Chad: Governmentt suspends due process to destroy 1,000 houses
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||19 March 2008|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Chad: Governmentt suspends due process to destroy 1,000 houses, 19 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47e246081a.html [accessed 21 October 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
NDJAMENA, 19 March 2008 (IRIN) - A presidential decree suspending due process and clamping down on civil liberties following a two-day rebel attack on the capital was later also used by the mayor of N'djamena to evict thousands of residents and demolish their homes.
"The decree was a window of opportunity for local authorities to circumvent the law," a western diplomat told IRIN on the condition of anonymity. "But that was not what the decree was intended for."
After the rebels were chased out of the city, President Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency which he then turned into a state of exceptional measures' which provided him with even greater powers, the diplomat said. Between then and 15 March, when the emergency measures were lifted, authorities were able to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew, censor news media, and monitor and detain civilians at will.
During this period local authorities destroyed some 1,000 houses in at least 15 different poor neighbourhoods around the city.
Local authorities had been working their way through a slow judicial process in order to evict tenants from their houses but human rights and civil society groups vigorously worked hard to oppose the authorities and the independent press frequently denounced the eviction plan.
Under the presidential decree, public discussion of the evictions was banned and many key public defenders fled the country out of concern for their safely.
According to N'djamena's mayor Mahamat Zène Bada, the demolitions were for the public good. "[Now] we can build primary and secondary schools and colleges, medical centres, libraries, sporting facilities, markets and bus stations", he said.
He also said the decree provided the opportunity. "We are in a period of immunity. The Head of State has made this decision. When we are told this, we cannot argue. I have nothing more to say."
But many observers doubt that the population will benefit from the demolitions any time soon, pointing out that it will be difficult start any projects as there are very few construction companies in the country due to the current insecurity, and there is questionable value of building libraries in a country where the majority of the population is unschooled and illiterate.
Meanwhile the lives of those evicted have been turned upside down. "It's hard to leave an area where you have lived your whole life," Abdoulaye Ahmat who is now living in temporary accommodation told IRIN.
He said he is worried that he will eventually have to move to another neighbourhood. "I grew up here and got married here. My children also grew up here. My second daughter has just got married to another young person who lives in this neighbourhood."
Prices of houses in poor neighbourhoods have reportedly risen because the demolitions created both a real and perceived housing shortage. "Some landlords have used the situation as an excuse to raise rents," one resident said.
The demolitions started soon after tens of thousands of residents fled their homes to escape mayhem caused by the rebel attack on the city. Many went to the nearby Cameroon border town of Kousseri and were given refugees status. Some returned to find their homes were no longer there.
Then, after the government regained control of the capital, more residents were evicted. "We were just recovering from the damage caused by the violence," said a resident of N'Djari a neighbourhood in N'djamena's 7th arrondissement who lost his home.
Some like him then also went across the border. "They didn't know where else to go so they headed to Cameroon to declare themselves refugees," he said, asking to remain anonymous.
Thousands of refugees have now been transferred to a more permanent camp at the town of Maltam further inside Cameroon.
According to N'djamena's mayor, evicted families will receive some compensation, but he also suggested that accessing the values of the houses may be complicated. "Not all the houses have the same value. Therefore people cannot receive the same compensation".
Other sources said they doubted whether evicted families will ever be reimbursed for their losses. "How do people get compensated when the value of these houses has never been fixed," said the diplomat.