IN March this year Bududa in eastern Uganda suffered a major landslide in which hundreds of people died. Landslides are nothing new in Bududa, but never before has the death toll or damage been as high as the one that happened in March.
Generally, landslides occur when masses of rocks, earth and debris move down a slope. Mudslides are different. They are fast-moving landslides that move in a channel and carry debris as it happened in Bududa.
Landslides do not occur only during heavy rains. They can occur during the dry season, volcanic eruption, or earthquake.
Last week on August 14, another landslide happened in Bududa and this time registered a few deaths. However, it prompted the Government to relocate the people of Bududa to various places countrywide.
The relocation of the victims as reported in media on August 20 leaves a lot to be desired. It was reported that the Government, through the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, has finally come up with a bold decision to relocate the landslide victims to Kiryandongo in Masindi, Nshaka in Kiruhura, Nkyankwanzi in Kiboga and Sembabule districts. While this seems like a sigh of relief to the victims, it leaves one pondering more questions than answers.
How did the Government come up with a plan to relocate these people to the identified places?
Given that land is a major factor of production in Uganda from which most people derive their livelihood, are we not going to see resentment from the â€˜hostâ€™ communities?
What will happen to the much cherished social-cultural fabric of the Bududa people when they are moved elsewhere?
The climate in most of the areas where the victims are going to be settled is harsh to agriculture.
Most of these areas are semi-arid and the major economic activity is pastoralism. This is in sharp contrast to the economic activity that most Bududa residents were used to, which is crop farming.
To make matters worse, the likelihood of clashes between the old settlers and the Bududa victims in their new areas of resettlement are high. There will also be a danger of depletion of resources because of the over utilisation of land for both animal rearing and crop farming.
It is also a known fact that the Bamasaba community from the areas of Mbale and Bududa practise circumcision, a practice that is alien to some of the communities where they are going to be relocated.
Such practices are intolerable in some communities in Uganda, and this is likely to spur confusion which may ignite violence in a few years to come.
The relocation has also been given a very limited time frame. To say that these people relocate by September 2, is quite unrealistic.
Perhaps the time frame has been arrived at considering that more rains are yet to come, thus fear of more landslides. But for a person who has been living in an area for a number of years moving hastily to a completely new setting requires more time, resources and planning, which seems to have skipped the policy makers in the disaster preparedness ministry.
Before the exercise commences, there is need for community involvement because the community has their own expectations. This way the Government would be able to handle the concerns of the victims of the landslides and the host communities.
In todayâ€™s planning process, it is being argued that if any intervention is to be sustainable, consultations should be made at all levels right from grassroots levels up to the highest level of leadership.
Although it has been reported that a technical team which comprises elders from Bududa will visit the new sites to ascertain the levels of preparedness in terms of social services and climatic conditions among others, its doubtable whether this will have any meaningful change on the peopleâ€™s lives.
The Government decision to relocate the landslide victims is commendable, but such decisions require more time, resources and a number of stakeholders if a sustainable solution to such calamities is to be provided.
The disaster preparedness ministry has to sufficiently plan in order to avoid creating more disasters in the process of providing solutions.
A masters student of governance and development at Makerere University