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SUDAN: IDPs in the cold as slum demolished
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Dec 5, 2008 - 6:50:29 AM

SUDAN: IDPs in the cold as slum demolished


Photo: Heba Aly/IRIN
Adil Agwur in front of a makeshift shelter he constructed out of cloth and sticks after thousands of brick houses in Mandela were destroyed
MANDELA, 4 December 2008 (IRIN) - Thousands of people in a slum 20km south of Khartoum are living in makeshift shelters made of sticks and cloth after their homes were razed by the government.

Local officials said 4,000 homes were destroyed as part of a government plan to reorganise the Mandela settlement to make it more habitable. Another 6,000 are due to be demolished.

"When this is over, people will move back, build and live in peace," said Madut Wek, secretary to the local administrative unit, the Mandela popular committee, which is aligned to the government.

"We made the agreement with the government to be able to feel like real citizens," he added, noting that the plan had been in the works for years, with full consent of the residents.

However, Idriss Karama, seated at a table in the sand, sewing a pair of jeans, denied Wek's claims.

"We were living just fine there," the elderly Karama said a few hundred metres from bulldozers ploughing through the rubble of what used to be his home. "They brought us here. We don't know anything."

Mandela was set up in the early 1990s by people fleeing poverty and conflict from the western Darfur region and Southern Sudan, respectively. While the conditions were poor, residents had secure mud brick homes and some had private generators providing electricity.

"I had a house with a door and a key," said Ahmad Abderahim, a migrant from the central Nuba Mountains. "Now we are staying in the desert. We are worried about fires, sickness, criminals ... If there is a fire, not one child will survive. The houses burn easily."

Forced out

Mary Deng, who fled the southern town of Aweil during Sudan's north-south civil war, said: "If you refused to leave, they came with the bulldozer."

''I had a house - with a door and a key. Now we are staying in the desert. We are worried about fires, sickness, criminals ''
"They don't respect the owner of the house," added Abdu Adam, who said he was beaten by police when he refused to leave the house. "They just come in and empty the house. They beat people."

The popular committee denied the police were involved in the demolitions, saying people took their homes apart on their own. The demolitions, it added, were in the interest of the residents who had been living in crowded, disorganised conditions.

Reorganisation, Wek said, would allow for proper streets, water and electricity services in Mandela and formal land ownership for those who held identity cards.

Those who settled after identity cards were distributed in 1997 would be given land elsewhere, the committee said, because of limited space in Mandela.

Fear of outsiders

Despite the assurances, however, residents and at least one human rights organisation fear their land would be sold to investors, especially if they cannot afford to pay the required sum to get their land back. 

"I don't even have 100 piastres [45 US cents]," said Adil Agwur. "What will I do?"

"That's what's happening everywhere," said Ali Agab, legal aid coordinator at the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development.

"After people have been living a long time in a certain area, after the land becomes of value, the government doesn't care about where people go and how they will get services," he added.

In 2005, Agab said, violent demonstrations over land led to some deaths.

ha/mw

"I don't even have 100 piastres [45 US cents]," said Adil Agwur. "What will I do?"

"That's what's happening everywhere," said Ali Agab, legal aid coordinator at the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development.

"After people have been living a long time in a certain area, after the land becomes of value, the government doesn't care about where people go and how they will get services," he added.

In 2005, Agab said, violent demonstrations over land led to some deaths.

ha/mw

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