More than a year after losing their homes, thousands of victims of brutal forced evictions in Guinea have yet to receive compensation, alternative housing, or any other form of redress.
Between February and March 2019, Guinea’s Ministry for Towns and Planning oversaw a spate of demolitions in the Kaporo-Rails, Kipe 2, Dimesse neighborhoods of Conakry, Guinea’s capital to make way for new embassies and business offices. Analysis of satellite imagery conducted by Human Rights Watch indicated that at least 2,500 buildings were destroyed, and a victims’ group stated that more than 19,000 people were left homeless. “Now, we’re spread all over Guinea trying to find a way to survive,” one evicted resident told Human Rights Watch.
Government contractors returned in March 2020 and began to demolish the schools and mosques left standing after the first round of demolitions. “They’ve removed all traces of the community,” said a leader of a victims’ group. The group’s spokesperson, journalist Mamadou Samba Sow, was arrested in April in Kaporo-Rails while filming and photographing the oldest mosques in the community before their destruction. He was released without charge the same day.
In May 2019, victims brought a case against the Guinean government at the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), seeking compensation and restitution of their land. At the first hearing in June 2019, the government did not appear in court and requested additional time to prepare their case.
A follow-up hearing has not yet been scheduled, in part due to Covid-19-related border closures. “Any citizen has the right to file a legal complaint,” said Ministry of Towns and Planning Secretary General Mohamed Maama Camara. “The Guinean government will explain itself in court and then the court will be free to make its decision.”
The Guinean government should not, however, wait for the ECOWAS verdict to remedy the devastating impact of the evictions. International law requires governments to provide compensation to victims of forced evictions and ensure that those evicted have access to alternative land and housing. “The government should allow us to reclaim our futures and our land,” said Sow.