Draw proper resettlement plan for landslide victims

Tuesday June 11 2019

Survivors wade through the mud in Budud District

Survivors wade through the mud. Photo by Leonard Mukooli  

By Editor

This newspaper reported yesterday that the government is now mulling over giving resettlement money to individual landslide victims.
“We are going to find money to pay the landslide survivors such that they can purchase land of their choice within the region because the method of building houses for them is too slow,” the State Minister for Disaster Preparedness, Mr Musa Ecweru, said on Saturday during his visit to Butaleja District to assess the extent of the damage caused by floods in the area.
From the look of things, it seems the minister is frustrated with the processes of acquiring land and resettling landslide victims and also with the fact that some do not feel comfortable wherever they are relocated to.
For example, after the March 2010 disaster when landslides buried three villages including Nametsi, Namakansa and Kubewo in Namesti parish, Bududa District, killing more than 350 people, hundreds were relocated to Kiryandongo in western Uganda.
However, reports emerged later that many of those that had been relocated returned to the disaster-prone Mt Elgon area.
Again, after the mudslides in 2012, government in 2013 bought more than 2,800 acres of land in Bunambutye Sub-county, Bulambuli District, in order to relocate and resettle about 7,200 people out of 100,000 landslide victims.
However, the process was delayed due to compensation procedures for the acquired land and an avalanche of claimants to the land. This farther delayed the construction of 101 houses, which were completed in late March this year, for the landslide victims yet disasters continued to strike.
Manafwa, Bududa, Bulambuli, Namisindwa, Sironko and Mbale districts have not been spared. More than 120,000 people are living in high-risk landslide areas in the region.
The decision to give cash to individuals, given all these hurdles, could be a good idea, but one that is laden with uncertainty and may be abused. For instance, how will officials ensure that the money given out is put to good use? How will the amount given be determined? If one had 10 acres of land, would they be given the same compensation with one leaving behind five acres?
Also, have we thought of the fact that without a standard pay-out figure, officials charged with the responsibility to distribute the money may abuse the funds? From where we sit, we feel the authorities concerned should have a well thought-out strategy of relocating the victims. Otherwise we may end up in square one.