By Abu Bakarr Sulaiman Tarawally
Following the horrible flash-floods and mudslide disaster at Regent, West-East of the capital, Freetown, in August 14, 2017, the Government of Sierra Leone demarcated the disaster zone a no go area and unfit for human habitation. That measure was to prevent incidents of that nature from happening anytime in future.
Legions of persons got covered under the rubles and gushing water made away different parts of human remains. The country is yet to fully recover from that shock. However, reports indicate that some people are squirting along the green belt forming settlements in the excuse of not having shelters.
These people, according to an investigation by SierraleoNews.com, are using abandoned buildings near the area for habitation. The government took the decision to demolish remaining houses in the disaster-prone community to prevent a recurring disaster in the soonest possible time.
One year on after the incident, government declared Mortomeh a memorial site. The commemoration ends a path in tree planting activity to afforest the very zone which served in the past as water catchment area –few kilometres off the Guma Valley Water Company reservoir.
But what could be the reason for these individuals wanting to risk their lives by residing in that part of the capital once more; a resident who prefers anonymity explains to SierraleoNews.com: “Some were coal miners; some are taking fun of the cool environment, water catchment areas, and the proximity to the commercial hub in West of the capital.” Other reasons, according our source include the cultivation of marijuana and little other businesses to be able to eke a living.
On the part of the government, relocation packages were given to cross sections of the affected party. Though a good number of survivors of the August 14, 2017 incident complained to the media of their names not being in the registers and hence did not benefit from the relief supports and relocation packages.
Authorities at the ONS and relevant line ministries such as the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs; and the Ministry of Lands Housing and Infrastructure continue to raise objections to such claims citing double standards and impersonation which happened during the registration stage. For example, ONS sources say they had evidence of individuals who gave their names for registration that were not residents of the disaster area at the time.
There were cases of survivors in hospitals following the disaster whose names were not in the register. Scores also made claims they did not receive relief packages since they opted out of the camps for trauma healing and counselling sessions; while the other folks often go out in search of food.
A good number of allegations point to the fact that authorities in charge of registration of victims and survivors were not consistent in meeting the schedule of time. “Often we queued the day long for the registration only for the authorities not showing up; and when they eventually did come, many amongst us were out of the camps in search of food and handouts,” this source maintains.
The authorities, however, could not admit having carried out a faulty registration exercise. With the latest influx, it is not known immediately what line of action the government would take this time to prevent squatters from forming an immediate settlement in that danger zone, as demarcated, since another rainy season is now at hand.