BY ROBERT ATIKU

MARACHA : Atleast 107 grass thatched houses have burnt into ashes, under mysterious circumstances, in Rikabu village, Robu Parish, Kijomoro subcounty, Maracha district.
This incident has left more than 200 people from 82 households sleeping under trees, despite onset of rains.
*Victims speak out*
Mr. James Lifoa 45, a single parent who takes care of his five children said, he currently survives on sale of poor quality bunches of matoke from his garden. “My hut burnt when I was away from home for a cultural function. None of my house hold items were rescued. I am struggling to build another house with the help of my brother who gave me bricks. I am worried of the health of my children with whom I now sleep in the cold.” Mr. Lifoa lamented.
Mr. Joseph Lulua, who revealed that the houses mostly burn at night said, four of his houses have so far burnt down. “Only one house had remained in my home here in which my elderly mother used to sleep. But it also finally got burnt on Easter Monday. I failed to see how it caught fire although I pretended to be on guard under a tree behind the house.” Mr. Lulua narrated.
These houses reportedly started burning in December last year but they still continue to burn sporadically and mysteriously till now.
Some of the residents have started constructing semi-permanent structures with iron roofs since such houses are under no threat yet. A section of the victims have removed all the grass that was thatched on the roofs of their houses as they claim non of such houses in the area are so far burnt by the mysterious fire. Ms. Luja Auderu 70, who is also severely affected says she had never witnessed such an incident in her life before.
Mrs. Auderu accuses the elders and local leaders in the area of dragging their feet to forge a way forward. “We are helpless; here our leaders are reluctant to help. What is helping us is the unity among victims who have formed a stand_by rescue team to save household items once an alarm is made. That is why minimum damage (of house hold property) later on is realized here.” Ms. Auderu stated.
*Need for support* The Local council Two Chairman and Acting parish chief for Robu Parish, Mr. Jacinto Obeti said, the affected people are in dire need of support due to the disaster. “They need construction materials like iron sheets to build iron roofed houses since such houses are not at risk at moment.” Mr. Obeti said.
After assessing damages in 71 households by Tuesday, the sub-county chief of Kijomoro Mr. Francis Edoni described the living conditions of the victims as appalling. “With the rains we know that there is a big challenge for the victims, we appeal to whoever can give help in form of shelter to support the victims who are mainly children, women, elderly and also people with disabilities. Their household items like food, utensils and livestock are destroyed.” Mr Edoni remarked. Mr. Edoni urges the affected residents to remain calm and find peaceful approaches to put an end to the mysterious fires that burn those houses. “Whereas the cause of the fire is mysterious, I appeal to the residents and clan members to be mindful that their decisions should be lawful, we wouldn’t want to have a situation where people take law into their hands.” Mr. Edoni advised.
*Efforts made*
The Kijomoro subcounty LCIII Chairman, Mr. Matua William said, attempts to use detectives and LC1 Chairman to dialogue with the community and informing the district leadership, have neither identified the cause of the fires nor yielded any support for the victims. “Whenever we gather here to discuss, more houses burn, but I am sure tonight we will hear about more havoc. I addressed the people to identify the cause of this fire in Minyoko church of Uganda and we also came here together with the RDC and the DPC but all in vain, these people are surviving on God’s mercy” Mr. Matua said.
Maracha District Chief Administrative Officer, Mr. Christopher Okumu said, “Officially, we have not yet notified the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Office of Prime Minister. The report we have on the incident is not yet conclusive. I am dispatching a multidisciplinary team to go and make a very comprehensive assessment. Out of that assessment, they should quantify the needs of every(affected) house hold such that we can prepare a letter to make an appeal to the office of the Prime minister.” The CAO added that the activities of the District Disaster Management Committee have some how been affected by COVID_19 pandemic, because it became a super emergency.
In 2018, similar mysterious fires also burnt several grass thatched houses in Bataka Village, Tara subcounty, Maracha district.
It was not until spiritual interventions were sought that the burning of these houses ceased.End