Lake Albert evictions: Evangelist stuck at Kyabarangwa church

Evangelist Sarah Nambiya stuck at Kyabarangwa Full Gospel Church in Kibiro Parish, Kigorobya Sub-county, in Hoima District. Credit: John Kibego

Overlooking the Albertine Rift, the western arm of the East African Rift Valley down at Kyabarangwa fishing village on the shore of Lake Albert in Kibiro Parish, Kigorobya Sub-county in Hoima District, stands a big mud and wattle church.

In its vicinity, some lucky men and women construct makeshift roofs over their heads to shelter themselves against the chilly cold nights they submit themselves to under trees.

Though they are wretchedly sitting in the church compound guarding their property, they are a lucky lot that found space inside the church building housing the biggest population composition of women, children and teenagers.

Inside the church building, there are dozens of papyrus mats, mattresses and different types of domestic utensils. Beddings are folded to create space for resting during day time as men are full of activity constructing houses and looking for food to fend for their families.

Among them is a 30-year-old evangelist, Sarah Nambiya, keeping her eyes to the doorway from dawn to dusk waiting for relief aid. She ponders when government will lift the ban on public transport so she could go back home in Kiboga district.

Nambiya, who is among the people who were forcibly evicted from Songagagi landing site on May 20, 2020, remains hosted in Kyabarangwa Full Gospel Church.

Nine days later, she recounts to this website how she had spent six months at Songagagi landing site evangelising people as she traded fish for survival when she was caught up by the lockdown over coronavirus and all related restrictions that affected her source of livelihood.

Government forbade fishing for commercial purposes as one of the avenues of controlling cross-border movements on the DR Congo-Uganda shared Lake Albert.

Nambiya, a member of Mpetye PCU Church at the shore of Lake Albert says as she pondered the next move, the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers began implementing the closure of illegal landing sites including Songagagi.

With tears uncontrollably rolling down her cheeks, Nambiya narrates: “I have no food, no shelter, no way back home and no money to construct a house. I am alone in another strange area of relocation here at Kyabarangwa.”

Audio: Nambiya on lack (Kiswahili)

Effects of coronavirus have paralysed business and livelihoods in the past two months of its outbreak in Uganda.

Nambiya wishes the government could provide any means of transport back to their homes or permit them to board motorcycles to get out of danger.

The evangelist is one of the more than 70 people including 30 men who have turned Kyabarangwa Full Gospel Church into a home.

However, those that can afford to establish makeshift shelters have been allocated land by the Kyabarangwa Local Council One leadership on humanitarian grounds.

Musa Okello, the Pastor for Kyabarangwa Full Gospel Church says he unlocked the church to host the evictees since they did not have any other place of aboard yet the church building was idle since government banned prayers in places of worship in a bid to control the transmission of coronavirus.

Audio: Pastor Okello on church assistance (Kiswahili)

Pr. Okello who is however worried about the occupants’ sanitation adds his voice to the leaders to solicit humanitarian support for these evictees to access basic needs especially food and clean and safe water.

Audio: Pastor Okello on government assistance (Kiswahli)

Risks at the church

With more than 300 evictees who are seeking settlement at Kyabarangwa landing site most of whom living in the milieu of the church, there is a sanitation scare due to inadequate washrooms.

Nambiya says sanitation and hygiene is a challenge especially to the women evictees when it comes to washing their bodies during daytime since there are no facilities in place to provide privacy and also during nighttime because of the curfew.

“Women cannot wash their bodies during day because the entire place is open without any seclusion. We cannot go to the lake to bathe during day because it is open neither can we equally bathe when it is dark in the evening because the curfew does not allow us to move beyond 7pm,” Nambiya says.

Audio: Nambiya on sanitation (Kiswahili)
Women and children being hosted in the church at Kyabarangwa landing site in Kibiro Parish, Kigorobya Sub-county in Hoima District. (Photo credit: John Kibego)

The over 70 people living in the church with gender insensitivity pose sexual violence risks.

The situation might become worse in case of any disease outbreak like COVID-19, cholera or Ebola. The diseases can swiftly spread among the crowded population at the landing site since people cannot observe social distancing and lack of enough restrooms.

Mr Frederick Byenume, the Hoima District Health Inspector, acknowledges the risk.

He says the ministry of health guidelines stipulate that nobody should be evicted before sanitary services are put in place at the next destination.

He encourages the communities and local leaders to diligently improvise as they are aware that the eviction exercise was conducted abnormally abruptly.

Audio: Byenume on sanitation (English)

The Hoima District COVID-19 Taskforce chairman, Mr Samuel Kisembo, has been urging the public to avoid crowded places and also ensure hygiene as one of the primary measures of preventing the spread of coronavirus.

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