Why Bududa landslide victims decline resettlement

Recovery. Residents of Buwali Sub-county in Bududa District search for missing persons in mud and rabble after the landslide. PHOTO BY LEONARD MUKOOLI

What you need to know:

  • Mr Martin Owor, the Commissioner of Disaster Preparedness and Management, said they cannot pay the victims money because they might misuse it.

Bududa. Mr Peter Mataki’s house sits on a steep slope and on either side is a garden of banana plantation inter-cropped with beans.
Mr Mataki, a resident of Suume village in Bukalasi Subcounty in Bududa District, has lived here for decades despite several warnings that his home is sitting on a “time bomb”.
“This is where my grandparents lived and no one among them died because of landslides. This area is safe but people keep telling me to leave,” Mr Mataki, says.

The 60- year-old and a father of 6 children, says not all slopes are prone to landslides as government officials and local leaders claim.
“You can look around and see for ourselves. This area is fertile and we have never experienced hunger. We do not know famine,” he says.
He says it is only his neighbours who are seldomly displaced by landslides when it over rains.

Ms Violet Namukhura, a resident of Bukobero parish in Buwali Subcouunty, says they have continued to live in the high-risk areas because they have on better option.
“Whenever the government relocates us, they take us to worse and dry places, where farming is not viable like Kiryandongo. We don’t like that,” Ms Namukhura, says.

Rebuilding
A visit to Summe Village, where the previous landslides occurred on October 11 in Bukalasi Sub-county, leaving more than 55 people dead, some of the victims had started rebuilding their houses, which had been partially washed away by floods after the river burst its banks. Others were erecting new houses at the site, deemed a landslide-prone area.
At Suume Junior Academy, a primary school that lost a pupil after its premises were buried, the administration had also rebuilt the classroom structures.

Ms Slyvia Seera, another victim, says they are hesistant because they fear to be tormented by the indigenous locals in the new places.
“The Kiryandongo experience was like hell to us. We suffered a lot but the government did not give us much attention,” she says.
Ms Mary Nabukobero, another victim, says they are willing to be relocated but they should be taken to safe and fertile places where they can carry out farming.

“If the government cannot find such places, let them give us money and we relocate ourselves to safe places of our choice,” he said.
Mr Vincent Masanga, 60, a resident of Suume village, said although the government is slow in it approach to relocate the victims, the victims are partly to blame.
“The victims who were displaced during the previous landslide, had gone back and reconstructed their houses in same dangerous places,” he says.
However, some survivors of Tuesday landslide, who have now sought refuge in churches, schools and trading centres, said they are in dire need of relocation.
They said they are willing to be relocated to Bunambutye Subcounty as soon as possible to start a new life.

Resettlement process
The government in 2013 bought more than 2,800 acres of land in Bunambutye and in 2018, it started the construction of 101 houses, which were completed in late March this year. Each two-bedroom house cost more than Shs30m.
Last month, the govt started the resettlement exerices and at least 80 households have so far been resettled out of 101. More 900 houses are set to be constructed in phases at site.
Ms Jane Masaki, a survivor, said they cannot afford to wait for government to construct for them permanent houses before they are relocated.

“We ask government to allocate us land and we improvise temporary structures to stay in as we wait,” Ms Masaki, said.
The Tuesday mini-landslides that were triggered by heavy rain occurred in several villages mostly in the Subcounties of Buwali, Bukalasi, Bubiita and Nalwanza, leaving five people dead, 27 injured and over 400 families displaced.
Mr Richard Masabasi, 40, another survivor, said if the government delays to relocate them to safer areas, they will have no option but to go back to their homes.
“We cannot live in this trading centre for long without necessities such as bedding and food. We will be forced to go back to our homes and die there,” he said.

The State minister for environment, Dr Mary Gorreti Kitutu, said apart from relocation to safer places, the government is promoting other strategies including good farming practices that restore the environment.
“Our people need to desist from destroying the environment because that is the starting point. Our ancstors used to suffer from those calamities because they tempered with the environment,” she said.
The Bududa environment officer, Ms Marion Namono, said they will continue sensitising residents about the need to relocate to safer places.

“We will not give up until they realize the need to move away from hilly places,” she said.
Mr Godfrey Watenga, the area Member of Parliament, said the government should listen to the demands of the victims and act accordingly.
“Its time government starts listening to the victims and they do what they want. They are tired of losing their relatives whenever landslides occur,” he said.

The chairperson of Bududa District, Mr Wilson Watira, said they are soon receiving relief items from to the Office of Prime Minister (OPM) and non-governmental organisations to support the displaced victims.
“But the government is committed to seeing that everyone is transferred to a safer place,” he said.
Mr John Baptist Nambeshe, the MP for Manjiya County in Bududa District, said the government should use compensatory approach to resettling the victims.

“This approach is quick and efficient because the Shs32b can be used to resettle huge number of families compared to 101 houses they have constructed so far in two years,” he said.
Mr Julius Mucunguzi, the head of communications in the OPM, said the locals in Bunambutye, where they relocating the victims, are hospitable.
Mr Martin Owor, the Commissioner of Disaster Preparedness and Management, said they cannot pay the victims money because they might misuse it. “The government can only consider buying land in the lower part of Bududa in another district to resettle them but not paying them money,” he said.

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