Not too long, in the wider East Africa the big story was drought. In Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia cattle were being wiped out, and farmers were selling their animals for pennies to cut their losses.
The photos of gaunt mothers and their children in camps were everywhere. Ethiopia and Somalia were facing the worst drought in over 60 years, and South Sudan was likely to perish in a famine.
Then the rains came, and from the Horn, central Africa, to southern Africa everything was under water. And again hunger, lost livelihoods, and emergency rescues, were the order the day.
Barely had we caught our breaths, than the fearsome locusts joined the action, ravaging every green thing in their way from Ethiopia, Somalia, to Kenya, with fears they could cut a ravenous path to Uganda and South Sudan.
In all these crises, governments and our societies have struggled. Beyond prayers and appeals to the international community for help, we’ve otherwise been out of our depths.
Nature has become moody and even angry, and we are told these calamities will be the order of the day from now on, because we have upset the balance of the Earth’s climate.
For our survival, many things have to change. For one, national governments can no longer work alone.
They must just ramp up efforts for collective action. Kenya, for example, benefits if Ethiopia and Somalia don’t keep locusts a state secret, and let Nairobi know they are on the way.
The downstream countries along the River Nile, are better served if the upstream ones tell them the river has burst its banks. It means trouble is coming their way. It seems, then, that nature might just once and for all settle the argument over regional co-operation.
At national level, all our governments have so far given more money to soldiers (defence), than agriculture, early warning systems, or weather.
Some time ago there was a rather shocking story in Uganda that the meteorological service’s regional offices send their reports to a central point by boda boda, then they would be gathered and sent to Kampala.
Hopefully the situation has changed, but that meant the meteorological authority was issuing reports that were several days late — with the weather long changed.
The idea that a weather scientist with a faded suit, thin tie, and seated in a leaking office no one otherwise cares about should start getting more money than a general with a three-car envoy, will for sure be a near-impossible sell. But the countries that survive in the near future, will be those that make the leap.
Environmental ministers can also no longer be just the president’s favourite ruling party clown, whom he is keeping fed in the job until the next election, or the chap who failed as Agriculture minister and is being given the docket as a soft landing in a cabinet reshuffle.
It has to be a clever woman who studied environmental science, and knows the difference between climate change and global warming.
We might also have to accept that the time for charismatic presidents who fill stadiums with crowds will have to end.
To deal with the climate challenges, we will probably need clever but boring chaps who read science journals on vacation, and have crowd phobia, to lead us.
You heard it here first.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is The author is curator of the “Wall of Great Africans” and publisher of explainer site Roguechiefs.com. [email protected]