Bunyoro, West Nile leaders questioned over silence as floods, evictions wreak havoc on Lakers

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Women wade to Boma from Kawaibanda on the formerly passable road to Butiaba Health Centre 3 in Butyaba Sub-county, Buliisa District.

Frustrated Ugandans on the shores of Lake Albert in Bunyoro and West Nile areas are bitter with their leaders for remaining passive as natural and human disasters squeeze them to the walls.

“We see our representation in parliament and district councils making no sense when leaders don’t come to our rescue during this time of trouble. But we frequently see them reach our villages and homesteads during campaign times. Why not now?”

Mr Godfrey Abigaba, the Village Chairman for Kibiro landing site told Kazi-njema News that the Hoima District LC 5 Chairman, Mr Kadiri Kirungi and the Kigorobya County Member of Parliament cum Public Service State Minister, Mr David Karubanga visited the area at the time of the military evictions that started on May 20, 2020.

Mr Abigaba said that the politicians pledged to mobilise relief aid but no feedback has ever been received to date when the impacts of evictions, lockdown and floods are biting harder.

“Hon [Public Service State Minister] Karubanga and [Hoima District] LC 5 chairman, Kadir Kirungi are the only politicians I have received here. They promised to bring relief aid in form of maize flour, beans and tarpaulin for the affected people for survival. But the honourable (Karubaga) said he would fight hard to ask the government to compensate the evicted people since they lost their property but until now, there is no feedback,” he said.

“The message I have for the MPs, the area councillors and chairman LC 5 is that they should come and help these people because food has become a problem to them. Currently, some have only one meal a day while others are sleeping on empty stomachs. As you move around, you feel merciful to them. The politicians frequent this area so much when it comes to canvassing for votes day and night. But they have distanced themselves away from us during this hectic time,” Mr Abigaba added.

Audio: Abigaba on leaders (Runyoro/Rutooro)

Mr Walter Murungi from Butyaba in Buliisa district, too, is perplexed by the rising water level of Lake Albert without assistance from the government despite efforts to keep their leaders abreast with the day-to-day unfolding impacts of the floods.

Audio: Murungi on leaders (English)

Meanwhile, Mr Samson Odwokacen of Panyimur sub-county in Packwach district wonders how leaders could merely look on at the hundreds of people who have pitched camp at the sub-county headquarters without any response from other leaders except the sub -county chairperson who is now a ray of hope and some limited support from well-wishers.

Audio: Odwokacen on leaders (English)

Reacting to the accusations of laxity against leaders, Mr Robert Omito Tiim, the Pakwach District LC 5 Chairman dismissed allegations that he has done nothing to help the affected persons yet a lot of government infrastructure have been equally affected.

He cautioned people against using the current disasters to bring down political rivals.

Audio: Tiim on dismissing allegations (English)

Mr Emmanuel Ongertho, the Jonam County Member of Parliament said that the people of Pakwach should appreciate because he has had his personal efforts to build boats to help people on the cut off villages in Pakwach town council alongside relief aid so far given to some people.

He said that leaders have attracted the attention of the officials from the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness who will soon go to the ground again to assess the gravity of destruction the floods have caused so that the affected people can get relief aid.

Audio: Ongertho on people appreciation (English)

The Bunyoro Parliamentary Caucus chairman, Mr Steven Biraahwa Mukitale, defends his position saying leaders have written to the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and are now waiting for a feedback.

Audio: Mukitale on defending leaders (English)

Kazi-njema News has discovered that most leaders are hearing about the devastating floods but very few have known how grave the destruction the floods has caused is.

Every morning, floods come with a new list of the affected yet there is no systematic data collection for both the evictees from the landing sites and those forced off by floods.

According to local sources, more than 30,000 persons have been displaced either by floods or military evictions during the closure of landing sites believed by the central government to be illegal in Hoima Kikuube, Buliisa and Pakwach districts alone.

There is no clear statistics for both the victims of evictions and floods since they all happened at the time the question of the COVID-19 pandemic was the only one hitting headlines.

The poor majority on the landing sites continue to starve as their sources of livelihood disappear to the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus, the impact of being forced from their homes by either the army or floods.

It is worth recording that public infrastructure has broken down; crippling different public services including health and transport.

Floods have caused severe damage in the two regions.

In Hoima district, floods have cut off the road linking Kibiro with Runga via Bikunyu, Butyaba Health Centre 3 is now inaccessible by road, public latrines have been submerged, water sources have been affected while Wanseko-Panyimur ferry service is suspended.

The offices of the Lake Rescue, Marine Police, Fisheries and the major fish markets in Wanseko and Panyimur are some the government infrastructure directly affected.

Most of the affected persons and facilities were established illegally within the 200 and 100 metre – buffer zone recommended by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Act for lakes and major rivers respectively.

Massive encroachment has happened mainly in the past two decades as the mandated authorities like NEMA, the respective district environment offices and land boards looked on.

Disasters might never be completely prevented due to human settlements and activities but can be minimised by properly guiding the communities.

The problem of floods is also plaguing dwellers and investors on the shores of Lakes Victoria and Kyoga and those on the banks of the Nile River.

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