Thousands of people living and working next to railway lines in Ghana’s capital, Accra, face homelessness and destitution within days.
Known as the Railway Dwellers, the men, women and children who live and work in kiosks and stalls along the railway face forced eviction as the country redevelops its railway system.
Ghanaian authorities have not offered residents any alternative housing, and have no plans to do so after the evictions, so that will mean people, especially women and children, lose both their homes and livelihoods.
Rights group Amnesty International and the organisation, Women in Slums Economic Empowerment (WISEEP), are appealing to the Accra authorities against the planned evictions at the Agbogbloshie shanty towns.
On December 1 and 7 they say city authorities drove through the area announcing by megaphone a December 14 ultimatum for residents to leave the area and pull down their houses or be forced out.
The two bodies want the city and railway authorities to suspend the evictions while a proper plan is put in place to resettle the thousands of families already living in slums.
On Saturday they appealed to the authorities to consider forced ejections as a very last resort to claiming the land. Amnesty’s Lawrence Amesu and WISEEP’s Frederick Opoku, said they feared forced evictions could put women and girls at extra risk of violence, sexual abuse, and harassment. They also said, with no means left to make a living, women and girls would be more likely to be forced into prostitution making them at extra risk of HIV/Aids disease and other sexually related diseases. They also warned that children would be more likely to drop out of school as their parents lose the family income.
“Many of the youth were born here and have lived here all their lives, if they are thrown out onto the streets, one can imagine their helplessness and the unpredictable menace they may pose to themselves and to the society at large,” said Bright Dzila, at Saturday’s meeting.
“The many women you see here eke a living at the markets here, very hard working mothers but who live from hand to mouth,” he told Ghana’s Myjoy radio station. “If they are forced out of their economic enterprises in the manner anticipated under forced evictions, I bet you we are staring a major disaster.”
Previous demolitions in the west African country have been linked to an excessive use of force by police and security forces. According to Amnesty, in September, two people were killed and 15 others seriously injured after police and soldiers used live and rubber bullets and tear gas on a crowd of people protesting against the demolition of their businesses at Canoe Beach in Tema.