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Squatter City

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly now argues that the 50,000 people living in Sodom and Gomorrah, as the Ghanaian capital’s most notorious squatter community is called, are stalling an environmental project that will clean the waters of Accra’s lagoon. Peacefm quotes AMA Chief Executive Dr. Alfred Vanderpuiye: “We are pumping money [into this project] and then we’ve another gateway pumping rubbish and feces [back] into the lagoon. Much resources have been wasted…even our donor partners are accusing us of high level of irresponsibility…That is the main reason why the project has stalled. They are putting up structures, buildings and expanding into the lagoon.”

This is a classic strategy: call squatters dirty. While it may be true that the community is expanding into the lagoon, the way to confront this is to negotiate with the community to police its own boundaries. And the way to stop indiscriminate garbage dumping and sewage runoff is well-known and simple: to provide garbage pickup and sewers.

And here’s Vanderpuiye on how the government will treat the squatters: “There is no compensation whatsoever to be paid to these squatters. There is no budget to compensate the nearly 50,000 people, who will be rendered homeless. Look, we’ve areas in Accra urgently requiring development assistance like schools, hospitals, etc… where they will relocate shouldn’t lie with me alone…there are so many rental places in town so they can go there.”

Doesn’t the good doctor know: people are living in the squatter community exactly because they can’t afford those supposed “rental places in town” that he boasts of. His response amounts to a modern version of “Let them eat cake.”

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