Over 50 local chiefs from Karonga say they are seeking legal redress against the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security and Paramount Chief Kyungu of the district over issues surrounding the impending refugee camp project.
The chiefs are faulting the ministry and Kyungu for failing to address their concerns, and want the courts to suspend any activities pertaining to the project.
The local leaders disclosed their resolve to Kyungu’s Senior Counsel Mpeta Mwakasungula last week Thursday after the paramount chief delegated him to a consultative meeting with his subjects.
They argue the top-to-bottom approach taken by authorities on the matter contradicts the Ngonde culture which values grassroots’ voices.
“The fact of the matter is that we are saying no to the project. We wanted to engage government and spell out our reasons for the rejection amicably but it has not been cooperative,” said a village head, who was present at the meeting, in a telephone interview over the weekend.
Opting for anonymity, the village head said the project, which emphasises coexistence and between the refugees their host communities, also threatens chieftaincies in the area.
“Land has overtime become a very scarce resource among the Ngonde people. So, allocating over 90 hectares to a project whose threats supersede the benefits to the host communities is hostility of the highest order,” said the source.
Asked on what he reported to Kyungu from the meeting, Mwakasungula said: “It is clear that Karonga has rejected the project! These junior chiefs are in direct contact with the people. So I want to believe that this is what their subjects are saying.”
Mwakasungula also wondered why the ministry responsible is failing to respond to the chiefs’ March petition in which they raised a number of issues on why Karonga cannot host the asylum seekers.
Paramount Chief Kyungu’s mobile phone went unanswered several times when we sought his comment.
But Ministry of Home Affairs Principal Secretary Sam Madula questioned the justification for the legal action, saying the ministry did not impose the project on the people.
Last year, government commenced procedures on the relocation of over 30,000 refugees from Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa to Karonga in a bid to comply with the UNHCR regulations of placing a refugee camp on not less than 50-kilometre radius from the capital, among other guidelines.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues