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Uganda: Bududa victims: Minister Onek threatens to resign

Mr Hillary Onek, the Minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, has said he will quit his ministerial position if government does not release funds for the relocation and resettlement of people living in mudslide-prone areas in the Mt Elgon region.

Mr Onek made the remarks on Friday during a meeting between government officials and the local leaders at Bududa District headquarters following the occurrence of a mudslide that left hundreds feared dead, with 40 bodies already recovered and many more thought to still be buried in the mud. This happened in Bukalasi Sub-county, Bududa District.

The mudslide was triggered by heavy rainfall in the sub-region. Among the dead are pupils of Summe Junior Academy, whose makeshift classrooms were washed away and buried in the rubble.

“I am going to resign my ministerial post in protest because we are not being supported. I am a technical man and I speak the truth. There are no political manoeuvers that can solve this problem,” Mr Onek, an engineer, said.

Frustrated minister?
He added: “I have been in the struggle to see that people are relocated. I have been fighting hard in the Cabinet but I am equally disappointed. I should resign and go away and stay back in Lamwo [District in Acholi sub-region, his birth place].”

The minister explained that although the government purchased land in Bunambutye Sub-county, Bulambuli District for purposes of relocating those living in mudslide-prone areas, the process slowed down due to a lack of resources. The land, measuring 2,800 acres, was acquired in 2003.

At least Shs8b had been earmarked to facilitate the acquisition of the land and the resettlement, but some of it was abused by officials in the Office of the Prime Minister and part of the land that was acquired is located in a wetland.

Even the land that is available cannot be used to resettle the people because it is said the person who was paid was not its rightful owner.

Mr Onek said the previous leaderships in the districts also sabotaged the programme of resettling the people.

In a meeting filled with emotions against the government over the handling of the matters of people in mudslide-prone areas, Mr Wilson Watira, the Bududa District chairperson, said they will mobilise the residents to block central government officials from travelling in the district if they this time fail to implement the resettlement programme for the victims.

Mr Watira said as leaders, they are tired of government promises and condolences.

“The central government should know that as leaders in this district, we are not going to continue mourning the deaths of their people while they are doing nothing,” he said.

The Bududa District Woman MP, Ms Justine Khainza, said it is so frustrating, that now eight years down the road, no progress has been made as per the resettlement plan since the Nametsi mudslides that killed more than 300 people.

On Friday evening, the residents in show of their disappointment, refused to have the bodies of their deceased registered with police.

The shadow minister for disaster and preparedness minister, Mr Gashomu Sizomu, said the NRM government only works to entrench itself in power.

“The President is busy splashing millions to youth in Kampala and other parts of the country, leaving people in dire need of help to die,” he said.

Background

Earlier warning- A mapping survey done by the geo-technical unit in the department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Climatic Science at Makerere University in 2015, found that a fresh 40km-crack had developed on the slopes of Mt Elgon and warned of looming mudslides, necessitating the relocation of the people at risk.

Earlier disasters- The problem of mudslides has been recurring. In 2010 mudslides in Bududa killed 350 people. In 2011, a mudslide in Bulambuli killed about 28 people. In March 2012, mudslides killed six people in Sironko District and in June 2012, another mudslide buried 18 people in Bududa District.

Last year, 10 people were buried alive in Sironko District. After each incident, the government has promised to relocate the people at risk but no conclusive action has been taken.

By Daily Monitor

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