Community, Diaspora and Immigration

The Cave has been his home for more than ten years

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When heavy rains pounded Bukhamoli village in Wanale ridge at Khauka cliff in Wanale Subcounty, triggering off mudslides that rolled through villages destroying gardens and people’s houses in 1997, many people sought refuge with their close relatives before relocating to other areas.

But Yefusa Wafakhale, 71, who was one of those who lost his house to the boulders and trees that rolled from Khauka cliff, just moved about 20 metres away from his former home up to Khauka ridge, discovered a cave and modified it into a house in which he has been living since then.

The exterior of the five square metre cave is impressive. Steep slopes of up to 50m high, stand up like a natural wall on Khauka hill, south of Wanale ridge at the slopes of Mt Elgon.

Massive rocks, which stand suspended as if someone has just placed them there, dominate the place. Inside are small cracks visibly seen besides an old cupboard that has turned sooty. Other rocks are precariously placed on top of this main rock but Wafakhale is not bothered.

Although the “house” has no verandah, so one has to just hang at the doorway, Wafkhale says, “I have found comfort here, this is my house, my home and I am safe from boulders.”

On one side of the cave, is an area that has cooking stones, that serve as a night kitchen. Dark stains of soot deposits and dust marks cover the stone walls and the roof of the interior, as a local candle (tadoba) is placed in one corner of this house as the only source of light at night. Bamboo shoots (malewa) a traditional delicacy hang inside the house and a few scattered dirty, plastic cups, plates and saucepans sit on the floor.

One can see eggs that seem to have been freshly laid, a sign that he lives with chicken inside. Visitors are welcomed by dry banana leaves that cover a section of the cave.

This is also a home for his goats, his chicken and sheep. Wafakhale, whose name in a local Gishu language (Lumasaaba) means one who died long ago, has covered the entrance of the cave with mud and wattle and sought safety in the cave to escape the rolling boulders from the hills.

“I had no alternative land, this was the only piece I had remained with so I decided to come up to this stone cave. I have been here for quite long. What I only remember is that when my house was destroyed, that is when I climbed here for safety,” Wafakhale says.

Although he believes he is safe in this cave, it looks like a stone placed on another that could give way anytime, and roll down the valley.

The LC1 Chairman Bukhamoli village, Vincent Kalenda, says Wafakhale has been living in the cave for the last 10 years and that even amidst constant mudslides in Manale region, efforts to have him leave the place have been futile.

“This old man started living here over 10 years ago after a mudslide destroyed his house and even when we tell him that it is dangerous, the man has refused to leave the place, yet he has children,” says Kalenda.

Wanale Sub-county councillor Kurusum Kissa says the heavy rains being experienced in Mt Elgon area necessitate that Wafakhale is evacuated and taken somewhere else where he will be safe.

“Because when you look at these hanging rocks, it looks like they will come down anytime and he will be buried under here,” the councillor adds.

The Red Cross Eastern Region Coordinator, Stephen Wamukota, said Wafakhale is going to be the first person to be taken away whether he wants to leave or not because he is living dangerously and tempting death.

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