Squatters return to ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’

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Hundreds of squatters whose structures were destroyed in a demolition exercise by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) at Old Fadama, a slum community at Agbogbloshie in the Greater Accra Region, have staged a massive comeback.

The squatters, who were initially putting up in make-shift structures, have started constructing permanent structures, giving a strong indication that the demolition by the AMA may have been a wild goose chase.

Some of the squatters the Daily Graphic spoke to said they had resolved not to leave the area because that was the only place they knew as their home.

The June 3, 2015 flood disaster that claimed some 159 lives led to a massive demolition exercise by the AMA to clear structures on watercourses, especially along the Odaw River, which included the Old Fadama slum, popularly known as ‘Sodom and Gomorrah.’

Illegal structures in areas such as the Railway line, close to the Graphic Road, June Fourth in the Katamanto area, Jamestown and Kwame Nkrumah Circle, were demolished as part of the exercise.

Demolition at Old Fadama

On June 22, 2015, the AMA carried its demolition mission to Old Fadama, where more than 1,000 structures that were 100 metres close to the Odaw River were demolished, rendering scores of the residents homeless.

Some of the slum dwellers lost their sources of livelihood, as kiosks and other valuables, running into thousands of Ghana cedis, were destroyed.

The AMA also constructed a wall to barricade the Odaw River from the slum community to prevent its residents from throwing rubbish into the river, which flows directly into the sea in Accra.

With a $100,000 support from the Turkish government, work on the defence wall project started in some parts of the slum, but was halted.

Observations

On August 2 last year, the Daily Graphic carried a publication suggesting that some of the ejected slum dwellers were gradually returning to the demolished areas by erecting temporary structures.

The story captured how scrap dealers, petty traders and other slum dwellers had resumed their activities along the banks of the Odaw River.

On a return to the slum community at the weekend hundreds of the illegal structures that had been demolished by the AMA had sprung up, with the place bustling with human activities.

As of 2 p.m. last Saturday, carpenters, masons and other artisans were seen working to raise some more structures, while some well-built men sat at strategic positions and watched over the works.

A worrying development is that some of the illegal dwellers are already dumping sawdust into portions of the Odaw River to reclaim land for the construction of more structures.

It was also observed that parts of the wall being constructed by the AMA had been broken to create access to the demolished portions.

Some fuel filling points were also operating very close to the banks of the Odaw River, with huge piles of refuse making its way into the already choked river.

Political twist

An interesting observation that was made was that a good number of the structures that were springing up had the flag of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) tied on them.

According to a 38-year-old man, who gave his name as Osman Abdul Rauf, the previous government did not give a human face to the plight of the slum dwellers when it demolished the place.

“You see, God has a way of protecting the vulnerable people that is why they have been voted out. Now, we have a listening President who will not just come and start destroying this place,” he said.

Meanwhile, a highly placed source in the slum, who wants to remain anonymous, told the Daily Graphic that all opinion leaders who tried to speak against the activities had been threatened with death.

It said some of the perpetrators were political party activists who had taken advantage of the change in government to engage in that illegality.

“Some people have taken the law into their hands because they claim that their party is in power, so they have support from top officials to do what they like,” the source added.

It said an engineer from the AMA had warned them to stay away, but no one would listen to him.

“All they do is to extort money from people in order to give them a place to put up a structure. Right now, no one is safe,” the source added.

AMA’s response

The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the AMA, Numo Blafo, however, told the Daily Graphic last Sunday that he was personally not aware of the springing up of the illegal structures.

“I cannot say much about it, but I will report to my director so that we can take a decision on it,” he added.

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