Urban Forum

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 527–540 | Cite as

Engineering a Millennium City in Accra, Ghana: The Old Fadama Intractable Issue

  • Afia Afenah


This article examines the attempted illegal forced eviction of residents in Old Fadama, Accra’s largest informal settlement. Firstly, it reviews the most recent newspaper articles and official government documentation, to demonstrate the instrumental portrayal of the settlement and its residents as nuisance, dangerous and unsanitary. It shows that the normative discourse of ‘squatters’ and ‘informality’ used by the municipal authorities situates Old Fadama’s residents within the sphere of illegality. As a result, residents are physically situated within, but conceptually outside of the boundaries of Ghanaian society, which serves to justify the eviction to the wider constituency, especially as the accompanying propaganda has resulted in the settlement being a ‘no-go’ area for other residents in Accra due to fear of insecurity. Secondly, it explores the complex web of social and economic relationships between the settlement and Accra’s wider urban fabric that renders the simple dichotomies of planned and legal versus unplanned and illegal unfeasible. It argues that situating the emergence and expansion of Old Fadama in Ghana’s wider national migration patterns, as well as the country’s housing and urban planning policy history, and uncovering the settlements multiple relationships with Accra and Ghana’s governing structures as well as the city’s multiple economic networks provide an alternative reading of Old Fadama’s development and growth than that usually allowed for within this discourse of illegality and squatting used by the local authorities.


Urban Urban regeneration Forced eviction Accra Ghana Discourse 



I would like to thank Martin Oteng-Ababio, Yves Cabannes, Ilda Lindell, Richard Grant, Jason Sumich, Kate Meagher, Franklin Obeng-Odoom, as well as the anonymous reviewer for giving me advice and or providing comments on earlier versions of this paper. All mistakes are of course mine though. I would also like to thank the Centre of Excellence in Global Governance Research at the University of Helsinki, for providing me with the time and funding to finalise this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Metropolitan Studies BerlinBerlinGermany

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