Researcher Jefferey W. Paller, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has carried out a one-year field work on slums in the Greater Accra Region, specifically in Old Fadama, Ga Mashie and Ashaiman, and observed that it required a strong political commitment to fight slums in the country, especially in the Greater Accra Region.
He said statistics available indicated that more than 5.5 million Ghanaians lived in slums, most of which lived in Greater Accra, but contrary to the popular portrayals of these communities, slums were important spaces for citizens to interact and engage with government.
This, he said, was because considering the number of people who lived there; politicians had the urge to seek for their votes to win elections.
He identified some of the major causes of slums in Ghana and these included lack of urban planning, culture of indiscipline, failure of economy and poverty, failure of neo-liberalism, and structural adjustment policies.
Mr Paller added that the fieldwork revealed considerable differences in the level of political accountability and governance in Ghana slums. The study asked why some communities were able to attract and manage state resources to build toilets, construct sewers, pave roads, collect garbage and provide security, while other areas were unable to attract and manage these same services.
He recommended that there should be strengthened political accountability mechanisms where governance forums would be created for interactions between leaders and the people. He said this engagement with the people would help ascertain their actual needs in order to get them out of the situation.
The other recommendation he made was providing assistance to the slum dwellers in small and medium scale enterprises financially in order to raise the standard of living as well as providing legal recognition for them to prevent false eviction.
Mr Paller made these known during a roundtable discussion on political accountability in Ghanaian slums organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) in Accra last week.
This falls in line with the calls by human rights organisations, such as the Amnesty International (AI), to stop forced eviction of slum dwellers.
Mohammed Alhassan, from the Town and Country Planning, in a submission noted that there was the need to consider whether the settlement was legitimate or not because authorities who were charged to embark on the eviction operate within a legal framework.
He explained that all the slums in the country and for that matter Greater Accra region differ. There were the legal ones and the illegal ones, hence the need to draw the distinct line between the two when it comes to force eviction.
He said, however, that there was the need to include the slum dwellers in decision making in order to arrive at an acceptable consensus, since they know what suits them best.
Mr Alhassan also stated that, due the perception that politicians were not truthful, when they were doing something right the people felt that they were pushing things to favour their own interest, hence the need to engage the slum dwellers in decision making.