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RBY: Eduardo Lopez Moreno R. AND THE ARAB STATES


Angola - a country with a long history of conflicts spanning over 39 years: first, the struggle
for independence, which went on for 13 years (1961 – 1974), then the 16-year post-
independence fighting between various political groups, compounded by a war against
external forces (1975 – 1991), followed by the strife between the government in place and
UNITA (1991 – 1994), and lastly, the six-year post-electoral war opposing these same
factions (1995 – 2000).

The inhabitants have long become familiar
with most of those words in the dictionary
that describe suffering and violent unrest.
Depressingly, there are many others that
have also become a feature of their daily
life, as a result of the said wars, the collapse
of institutional structures, an inefficient
public administration that resists every
attempt at decentralisation, and a
government that lacks both transparency
and clearly defined social objectives. Those
words       are:      incapacity,     insecurity,
vulnerability, disorder and, above all, destruction.

This has led to incalculable damages and losses: uprooting of the rural
population; social disintegration; destruction of the economic and social
fabric; limited access to basic services; obstacles to the free movement of
people and goods, and an increasing dependence on humanitarian relief and

It is of course impossible to characterise or summarise in a few words the
woes associated with the above wars. However, even at the risk of over-generalising, we dare
say that Angola's predicament stems from the unresolved issues that have been piling up over
the years. It looks as if each epoch in recent history had wanted to leave a painful legacy:
soldiers that have been demobilised following various treaties and agreements (Bicesse '91;
Lusaka '94); war victims (1.25 million displaced persons, 300,000 refugees and 70,000
invalids); anti-personnel mines planted at different periods (according to estimations, there is
at least one for each Angolan), and a number of failed transitions to peace.


The housing sector has not been spared; quite on the contrary, the legal imbroglio and the
difficulties in which it is entangled accurately reflect the accumulation of problems mentioned

-      At independence, more than 90% of the country's 340,000 Portuguese residents left
       overnight, abandoning their properties and businesses;

-      The Angolan State confiscated these properties1 -without nationalising nor
       expropriating them-, nor indeed consolidating their legal ownership;

-      This created an incommensurable gap in the land records, since the Government's
       acquisitions did not comply with the formal requirement to regularise and register
       their ownership (the properties were confiscated without such descriptive elements as
       their identification, title deed, registration number, etc.);

-      Moreover, the confiscation/expropriation processes were not correctly completed, nor
       gazetted as required by law;

-      The subsequent rush to occupy the deserted houses has not been followed by adequate
       legislation: there is no corpus of laws that governs the leasehold of residential property
       or revokes the provisions of the current Civil Law, which goes back to the colonial

-      Neither are there, as far as tenure is concerned, any contractual clauses that define the
       relations (rights and obligations) between the landlord / State and the lessees, nor any
       of the necessary legal arrangements such as joint, horizontal or co-operative

                            -       Worse still, no investigation has been carried out with regard
                            to the occupants, of whom there is no record whatsoever. Nothing is
                            thus known of their socio-economic and demographic status, of who
                            has a certificate of tenancy or a genuine leasehold contract;

                            -Likewise, there is no information about the buildings'
                            physical condition and habitability. Even the rent collection
                            ledgers are missing;

                         -Nevertheless, under the Law on the Restructuring of the
                         State's Corporate Sector, Privatisation and Economic and
                         Financial Rehabilitation (10/88) and the General Act on the
                         Sale of National Assets (19/91), the Government has begun to
       alienate public-owned dwellings (estimated at 160,000 units) in the form of so-called
       acquisitions derived from dubious titles (30,000 have been sold so far).

It is therefore a case of de facto, but illicit, expropriation. This has allowed some of the
original owners to have their property returned, or the expropriation invalidated, after various
processes in which they questioned the legitimacy of the confiscation.

       In accordance with the laws (3/76 and 43/76) on the process of reversion to the State of all real estate
       that has been abandoned more than 45 days.


In the last thirty years, no other forces, be they economic or social, or even less any kind of
technical rationality, have had more influence on the country's urban development and space
in general than the volatile security situation. Indeed, the massive exoduses it has caused have
been the principal source of population growth in the main centres (Luanda, Huambo, Kuito,
Malangue and Benguela, where the rate
has jumped from 15% in 1970 to almost
50% in 1998) as well as the principal
reason for the slum settlements that
proliferate on the outskirts of the country's
urban areas, naturally without any basic
services or any type of planning.

In Angola, all urban land belongs to the
State. However, according to the law, the
responsibility for its management, i.e., the
supervision and administration of all
activities related to urban projects, including such
stages as planning, implementation, subdivision of
plots and monitoring of their official use (Decree
46/A-92, Art. 30), falls to the provincial
governments. Each of them has to set up an
appropriate legal framework of its own, not only for
the aforementioned technical aspects, but also for the
administrative     and    financial   matters    and,
consequently, the attribution of the original property

To date, none of the country's provincial governments, except that of Luanda Province, the
only one to have approved a bill regulating the concession of land (October 1993), has made
any progress in the creation of a legal framework for the allocation of property. As a result, it
is estimated that eight or nine out of every 10 town-dwellers live in settlements that have
no clearly defined legal status, be it in peripheral areas called "musseques" or in multi-
family buildings (known as "musseques verticais") constructed in the '60s, in which the
services, once again, do not work, either because they were progressively deteriorated, or
because the constructions were occupied before completion without services. This means that
possibly less than 10% of the country's urban residents are able to produce a title deed and
claim their rights over their property. For the rest, uncertainty, anxiety and insecurity are
the orders of the day.


The 1979 Luanda Master Plan proposed to "clean out" the "musseques" and to replace them
with medium-height or high-rise multi-family buildings arranged on the model of "grandes
blocos". It did not say where the funds needed for a project of such a magnitude would come
from, nor what fate would await the previous occupants.

In 1981, the Revolutionary Council of MPLA proposed an "Urban Reform Bill", which
stipulated that "following the confiscation of abandoned buildings and taking into account the
interests of the people, private leasehold will be abolished, leaving to the State the exclusive
right to rent out such premises, as is required of a socialist society." The bill provided for the
alienation of properties to the tenants. The initiative went on until the establishment of the
"General Guidelines of Urban Reform" (1983), then came to a halt "because neither the
subjective nor the objective conditions have been met, and its approbation would bring about
difficulties that would have to be duly considered."

In 1991, the General Act on the Sale of National Assets (19/91) was passed and a National
Commission in charge of the sale created, as "an act dictated by the imperious necessity to
alleviate the burden placed on the state by the high maintenance costs, and to procure a
substantial source of income". According to the text, the said Law would prevent speculative
moves and allow a more rational allocation of public housing on the basis of a social, rather
than a market strategy. However, there seems to be strong evidences pointing to the fact that
these provisions have not benefited their intended targets, namely the majority social groups
who have neither the economic ressources nor the legal knowledge to assert their occupation


There are numerous options that range from preparing inventories and registering the
concerned properties to maintaining and protecting the State's housing stock or, conversely,
selling it in order to reduce governmental involvement, and to developing mixed systems that
combine registration, evaluation and management, etc. These solutions can be implemented
whether the aim is to promote the Government's efficiency and strengthen it or, on the
contrary, to make it leaner and reduce it to its simplest expression. But, whatever the case,
they have to be developed with the Angolan context in mind, giving due consideration to the
country's political culture, the different forms of social organisation it presents, and its social
values. However, they must also go by a set of principles postulated in the Global Campaign
for Security of Tenure initiated by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements,
especially the following:

-      the propositions have to be negotiated with the inhabitants and the resolutions, which
       will be adopted through participatory mechanisms, must fully respect their civic and
       housing rights;

-      Given the low purchasing power of the poor, the access to land and to the services
       must not be governed by the normal market mechanisms;

-      Land and housing for all must be promoted as an efficient way to eradicate or reduce

-      Avoid forced evictions that attempt to remove the poor from urban areas (housing
       and/or land)

                                       A PARADIGMATIC EXAMPLE OF INTERVENTION.

                                     The use of positive examples – known as good practices
                                     – is essential in demonstrating the means employed by
                                     various actors (communities, governments and private
                                     sector) working together in different parts of the world
                                     on finding an efficient solution to the problems of cities.
The systematisation of these experiences can contribute to their possible replication in other

However, within the framework of the Global Campaign for Security of Tenure, it seems
equally relevant to analyse a paradigmatic example of intervention, i.e., in a figurative way, a
"good example of a bad example" that would highlight the potentialities for intervention and
the validity of the basic principles of the Campaign.

It should be an example of what can be done– and not of what has been done– showing that it
is possible to enrich the concept and to build upon the security of tenure factor, thus
generating a set of linked values, such as:

-       The idea of appropriation, not necessarily meaning property, based on protection and

-       The acknowledgement of the fact that security of tenure constitutes an important step
        towards better housing, access to basic services and, in the end, formal as well as
        informal employment opportunities;

-       The possibility to create a climate that is more conducive to the involvement of
        citizens and social representation as mechanisms for better governance;

-       The confidence that a more secure legal status, whatever it may be, will allow every
        individual, family and community a better control over their lives.

Thus, for this Campaign, Angola appears to be a paradigmatic case of intervention that warns
against the continued accumulation of unresolved issues. The Campaign must, through its
norms and basic principles, raise awareness and, at the same time, show that sooner or later,
technical rationality will prevail under the rule of law and observance of the inhabitants'
rights. Those are not only the prerequisites of progress and development but also the essential
ingredients for a future of inclusion, opportunities and hope.

    Eduardo Lopez Moreno R;
    Human Settlement Adviser
    Regional Office for Africa and the Arab States
    UNCHS (Habitat)
    Text and Pictures
    Tel : (254 2) 623149
    Fax: (254 2) 623904


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