The unit charged with the task of emergency response in case of disasters has distanced itself from the gross neglect and mismanagement of resources in the disaster-prone districts of Rusizi, Nyabihu, Rubavu and Nyamasheke all in the Western Province.
This follows a Senatorial report implicating senior government officials for mismanaging disasters and neglecting the victims of floods and earthquakes.
The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), has blamed under-funding and lack of equipment as some of the reasons that hamper its activities.
In an Interview with The New Times, the Director of NDMC, Commissioner of Police Cyprian Gatete said the disaster preparedness unit could not have interfered in the management of resources as each ministry and organisation handled its own resources.
“The job of NDMC was to coordinate, but even then, the unit was still under the Prime Minister’s Office. Police had nothing to do with the centre then,”
“Resources, be it money, construction materials or foodstuff, were contributed through individual ministries and Non-Governmental Organisations. So if there was mismanagement or neglect, those responsible should be answerable,” Gatete said.
A Senatorial commission set up to probe issues concerning disaster assistance to earthquake and flood victims in the Western Province implicated the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Health, Local Government, State Ministers for Primary and Secondary education and Social Welfare as well as the Prime Minister’s office.
The NDMC now operates under the Ministry of Internal Security.
He added that the unit which moved from the Prime Ministers office to the Internal Security Ministry before the cabinet decided that it goes to Rwanda National Police on December 16th last year.
However the vital department which is responsible to handle eminent disasters is undermanned and ill equipped to deal high magnitude disasters.
The issue has become a public concern as many fear that thousands of lives could be lost any time a disaster strikes.
In other countries, disaster preparedness departments are fully fledged units equipped and manned to handle national disasters while in other countries have fully fledged ministries for disaster preparedness.
“We are trying hard to have our own equipment such as fire engines, earth moving equipment like bulldozers and excavators as well as stock piles of food and other materials necessary in case of a disaster,” Gatete said.
Currently the NDMC relies on police fire engines which are also not sufficient while for other high magnitude disasters according to Gatete, the unit relies on a ‘siege’-a standing committee consisting different ministries including MINADEF, MININTER, MINALOC, MININFRA and MINISANTE as well as United Nations Agencies.
The Senate report however implicates the ministries in what it terms as ‘collective negligence’ in handling victims of the floods and earthquakes in the western part of the country.
Millions of money, tonnes of construction materials, medicine and foodstuff meant for the victims disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
“In such cases our job is to move fast and assess what happened exactly and the impact but each ministry plays its respective role and handles its own resources,” Gatete explained.
Gatete said that a budget proposal has been forwarded to the Ministry of Internal security which, if approved will allow the disaster centre to acquire its equipment to deal with disasters as well as qualified manpower and expertise.
“We hope we can get funds to acquire an aircraft, earthmoving equipment, fire engines and a fully fledged disaster control centre. Under this budget we could be able to buy and stock pile materials and food stuffs to provide emergency relief in case disaster strikes,” Gatete.
Despite having a weak disaster preparedness unit, Rwanda remains one of the countries on the continent prone to disasters including earthquakes that are common on the Western axis of the country as well eminent volcanic eruptions also in the Western part.
Other common disasters include wild fires in the Volcanoes, Nyungwe Forest as well as Akagera National Park while floods and landslides are common also in the Western and Northern part of the country as well as in Kigali.