Law on disaster risk management needed like yesterday- gov’t told

News -->
Law on disaster risk management needed like yesterday- gov’t told
Uganda Red Cross legal advisor, Alex Luganda speaks during the meeting.

Stakeholders have asked government to expedite the formulation of the Disaster Risk Management bill that will guide and prepare the country to manage and prevent disasters in the country.

Speaking during a stakeholders’ meeting about the bill organized at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala, Alex Luganda, the legal advisor to the Uganda Red Cross Society said the law is needed like yesterday.

“We have always seen that when emergencies occur, there are uncoordinated responses and the absence of a law partly leads to this. Absence of a law also leads to the lack of clear commitment in terms of funding and resource allocation,” Luganda said.

He cited an example of supplementary budgets that are always requested for by government whenever there is an emergency, a situation he blamed on lack of a legislation to streamline disaster risk management.

“The bureaucracies of response and funding caused b lack of a law affect victims because if there is an emergency like a landslide in Bududa which has covered three villages with 600,000 families closed up and you have to wait for parliament to sit, Finance Ministry to develop a paper sent to parliament, MPs debate the supplementary budget and then come back to Ministry of Finance, that process cant be done in two days but might take a month. Then what is happening on the ground where citizens have been buried by soil and  have no food?”

The Uganda Red Cross Society legal advisor said the essence of a disaster risk management law is to design a tailor made response to disaster to streamline the handling of funds, relief items and so many other things related to management of disasters.

Some of the members who participated in the meeting.

He however said this is still lacking, despite the so many disasters the country has faced.

“Uganda is a signatory to so many regional and international protocols on disaster management and disaster risk reduction but all these prescribed different approaches to disaster reduction and the essence of a national legislation is to harmonize all these protocols and put them into one rule book.”

He said the law will make disaster management more organized and coordinated.

Early preparations

The Ugandan government has always been blamed for not preparing for disasters but rather waiting for them to happen and react.

However, according to the Uganda Red Cross, having a law in place guiding the management of disasters will help eliminate such scenarios.

“Uganda is permanent host to emergencies and disasters. Every rainy season we know River Nyamwamba in Kasese is going to burst its banks and landslides are going to wash away house in Bududa but what have we done to mitigate and prevent this state of affairs? We are in a situation where the would-be helpers cry more than the victims because of lack of preparation. The essence of the law is to help consolidate preparate, early response, coordination and funding among other issues.”

The Office of the Prime Minister is supposed to formulate the Disaster Risk Management Bill but for over 12 years, efforts to have the law have proved futile.

Speaking on Wednesday, Tororo Woman MP, Sarah Opendi but also a member of the Parliamentary forum on disaster risk reduction said whereas in 2011 the disaster risk management policy was passed, it hasn’t helped anything.

“Policies are not binding but merely guide and don’t have any force of law. It is quite important for us to look at either existing legislations and strengthen them or come up with a completely new piece of legislation that will be able to have some sanctions,” Opendi said.

She added, “ In Uganda people want to make money but don’t want to work for it. If you look at most of the disasters we have, many are man made but we need sanctions to offenders causing some of these disasters.  People are cutting down trees, others invading swamps which leads to disasters like floods. The law will go a long way in stipulating the sanctions.”

Commenting about the law, officials from the Office of the Prime Minister said the process has kicked off.

“We are currently at cabinet stage but there is a stead progress of other stages. The journey we have moved started with a policy which was passed by cabinet and is being implemented. We have concluded regulatory assessment and approved. We engagement the Ministry of Finance which issued a certificate of financial implication which is a clearance that enabled us go to cabinet,” said Alex Byaruhanga, a senior legal officer in the Office of the Prime Minister.

He noted that they are now on the stage of cabinet approving the principles and then see the way forward.

The meeting was also attended by Members of Parliament, district local government officials and members from the civil society.


Reader's Comments