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Page last updated at 19:07 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Uganda plans to resettle 500,000 over mudslide risk

A boy holding school books near near the village of Bukalasa, eastern Uganda
Some 300,000 people living on the slopes of Mount Elgon will be moved

Half a million people will need to be moved from their homes in mountainous areas of Uganda because of the risk of mudslides, the government has said.

Hundreds are believed to have died last week when mud enveloped communities on the slopes of Mount Elgon, in the east.

The government said some 200,000 people living in the west, near the Ruwenzori mountains, would be among those who should be relocated.

A minister said the deadly mudslides were a "wake-up call".

"The total population at risk of landslides and floods is estimated to be 500,000," said Musa Ecweru, minister for disaster preparedness.

'Challenge'

He said he was convinced that much of the area in the east of the country, on the slopes of Mount Elgon about 275km (170 miles) north-east of the capital Kampala, was too dangerous to live in.

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"The Elgon region has been invaded up to very dangerous slopes and if we don't relocate these people we are likely to witness a repeat of what we have witnessed," he said.

So far, a total of 83 bodies have been recovered from last week's mudslide in the Bududa district, though it is feared as many as 300 may have died when their homes, schools and villages were swallowed by fast-moving walls of mud.

Uganda has one of the highest population growth rates in the world but, as more people settle on the mountains, the trees have been felled to make way for agriculture - making mudslides and flooding more common.

The BBC's Will Ross, in the capital of neighbouring Kenya, Nairobi, said that the very idea of mass relocations a year before an election is due to spark controversy.

A spokesman for the Uganda Land Alliance, a non-governmental organisation working on land distribution issues said the plans did not seem to be very realistic.

"In the Uganda of today it is very difficult to find land that is not owned, so this is going to pose a challenge for government," Deo Tumusiime told Agence France Presse.



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