Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Angola: Homeless Pay the Price of Oil Wealth

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Angola: Homeless Pay the Price of Oil Wealth

Article excerpt

The National Assembly building in Luanda was recently the stage for an unusual spectacle: a queue of homeless people that stretched right across the manicured lawns and past the government ministries, each participant waiting to hand in a petition--a rare sign of protest by the city's many dispossessed.

"Our houses have been destroyed by the government," explained one young man, Felizao. "And now we are demanding compensation."

He and his companions once lived in Cambamba, a poor area on the outskirts of the city, and besides turning up with their petitions, many have also put their case directly in letters to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos--another audacious act in this tightly controlled country.

They are angry because, in March, police and private security men moved into Cambamba with bulldozers and destroyed the homes of hundreds of families to make way for a housing project.

Their slum is to be transformed into gleaming condominiums as part of an expanding development called Nova Vida, or "new life"--but they won't get to live there, because Nova Vida is reserved for members of the army of well-off foreign workers drawn here by the country's oil wealth.

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As sub-Saharan Africa's second-biggest oil producer, Angola is reaping the profits from high oil prices, and foreigners are flocking to join the reconstruction bonanza (the civil war ended four years ago). House prices are among the highest in the world.

For the former residents of Cambamba, however, there is no boom. …

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