Dar es Salaam/Bukoba. Anger has greeted Kagera Regional Commissioner Salum Kijuu’s statement that only a “select group” of victims of the September 10 earthquake were entitled to receive a portion of the Sh5.4 billion raised for relief.
Nineteen people died and at least 360 others were injured in the 5.7-magnitude earthquake.
According to Kagera regional authorities, 126,315 people were affected after 16,667 houses were either damaged or destroyed.
Major General (rtd) Kijuu told reporters in Bukoba that the bulk of the Sh5.4 billion received by the region’s disaster committee would be spent on repairing damaged public buildings and infrastructure.
The announcement sparked anger on social media and in some political circles.
Many of those who commented criticised the government for what they said was a U-turn from the distribution of relief aid planned earlier.
“So donations raised by concerned citizens to help victims have now ended up in the government’s hands. I believe this is misguided,’’ said a user on the popular Tanzagiza page on Facebook.
ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe warned yesterday that Maj Gen Kijuu’s statement would create animosity between people affected by the earthquake and the government.
The Kigoma Urban MP said in a statement sent to newsrooms that the RC’s statement was a “slap in the face” for victims of the earthquake.
“It would have been wiser for the government to first focus on shelter for people rendered homeless by the earthquake before repairing public buildings and infrastructure.
“As a political party, we take this opportunity to remind the government of its responsibility in rebuilding people’s lives,” said Mr Kabwe, who also challenged the government to overturn the RC’s decision.
Bukoba Urban MP Wilfred Rwakatare said many of those who lost everything in the earthquake were poor people who expected the government to help them.
However, Maj Gen Kijuu’s pronouncement should not have come as a surprise following President John Magufuli’s call in September urging people affected by the disaster to start rebuilding their houses instead of waiting for government assistance.
According to the regional commissioner’s report, Sh4.2 billion of the funds would be allocated to six district councils for the repair of dispensaries, schools and other public buildings that were damaged in the earthquake.
In Bukoba Rural District, part of the money is to be spent on repairing five dispensaries, eight primary schools and 20 secondary schools.
Money will also be sent to Karagwe District for the repair of three dispensaries, one health centre, 16 primary schools, seven secondary schools, one ward office, the district commissioner’s official residence and the residence of a government official.
Bukoba Municipality will also get a share of the relief money for the repair of a hospital, three dispensaries, 11 primary schools and 11 ward offices, while one hospital and 25 dispensaries have been earmarked for repair in Missenyi District.
According to the RC, money will be sent to Kyerwa District for the repair of a primary school and four secondary schools, while Muleba District will be given funds to repair 13 primary schools. Maj Gen Kijuu did not specify what each district would get.
He said the government would consider vulnerable groups such as orphans and widows.
The RC appealed for more donations, saying at least Sh10 billion was needed to restore damaged infrastructure in the region.
A few weeks after the earthquake struck, The Citizen surveyed some of the affected areas and saw hundreds of homeless people, who were still waiting for assistance.
There were also concerns that it was taking too long for the government to send and distribute relief.
The regional commissioner’s office also declared itself the sole authority charged with receiving and distributing assistance in the affected areas.
However, Maj Gen Kijuu said in his latest statement that well-wishers could distribute assistance directly to those who need it in wards.