Updated: March 5, 2021
The recent forced eviction of thousands of residents of Wxlacodji beach community in Cotonou, the capital of the West African country of Benin, has triggered outrage and condemnation.
Formerly known as Dahomey, Benin is a country in West Africa bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north.
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The majority of its population lives on the small southern coastline of the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea in the northernmost tropical portion of the Atlantic Ocean.
Following the mass eviction, the Benin Federation of Slum and Informal Settlement residents, on Tuesday, said it was joining hands with sister movements from the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) movement across Africa to condemn the Cotonou eviction.
“We further call on the Benin Government to engage with our members from waterfront communities across the city to find alternatives to the current projects that threaten further of tens of thousands of hardworking urban poor residents living along the waterfronts with displacement,” the activists said in a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA.
The statement was signed by Moise Awonlonsou, Ezekiel Ahouandjogbe, Jérémie Dossou, Joelline Kiki, Edouard K. Avlessi, Edouard Guelifo, Jacqueline Houessou and Elisabeth Avlessi of the Benin Federation of Slum and Informal Settlement Residents, and by Megan Chapman of the Justice and Empowerment Initiatives, Kunnu Paul from the Nigerian Slum and Informal Settlement Federation, Yirah Conteh from Federation of Urban and Rural Poor of Sierra Leone, Francis Reffell from the Centre of Dialogue on Human Settlements and Poverty Alleviation, Rose Molokoane of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor, and Edith Mbanga of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia.
On Tuesday, August 20, 2019, the administration of President Patrice Talon demolished an estimated 160 houses in the Wxlacodji beach community.
The demolition was reportedly done without adequate notice or any resettlement plan for the thousands of residents who suddenly found themselves homeless and living in desperate conditions.
The neighborhood chairman, Agbossi Anani, said “[representatives of the national government, the mayor of Cotonou, and the national police] came with caterpillars [excavators] to destroy the informal settlements. To our great surprise, they evicted and destroyed over 160 houses.
The evicted residents had no warning. Following the exercise, people are left homeless. Many are sleeping outside and we have already recorded the death of a 15-year-old young man.”
What kind of a country are we in?” he lamented to Federation representatives who investigated.
The sudden forced eviction of Wxlacodji beach has thrown tens of thousands of waterfront residents across Cotonou into a panic and triggered fears that dozens of other communities may face imminent eviction by the same authorities.
During the last week of July 2019, representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the mayor of Cotonou visited several waterfront communities along the Cotonou Lagoon and Lake Nokoué to mark some houses for demolition and tell people that they would be evicted within the next two weeks. No exact details were provided as to who would be affected and no information provided . about resettlement or other provision for those displaced.
Federation members of six waterfront communities under threat quickly organized to write to the Ministry, the representative of the Littoral Department, and the mayor of Cotonou to seek more detailed pursuant to the country’s freedom of information law. In violation of national law, three weeks later, the relevant authorities are yet to reply and provide any of the requested information.