By Mike Musisi-Musoke
Mukono - Residents of Nattonko village, Bukerere parish in Goma Division on Sunday exhumed a colleague who was on Saturday buried by collapsing walls of a quarry where he was excavating stones.
Grief stricken residents at the scene on Sunday said they believed the quarry walls were softened by the ongoing torrential rains which led to the accident.
The deceased's body was recovered on Sunday afternoon after two days of work.
19-year old Mubiru Paul, son of a resident only identified as Maama Kevina of Nattonko village, and his unidentified colleague were on their routine work of digging out boulders.
Residents working dangerously between weak walls to try and rescue their colleague
The colleague who had gone to fetch drinking water was shocked to find a heap of soil covering the place where his friend was working.
He raised an alarm which attracted residents, and they immediately began exhumation work after the accident which occurred at around 10.00 a.m.
Police fire brigade were summoned but told residents on arrival that they could do nothing since they had no excavator.
According to residents, district and division leaders who were informed of the incident by phone, had not responded by 3.00 p.m. on Sunday when New Vision arrived at the scene.
The LCI NRM Chairman Sam Nayihamba said he contacted the Central Division NRM Chairman George Kaala Sentongo "Santa Maria" and another resident, Lt. Grace Reagan Muganza, who in turn called the Chief of Defence Forces Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, with a request to dispatch an excavator from the UPDF Engineering department.
The deceased's mother (centre) grieving after her son's body is retrieved from the quarry. All photos/ Mike Musisi-Musoke
However, before arrival of the machinery, the residents managed to retrieve their colleague's body. They variously blamed police for promising to find an excavator from neighbouring Kira Town Council authorities on Saturday, but never responded.
Katende Jessie, a leading mobiliser since the incident, blamed locals leaders for not responding to their calls after the accident.
"We called the district and division chairmen respectively, and district councilors, but they have not turned up and we have locally mobilized funds for preparing food to eat during the vigil set up at the scene" Katende said.
NRM Chairman Kaala Sentongo expressed worry that the accident is bound to recur, given the depth reached by the diggers, adding, "there is an urgent need to sensitize these people of the dangers they face in their work because, even now as we dig to recover our colleague, they continue to penetrate with no regard for the fact that the quarry walls are weak after the rains and could cave in any time".
Lt. Muganza urged local leaders to mount an operation barring underage children from working in quarries instead of going to school.
He said, "there is too much importance attached to wealth by communities to the extent that even parents have shunned the responsibility to stop their children from working there, and I think it is time for leaders to make rounds to these sites stopping children from working".