Planning for rain: How it is beating Uganda instead

Thursday March 16 2017

There is an old Ugandan saying that the coming

There is an old Ugandan saying that the coming of the rain tests the reliability of the huts in the village. For while it shines, you cannot tell whether your hut leaks. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By Joachim Buwembo

There is an old Ugandan saying that the coming of the rain tests the reliability of the huts in the village. For while it shines, you cannot tell whether your hut leaks.

Anyway, the real meaning of the proverb is about the commitment of friends, which can only be proven when problems emerge.

But now it is not the proverbial imagery, but the real rain that finally came and provided Ugandans with the opportunity to prove the worth of their public planners and implementers.

It is the worth of previous ministers of works that is being judged and proven, since they presided over the development of physical infrastructure that is holding or not holding after the skies opened.

But it is also the worth of individual household heads who built houses with(out) rainwater harvesting provisions that is being tested, if their wives and children head out to collect dirty water from streams immediately the rain stops pouring.

The worth of previous finance ministers and Treasury chiefs is also being proven because they are the ones who made budgetary provisions for (not) dealing with runoff water that that is both unavailable for use and also destructive along its journey, sometimes destroying lives as well.

The worth of Ugandan civil engineers is being proven as we watch roads being eaten away by weak runoff water as if there is no tar for holding the gravel together.

This though is not surprising since most of them were trained at Makerere University, whose perimeter fence that cost billions of shillings was several years ago swept away when a slight drizzle fell because the country’s top engineers forgot to use cement while building with bricks and sand.

As low food harvests are registered several months down the road, it is the worth of agriculture officials that is being tested by the rain, for it is they who did(n’t) teach farmers any methods of conserving water to ensure continued watering of crops and livestock after the rainy season.

The worth of urban planners is also being exposed, for failing to or managing to provide for proper drainage as the city and townships get flooded and many residents wake up in the middle of the night to find their belongings floating and themselves gasping for air as their houses get filled with rainwater.

Together with that of the planners, the worth of city authorities who are responsible for keeping the drainages open, after borrowing millions of dollars to build the city’s drainage channels is also on test. And together with their urban leaders and managers, the worth of city dwellers is being tested by the rains.

For it is the city dwellers, together with the traders and of course other Ugandans who travel through and work in the city, who block drainage by carelessly discarding plastic bottles and bags.

To these of course the rain adds the moneyed developers who are building on the hills and keep sending tonnes of red soil down the drainage channels as they excavate their elevated sites. Yes, it is good that the rain has come to show our true worth and if we really deserve this country.

Joachim Buwembo is a social and political commentator based in Kampala. E-mail: [email protected]