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Aden authorities crack down on illegal buildings, land grabs and squatting

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15 Jan 2021 02:01:35 GMT9
15 Jan 2021 02:01:35 GMT9
  • Officials said illegal housing and land grabs had proliferated shortly after Aden’s liberation from the Houthis

Saeed Al-Batati

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Authorities in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden have launched a crackdown on illegal housing, land grabs and squatting.

Bulldozers destroyed houses, restaurants, garages, shops and other structures that have been illegally built on streets, public squares and public land over the last five years.

Officials involved in the campaign said the governor of Aden, Ahmed Hamid Lamlis, had given them orders to put an end to the practices.

“We are working under the directives of the governor, who instructed us to serve Aden and its people by removing illegal houses and structures and smoothing the way for people and investors,” Ahmed Ali Al-Dawoodi, the director of Aden’s Al-Mansoura district, told Arab News.

Lamlis was appointed in July as Aden’s new governor under the Riyadh Agreement. Shortly after landing in Aden in August, he dismissed the directors of Aden’s eight districts and ordered their replacements to prioritize the issue of illegal buildings.

Armed soldiers and military vehicles escorted the new directors, who monitored the demolition.

“Illegal houses and structures were built on parks and main and residential streets, blocking main roads and marring the city’s civilized images,” Al-Dawoodi said.

The campaign has yielded early wins as many key roads reopened or widened, reducing traffic jams and getting cheerful reactions from residents.

Officials said illegal housing and land grabs had proliferated shortly after Aden’s liberation from the Houthis.

Yemeni army troops and local fighters, backed by the Arab coalition, pushed the Iran-backed militia out of Aden in July 2015, four months after the beginning of the coalition’s military operations in Yemen.

Buildings and other structures sprang up afterwards, exploiting lax security, near points of interest or historic sites.

Early last year Aden University sent a letter to the former governor and security officers to complain about people building small structures inside the walls of one of its colleges.

Officials and administrations in Aden have failed to address land grabs, squatting and illegal structures.

A meeting last March  chaired by Yemen’s attorney general, Ali Ahmed Al-Awash, and attended by the former governor of Aden, Ahmed Salem Rabyea, approved allocating funds and security forces for a campaign on illegal houses in the city.

But the campaign did not come into effect due to lack of funds and security forces to protect demolition crews, a local government official who attended the meeting said.

“Most of those people (involved in land grabs) are from inside and outside Al-Mansoura, driven by post-war miserable conditions, lack of jobs and halt of salaries,” Al-Dawoodi said.

Other local officials argued that consecutive campaigns to solve the problem had failed due to divided security bodies and lack of funds.

Ghassan Al-Zamki, the deputy governor of Aden for the project’ sector, said that the latest crackdown was already proving to be more successful because of the city’s new appointments and unified security forces.

“The governor personally removed some illegal structures built on state-owned land and reactivated the concerned public offices,” Al-Zamki told Arab News, accusing some security officers in Aden of protecting land looters. “In the past some security leaders who have military vehicles and weapons protected illegal builders and public spaces pillagers. The return of the government would be a big boost for making an organized urban planning (system) and banning building houses with no permission.”

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