Battle lines have been drawn between Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga and Chitipa and his subjects over the pending relocation of the Dzaleka Refugee Camp from Dowa to Karonga.
At a press briefing held over the weekend Member of Parliament for Karonga Central Constituency Frank Mwenifumbo disclosed that he will seek legal redress to ensure that the project does not roll out, arguing Kyungu has in the name of government imposed the project on the people.
But Kyungu in a telephone interview yesterday hit back at Mwenifumbo and the Karonga-Heritage group that their actions are from a position of ignorance.
Mwenifumbo accused advocates of the refugee camp project of telling local communities lies that it is a development initiative.
“The United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) itself has documented that wherever refugees have been accommodated there has been enormous damage to the environment, they exert a lot of pressure on natural resources where locals derive their livelihoods from, and we don’t want that here,” Mwenifumbo emphasised.
He further said that the new land law was flouted which invests power in the village land committee for all land transactions.
“After all, no one is convincing us on why the camp is being relocated, if anything those people should be repatriated to their home countries. Look at Rwanda! It is registering highest indicators of economic growth and we are here neglecting our own people in order to accommodate more Rwandans,” Mwenifumbo added.
However, Kyungu maintained that the project has his blessing and has branded Mwenifumbo and the heritage group as mere noise-makers.
“Those people don’t represent the interests of people of Karonga and Chitipa. What they are doing now is total insubordination which does not characterise people of the two districts who respect their tradition, in which chiefs have rights over land,” Kyungu explained.
He then wondered why they have not engaged him amicably over the matter.
But Secretary General of the heritage group Wantwa Mwahimba retaliated that all their efforts to bring Kyungu and others pushing for the project to a round -table discussion have proved futile.
Meanwhile, 28 chiefs from the district and ward councillor for Katili [Lupembe Ward] Ernest Mwalughali have appended their signature to a petition to Ministry of Home Affairs, expressing their reservations on the project.