Police in Cameroon fired tear gas on Saturday morning as they clashed with residents fighting eviction from a neighbourhood adjacent to Newton Airport in the country’s economic capital Douala.
An official said inhabitants of the informal settlement, known locally as Fret Aeroport, were illegally occupying government land and that they would not be compensated.
Some residents, many of whom have lived next to the airport for decades despite repeated attempts by the authorities to move them, said they were given less than two days to move out.
“This is airport land, the airport has its land title here, and these populations have settled anarchically,” said Hector Eto Fame, a local government representative.
“People who illegally occupy the private domain of the state do not deserve, according to the law, compensation.”
Riot police fought pitched battles with people throwing stones as they went from house to house, creeping through streets choked with furniture, mattresses and tear gas. A barricade of burning tables was seen blocking one road.
Elsewhere, women and children cried as they watched a large excavator tear down buildings amid a wasteland of concrete and crumpled metal roofing.
It’s the second time people have been evicted from the neighbourhood this year. In January almost 200 families were forced out of their homes, according to local rights groups.
The government has said previously more than 100 000 people were living within the airport perimeter, and it was necessary to move them to prevent people crossing the runway and to protect aircraft.
“We were given the formal notice less than a day before the destruction. I’m overwhelmed,” said Daïkolé Mama, a resident.
“We were not told anything about the motivation for the destruction. I have been living in this neighbourhood for 30 years.”