This week we have had a fairly major upset in two of the communities that we work in: Banda and Kinawataka. There is a railway track that passes through Banda which is used daily by goods trains traveling between Uganda and Kenya. We know of several people who have been injured by the train and it has even been known to topple over; likely because of the poor maintenance of the tracks. This has been an added worry for the people of Banda as many of the houses are built on or just below the embankment very close to the railway. The Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) warned three years or so ago that they would be overhauling the existing rail network in order to run passenger trains in and out of Kampala. This overhaul included implementing a 30 metre, building-free corridor either side of the railway line in the interests of safety; many people thought that it would never materialise. A few weeks ago, however, they issued another warning for people to vacate the space each side of the line. Families who often struggle to afford the rent on a house here, let alone the food for each day, have been told that they must take all their possessions and leave, putting them in a desperate situation.
On Monday, the landlords of all the houses 30 metres either side of the railway in Banda, (as well as a good number in Kinawataka within the 30m boundary) began dismantling and demolishing the properties that they were renting out, evicting those still living there and reclaiming whatever materials they could. People are losing their homes and businesses and by the end of the week the corridor is due to be completely clear. While in Banda over the last few days we have been overwhelmed by the distress, frustration and hopelessness of the people around us, some were aggressive, others in tears as they saw their homes torn down in front of them.
Thieves have also tried to capitalise on the confusion, even trying to slip into the condemned buildings in broad daylight in order to steal anything of value. One of the Mamas stayed outside her shop all night to ensure that no-one came to take her stock. Luckily she was able to rent another house for her family, although it is far too small to conduct her business from and barely big enough to hold the contents of her shop, let alone her husband and 3 children. Happily we were able to help her in finding a space to store much of her produce and also to assist her in moving everything into it. On Monday her business was torn down, with all the shelving that she had invested in but couldn’t take away, still inside. However, 48 hours later she is still choosing to praise God and thank Him for His faithfulness despite all that she has been through. As a team, we are so encouraged and challenged by such testimonies as we continue to comfort and support those who have lost so much, encouraging and praying for them as they decide what to do and where to go.
Many families who have villages they might be able to return to, have also been put in a terrible situation. Unable to afford to transport both their children and their belongings back to their villages, they are forced to make a choice between the two. The landlady of two shops due to be torn down, cried as she told us that she has had to send her children to stay with family elsewhere, while she is left without the means to relocate her possessions or anywhere to take them. Just to make matters worse, the children were due to take their end of term exams in a week or so, (in a school which is also scheduled for demolition) but will now miss them and must now try to find a new school in which to finish the year.
Please pray for the community and all the families affected. Also for the team as we seek to comfort and encourage those who remain.
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