fulfill their responsibilities to slum communities
  2. Rapid response to emergencies in slums (evictions, fire outbreaks, and floods)
  3. Educating slum dwellers on their rights and responsibilities
  4. Attracting social amenities to slum communities

Our meeting included members from the following slums: Abuja (CMB), Agbogbloshie, Avenor, Chorkor, King Shona (James Town Beach), Old Fadama, Railways (ECOMOC–Circle), Taboo (Ashaiman), Tulako (Ashaiman), and Zongo Laka (Ashaiman). We welcome other slum community members to join.

We thank Amnesty International and Self Help Initiatives Support Services for taking the time to join our event and offer their comments and support.

For more information on the Slum Union of Ghana, please call me at 0264509009 or email me at mehoas@yahoo.com.

Here are some photos of the event.

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Interim President Philip Kumah and Interim Secretary Alhassan Ibn Abdallah.

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Our friends from Agbogbloshie joined us to explain the issues confronting their community.

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Amnesty International–Ghana Director Lawrence Amesu expresses his support for the union and emphasizes that Amnesty International is not anti-government, but rather seeks to work with the authorities to protect the livelihoods of slum dwellers.

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Yaw Asante of SISS has been extremely helpful and supportive throughout the creation of the slum union.

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Bernice Naah of Amnesty International–Ghana explains the Demand Dignity Campaign.

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Cristina from Zongo Laka (Ashaiman) expresses her desire to be a part of the union.

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During the meeting we explained the mission, vision, activities, leadership structure, and plans for the Slum Union of Ghana.

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More than 30 community representatives participated in the meeting.

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The Slum Union of Ghana.

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Members unanimously agreed on the name Slum Union of Ghana.

 

More than 30 squatters were arrested at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital last week. This followed the recent death of a medical doctor at his hospital residence. The squatters were arrested as suspects in the case. The news story is here.

As much as the police have the right to investigate, and should be allowed to do so, I think the action is totally unacceptable for the police to simply assume that squatters are criminals. My question is: Who is responsible for security at the hospital? The squatters or the security agents? Being poor does not make one a criminal. Even though we appreciate the work of the police, I strongly believe that the arrest of the squatters was totally out of place.

 

There was another fire outbreak in Old Fadama this morning. The fire occurred near Kokomba Yam Market and affected about 30 structures. I estimate that 100 people were affected.

It is time that the authorities start taking these disasters seriously. Our livelihoods and businesses are at stake.

These fire outbreaks are far too common.

 

Our community is resilient. Residents have already begun rebuilding their homes after the devastating fire. While many people still sleep outside, the pace of reconstruction is incredibly fast. I am especially encouraged that residents have taken the opportunity to upgrade their structures–new homes are being built with cement blocks. This will help prevent fire outbreaks in the future. I am proud of our self-help city.

Many victims of the fire, including women and children, have slept outside the past few nights.

Busy at work.

A new construction zone.

On Air

On Tuesday I was on Radio XYZ, an Accra FM station to tell our story as well as make an appeal to the authorities. My plea was that the authorities should involve us in the planning of the settlement upgrading and possible relocation.

Yesterday, Nii Lantey Vanderpuye, the NDC MP aspirant came to the community to offer his support. The CPP also had representatives in the community. NADMO came and promised to come back today. We are looking forward to their support.

Here are some photos from the broadcast as well as more photos from Monday’s fire.

Speaking to XYZ Radio.

A huge fire.

Many thanks to Ghana’s National Fire Service.