Secession by flooding: How rain is dividing up our good country Uganda
Saturday May 20 2023
A cheeky TikTok video has been circulating among Ugandans, with a girl posing as a news anchor announcing the secession of the southern region from the republic.
She, however, explains that the secession of the new breakaway country is not a proclamation by man, but an act of God!
The video is a light-hearted view of, yet another catastrophe visited upon us by the climate change phenomenon. Uganda had woken up one morning week to the submergence of the main westward highway from Kampala City, which links the country and Kenya to southern Uganda, northern Tanzania, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bewildered citizens speculated on what had turned a major tarmac motorway into a lake, with most explanations falling into two categories: whether the road had sunk, or the water levels of the surrounding wetland and River Katonga had risen.
The explanations made little difference for, whatever the case, the main gateway to southern Uganda and to three other countries was cut off.
Our elite can no longer afford to laugh at peasants who trek down the stream to collect muddy water soon after a downpour, for now, all 45 million of us look ridiculous complaining of too much water as the poor shiver in their broken shelters and the rich sit helplessly stranded in their powerless SUVs.
Read: BUWEMBO: You can drive carbon-spewing car in Uganda but not without a bin
You would have expected that in a country a fifth of whose surface is open water, the population would by now have learnt not only how to tame water but also to take the most advantage of it.
For example, four of the country’s most important urban centres — Jinja, Kampala, Entebbe and Masaka —are so close to one another where they sit on the same shoreline of Lake Victoria. But, for no sane reason, there is no regular public transport service on the lake connecting them.
So, travelling from Masaka to Jinja by road, which is a distance of 208 kilometres, will take up most of the day, yet a ferry would take a couple of hours (and by speedboat, less).
During the Covid lockdown, when the air was clear, as there were no vehicle fumes for over a year, many lakeside residents of eastern Kampala were surprised that they could easily see Entebbe, which is 50 kilometres and several hours away by road.
And last we heard, the country was looking for someone to lend us a billion dollars to build another highway linking Kampala and Jinja. A superb ferry service certainly wouldn’t cost beyond $100 million.
If we stop looking at water as an insurmountable obstacle and start treating it as blessing, we will have better transport which is also far cheaper by road.
We would also harness the water and make electricity from it so that it powers our mass transport systems and saves our health from the smoke emitted by our dirty, old cars, which also cause a lot of traffic jams.
We would drain it properly when it rains so that it does not damage roads, homes and farms. The farms would, thus, be more productive, the homes more comfortable and the roads clear all the year, without having parts of the country and neighbouring countries being cut off when it rains, sparing us of secession announcements over TikTok.
Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail: [email protected]