Negotiating the Right to Stay: A Community-Led Process in Old Fadama

By: Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat 

The air in Accra is humid and full of dust. After spending days inside heavily air-conditioned conference centers and nearby hotels, you start to forget the realities of city life.  Luckily, I got a reminder.

I spent my last day in Accra in the centrally located settlement of Old Fadama. Old Fadama is an informal settlement occupying 31.3 hectares of land along the Odaw River and Korle Lagoon in central Accra. Established in 1981, its population of roughly 80,000 inhabitants is made up of traders and migrants from across Ghana as well as other neighboring West African countries.

The community has resisted threats of eviction for nearly a decade through use of tools such as enumerations, mapping and lengthy negotiations with the Accra Municipal Authority (AMA).  Most recently, the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) and the Old Fadama Development Association (OFADA) have been in negotiation with the AMA around the clearing of structures from land around the Korle Lagoon in preparation for a large-scale de-silting project, funded by the Netherlands Government. Korle Lagoon has experienced decades of pollution serving as the main runoff for the entire city of Accra and its shores as dumping ground for much the city’s solid waste.

Initially, the AMA requested that 100 feet of land be cleared to make way for the project. GHAFUP and OFADA members estimated that clearance of 100 feet would mean demolition of nearly 3,000 structures and eviction for roughly 7,000 inhabitants. They quickly entered into negotiations, proposing that the amount of land be reduced to 50 feet. Immediately, the community went to work enumerating the 50-foot area. Reducing the amount of cleared land to 50 feet meant a reduction to 1,192 residential and commercial structures and 3,000 people. Still not ideal, but certainly a marked difference.

Armed with their enumeration data, GHAFUP and OFADA met with city authorities at the AMA and succeded in negotiating for their proposed 50-foot area instead of original 100 feet, reducing the number of people affected significantly. 

The next step was a community led demolition and realignment of structures on right of access identified and negotiated jointly between the residents and the City Authorities. Members of GHAFUP and OFADA led this process, first meeting with community members to explain the demolition and relocation process.

A federation member in Old Fadama

Getting the wider community on board has been key to the success of the process. I spoke with a woman whose structure is waiting to be demolished. She has been a member of GHAFUP since 2008. However, she says she doesn’t know where she will go when her structure is demolished – that she will simply have to find a piece of vacant land and erect her structure there. Sadly, this means she will likely have to live on the edges of Old Fadama, where the dirt paths are riddled with rubbish and the harmattan hits harder against the shack walls.    

Despite these inevitable hardships characteristic of any relocation, resettlement of displaced peoples to other locations within Old Fadama is a success story in and of itself. Most tales of relocation involve displacement to many kilometers outside of the city, far from social ties, employment, and opportunity. Thanks to the successful negotiations of GHAFUP, OFADA and People’s Dialogue Ghana, this is not the case in Old Fadama.

In our discussions with GHAFUP and OFADA, it became clear that a waste management plan will be crucial to the success of the imminent de-silting project in order to prevent continued pollution of the lagoon. This is a key time for GHAFUP, OFADA and People’s Dialogue to put their negotiation skills to use. Waste remains a major issue in greater Accra, and the creation of a community-led waste management program for Old Fadama could serve as a key tool for income generation, community upgrading and negotiation with local authorities around the community’s capacity to engage in the upgrading process.

Farouk Braimah, director of the Ghanaian support NGO People’s Dialogue, stresses, “This whole exercise promises huge benefits and leverages. We anticipate capitalizing on this exercise to strengthen our hitherto weak relationship with the city authorities of Accra and to feed into [other projects] in Accra and Ashaiman.”

Bearing witness to the reality and determination of this community, alongside some of its key leaders, was certainly an experience no conference could compete with.

For more photographs of Old Fadama, check out SDI’s albums on Flickr and Facebook

A Decade of Struggles and Lessons in Old Fadama


By: Farouk Braimah, Executive Director, Peoples Dialogue on Human Settlements, Accra Ghana (

In 2002, the residents of Old Fadama settlement in Accra, Ghana were served an eviction notice. After losing a court battle, community members were introduced to SDI methodolgies and conducted a community survey in a last-ditch effort to stave off eviction. The community has prevented evictions for nearly a decade, and in a recent talk in New York City, the Ghanaian vice president made a committment that there would be no forced evictions there. Below is a timeline, compiled by executive director of the Ghanaian support NGO, Peoples Dialogue on Human Settlements, accounting the story of the Ghanaian federation in their fight against forced evictions. For more on the community’s struggle in Old Fadama, check out this video. 


The Centre for Public Interest Law ( CEPIL) in the year 2000 conducted a human rights fact finding mission on Old Fadama to investigate the potential violation of human rights linked to the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KLERP)


CEPIL fact finding report on KLERP out and under study for next steps.


On 28 May 2002, the residents of Old Fadama were served with an eviction notice by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). This followed the completion of series of studies and the formulation of the project know as the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project, designed to restore this vital marine and river system to a cleaner and more natural ecological state. At a public meeting that was part of the environmental and social impact assessment study (ESIA), one of the consultants conducting the study had “…urged the government to declare Old Fadama a national disaster site and resettle the people.” He said the place was the most deprived in the whole country and “…if immediate steps are not taken to resettle the people in that area, the KLERP would be a waste of resources.” The recommendations in the ESIA report were to be particularly influential in official thinking on KLERP.

In response to the eviction notice, letters of protest were written by a number of organisations (including COHRE) to the government of Ghana and the AMA. The COHRE letter outlined the international legal obligations that would be violated if the forced eviction of the Old Fadama community were to take place, and identified the following transgressions.

  1. All feasible alternatives to the planned eviction had not been considered;
  2. The  may 2002 notice had provided too little advance warning
  3. Residents had not been consulted throughout the process; and
  4. Alternative housing or adequate resettlement sites had not been provided.

In addition, the residents, with the assistance of the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) based in Accra, responded with an appeal to the High Court for an injunction to prevent the AMA from carrying out the eviction. However, on 24 July 2002, the Accra High Court rejected the community’s application and authorized the AMA to evict. There was initial intention to appeal, but for internal organizational reasons in the community, this was not followed through. Since then, there have been repeated assertions by the government that the eviction will definitely go ahead, but deadline have come and gone. The last deadline was set in January 2004, when a Minister of Tourism official was “ emphatic” in stating that “…by September this year, Old Fadama would be empty”


After the High Court ruling in 2002, the residents of Old Fadama in 2003, adopted a softer approach to dealing with their challenges of forced eviction with government by engaging in a dialogue through People’s Dialogue & Shack & Slum Dwellers International approach of using;

  1. Savings & Loans
  2. Mediation
  3. Exchanges
  4. Partnerships
  5. And community led enumerations


In 2004, the Old Fadama community started partnering and dialoguing with government through the Ministry of Water Resources, Works & Housing, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations to find a better way of solving their challenges.

Old Fadama, was cited as a case study on the World Urban Forum II held in Barcelona, Spain on 16th September 2004, referring to forced evictions as a bad strategy in tackling squatters and slum communities.

Fighting Forced Evictions

The then Mayor of Accra Honorable Blankson committed to working with the community in the Old Fadama in Accra in finding alternative solutions.

The special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari highlighted the fact that there enough recognition of the human right to housing by governments and local authorities, and that women’s right to housing and inheritance were not been addressed due to the culture of silence “ Why are people planning on our behalf without our involvement?” says a slum dweller from Kenya underscoring the need to consult with community in finding solutions to the issues of slums. Slum dwellers are saying, “governments need to know that they do not have to solve all the problems” The community can and is willing to work with governments to address the issue of forced evictions”

– SDI visited Ghana and supported the Old Fadama community to conduct a settlement profiling to aid the city authorities and government in its bit to resettle the residents. 

– UN Habitat designed a new facility to upgrade slums and Ghana was shortlisted as potential beneficiary 

    AGFE to Ghana


Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development invited the UN Habitat’s Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (AGFE) to conduct a fact finding mission on the Old Fadama community and to assist government. 

UN (AGFE) sent a team from Nairobi to Ghana to meet Government and brainstorm on ways to address the challenges of Old Fadama and Ghana’s slums. 

As an AGFE member, Farouk Braimah joined the team to conduct the fact finding mission. 

Ghana was selected as SUF (Slum Upgrading Facility) global pilot country together with three other countries thus; Tanzania, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

2005 to date, Ghana is still receiving funding and technical assistance from SUF to upgrade selected slums- Ashaiman, Amui Dzor and Takoradi as pilot.

Residents of the Old Fadama Community through the Old Fadama Development Association (OFADA) and Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) with support from People’s Dialogue on Human Settlement and SDI carried out some drainage, roads and sanitation protection works.

Old Fadama Undergoes Facelift

(Daily Graphic, Monday July 11 2005)

Squatters at the Country’s biggest slum, (Old Fadama) in Accra, have begun moves to give the slum a new face. As the reports stated;

“They have created 15 access roads through the area, together with the purchase of drainage materials at a cost of about 33 million cedis. People’s Dialogue on Human Settlement, a non-governmental organisation provided about 95% of the funds, while the rest was internally generate. In addition, the settlers will, beginning from next week, clear other settlers living along the Korle Lagoon project area and set up a task forced to protect it, as well as prevent people from dumping refunds indiscriminately to pollute the lagoon.”

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly reacted to the action of the residents with the yardstick that, they were illegal and hence had no business to develop the area. 

This was carried on the Daily Graphic, July. 2005


AMA Condemns action of Squatters at Old Fadama

(Daily Graphic July 2005) 

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has condemns the action of squatters at Old Fadama in Accra to demarcate roads and plan other development activities for the including a cemetery. It said the squatters had no business in carrying out what they were doing, since their presence at them was illegal and they would be evicted. 

Mr. Philip Lamptey, the then chairman of the Environmental Management sub-committee of the AMA said in the report “A probable first option would be to ask the utility companies to stop supplying the area with utility services such as water and electricity. He said there was no need for the squatters to set-up a task force to prevent the indiscriminate dumping of refuse along the Korle Lagoon Project area, since they were not needed in the place.”

Mr. Noel Arcton- Tettey, the then PRO of AMA was also reported to have said that; NGOs were suppose to complement the role of government instead of creating problems for it. And that the action by People’s Dialogue was contrary to what was expected of it.

The Executive Director of People’s Dialogue On Human Settlement, Mr. Braimah Rabiu Farouk responded to the comments made by the AMA, stating emphatically clear that, the NGO will not do anything to undermine the work of the government, let alone create problems for it.

We will not sabotage Government- NGO
(Daily Graphic, Monday July 18, 2005) 

In this report, Mr. Braimah said the NGO would rather give government all the necessary support to improve the lives of the citizenry so as to ensure a better standard of living for all Ghanaians. Mr. Braimah explained that the move embarked upon by the squatters at Old Fadama was “not to entrench their stay at the place” but to prevent disasters from occurring and that the NGO had educated residents on the negative impact their continued stay could have on the KLERP. He posed the following questions and I quote:

“Do we have to wait for a disaster to occur at the slum for the government to set up a Sodom and Gomorrah disaster fund before we act?”

“He question whether it was for squatters to set up a task force to protect the Korle Lagoon Project on which so much money has been spend.”

The government took a second look at its current policy on squatters and slum communities (FORCED EVICTIONS) and then came out with s paradigm shift, from forced evictions to relocations.

Government haven convinced itself that, relocation was the best strategy, started processes to acquire a parcel of land at Adjin Kotoku in the Amasaman District of Accra to commence the Old Fadama Relocation Project as part of a township concept, government also initiated strategies to raise funds for the successful planning, design and implementation of the Adjin Kotoku Township Project


Government secures some funds for Old Fadama resettlement project.

Government finds 10m Euro for Sodom and Gomorrah resettlement
(The Statesman, Friday, July 21 2006)

FINALLY, residents of Old Fadama in Accra considered as one of the world’s notable slums, have every practical reason to expect a justifiable evacuation after Government has managed to find 10 million Euros to find alternative decent accommodation for them.

The Statesman also reported that; it can confirm that, the Ministry of Water Resource, Works and Housing has secured the funding commitment from KBC Bank of Belgium as necessary extension works to complete the environmental and sanitation aspect of the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project.

The Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations started interacting and holding regular development meetings with residents of the Old Fadama community to dialogue and plan on the successful implementation of the relocation project.

The Old Fadama Community welcomed the relocation project and started preparing towards it.

The government of Ghana through the Ministry of Tourism and Diapora Relations and PD attended World Urban Forum III in Vancouver on 23 June 2006- This time round to present government policy shift on squatters and slum communities from forced evictions to relocations.


In 2007 the residents of the Old Fadama community, called on the government to speed-up the implementation process of the relocation to pave way for the Korle Lagoon Restoration Project to progress.

Speed up relocation process- residents of Old Fadama cry out
Public Agenda, Monday 29, January 2007)

Squatters of Old Fadama (popularly called Sodom and Gomorrah) would like the government to speed the process of relocating them. The squatters have told this paper that they are not sure what would follow the recent catastrophic fire incident that ravaged the slum, hence if government could do anything to relocate them, they would be grateful.

P.D and the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor conducted a base line study on Old Fadama in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Local Government and Rural Development and Tourism and Diaspora Relations to use for the planned relocation project.

UN Habitat visited Old Fadama and pledges to support government to tackle the problem.


Meetings and preparations for the relocation project intensifies and preparatory work also continued at Adjin Kotoku.

General election clashes and violence started


Clashes in Old Fadama heighten

AMA issues an eviction notice to residents of Old Fadama

Quit by Dec; AMA cracks whip on Sodom & Gomorrah 

(Daily Graphic, July 17,2009)

“Sodom and Gomorrah, a slum within the central business district of Accra, will be no more by next December as the Accra Metropolitan Assembly say it has concluded plans to relocate residents of the place to a new site Adzen Kotoku…”

Carnage at Old Fadama

4 Killed in clash at Agbogbloshie Market 

(Daily Graphic, Wednesday, August, 26 2009)

Four men believed to be Andanis and Abudus were butchered to death at Agbogbloshie in Accra yesterday after a renewed clash between supporters of…”

Government issues another eviction threat.

Time up for Sodom and Gomorrah, Regional Minister declares 

 (Daily Graphic, Friday, September, 4 2009)

“Sodom and Gomorrah, a sprawling slum within the central business district of Accra, has been labeled a risk to national security and so should be pulled down now.”

The report indicates government has therefore taken the firm stand to evict the more than 40,000 squatters at Old Fadama without any form of compensation as earlier envisaged.

The Old Fadama Development Association (OFADA) responded with a press release to condemn the violent clash at the community and promises Government and the general public they will quickly address the issues of violence and adhere to good environmental and sanitation practices through a central task force, setting up a mediation center and watch dog committee to…

OFADA request government to return to the table to dialogue on the relocation to Adjin Kotoku as planned.

It is significant to note that, up until now, PD and the Federation has been the only recognized and dedicated voice  and force working and coordinating other interest groups for the struggles. Some organizations ,particularly, the media became very supported our the communities struggles. Amnesty International also approached PD and sought collaboration to join in the struggles ,a request we welcomed and facilitated heir entry and participation in the struggles. I must state the involvement of  groups such as amnesty Ghana and Centre for Public Interest Law and others has been very instrumental in further strengthening the negotiation power of the community. 


AMA  continued to renew threats at the least provocation and in most cases without any provocation. Peoples Dialogue and the Ghana federation continued to build their federation in the community and another significant community led enumeration conducted.

As usual the Ghana federation responded by facilitation meetings and dialogue with the Mayor Of Accra. This resulted in the Mayor of Accra requesting the Federation to conduct an enumeration to assist in the final pre and post eviction impact of the planned evictions. Besides, the City quoted 40,000 residents but the federation insisted they were more than that and the negative impact of eviction could be more devastating. The mayor then arranged a short visit between the Director of PD –Farouk and His Excellency the Vice president of Ghana-John Mahama, after which the federation was allowed to conduct another enumeration in 2009 September. The results were out in January 2010, which put the figure at 79,000.  This revelation was very useful in putting a strong case for the community and all others involved in the struggles. Not long after this, PD submitted copies of the report to the Presidency, the Mayor and other players like the UN Habitat.

All of this culminated in the Government of the day, convening a High level meeting purposely to find solutions to the problems. The federation again attended this meeting and the outcome was the establishment of a 5 -man Task force to develop a SLUM POLICY FOR GHANA.

Farouk Braimah, the Director of PD, was nominated to serve on that body and remains a member. Government demonstrated that it was actually looking for solutions and was ready to partner groups and individuals who could assist in developing a response to the problem. This intention of Government and the journey in the major position shift was started the very day the Government requested the federation to conduct the enumeration. This collaborative and anti eviction posture of Government was  given a further boast when the Government set up the High powered meeting and commissioned a 5 man Task force to find solutions to Ghana’s slums, including Old Fadama.