There are a thousand and one sayings that start with "be careful what you wish for" and end in different annoying ways.
It seems they are intended to discourage us from asking (especially God) for things that we can easily get for ourselves and shouldn’t bother the almighty seeking divine intervention for. It appears that when God applies the heavenly response to small requests, you may get more than you bargained for.
In Uganda, one thing we have in abundance is water. It is not surprising that we have the source of the world’s longest river which enabled civilisation to start in Egypt. The mother of River Nile, which is Lake Victoria, is actually an inland drainage system of many streams that has only one outlet, the Nile.
Every part of the country has enough rainfall to support rich agriculture. Some water is frozen on the Equator atop the Rwenzori mountains. Underground water is everywhere near the surface. Yet with all that water, we have been crying for free water.
Yes, a tiny, miniscule percentage of our water flows through the pipes of the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and we have all along been wishing to get it free. And that cry for free water has nothing to do with poverty. Some of the really rich guys around have been repeatedly accused of stealing from NWSC.
In fact, one of the main activities of NWSC is to hunt down citizens who rob its water. It is amazing the effort and investment people put in systems to divert NWSC water to their premises illegally.
When the word coronavirus entered the country earlier this year, almost everyone started agitating for free water from NWSC. We kept crying for free water until the old saying came true as God answered our prayers. He sent us water, then some more water and He is still sending more water.
The water levels in the open water bodies started rising. The level of Lake Victoria’s water has already surpassed the highest level ever recorded by Uganda. The people who built close to the water, in contravention of the laws, started getting water on their doorstep. But God kept answering their prayers and the water entered their houses and is still coming in. Maybe the water would have been welcome but it also brings fish to the living room and frogs into the bedrooms. And a snake or two as well.
As God grants our wish for free water, the situation becomes less and less funny every day. The enormous amounts of raw sewage in latrines and sewage tanks also join the cargo being distributed by the water as many homes become flooded. Improvised canoes are becoming a necessity now for movement in many parts of the city.
Every other day, television viewers are treated to a menu of floating communities, soaked beddings and submerged homes, both for rich and poor. And the floods are everywhere. At first, focus was on Lake Victoria shores because, well, that is where the more populated towns like the capital city of Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja are found. But the same havoc is harassing water bodies far beyond, especially around Lake Kyoga. Thousands of homes are simply being drowned.
The people have cried out to the government for compensation, but that is one wish that will not be fulfilled. President Yoweri Museveni has said people whose homes have been flooded should ideally be the ones to compensate government, since they encroached on public space on which they were not supposed to erect their houses.
But out of compassion, the government is not pressing ahead with demands for compensation from the people who grabbed its protected lands — the now hapless displaced peasants and urban shoreline encroachers.
And the heavenly Father is still sending more water from the skies. I hope our people do not start wishing for sunshine. What if the almighty sends us the mean, scorching sunshine for as long as it has been raining. It is coming to two years now of no dry season.
The water levels in the lakes are still rising. The rivers are bursting their banks and sweeping away bridges.
But you don’t want to imagine what two years of a scorching sun would bring!
Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail:[email protected]