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OpEd

IRENE KIIZA: Yes, we Ugandans need to mourn and mourn some more

Some  of the boat cruise victims on Lake Victoria. Government declared Friday 30, National mourning day. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – The government of Uganda has declared Friday November 30, National Day of Mourning after over 30 Ugandans drowned while on a boat cruise on Lake Victoria over the weekend.

The dead 30 or so people were part of the probably 120 revellers aboard MV Templar, an unlicensed boat in a terrible condition that capsized killing many on November 24. I say probably because there was no manifest showing the exact number of people that boarded the fateful vessel. My guess is as good as yours.

Whatever we want to say, we Ugandans must change the way we think. We must learn to demand proper services from those that are mandated to provide them, whether in the public service or private sector. The only reason people decide to risk their lives on a ramshackle boat is because it is our nature never to ask questions. To think that respectable people like Prince David Wasajja, Freeman Kiyimba, Hope Mukasa and the like could accept to be squeezed with those youngsters, most of them not wearing any safety jackets, on a rickety boat, is bewildering.

Maybe, just maybe, if someone had asked a few questions those young people would not have died.

May their souls rest in peace! Yes may they rest in peace, but not for us to sweep the tragedy under the carpet and wait for another disaster then turn into experts for a few days and when we have vented enough life goes back to normal.

We don’t have to continue dying out of sheer negligence, because of our “I don’t care” attitude. For starters we should begin caring. Caring about our lives, about those that worry about us (i.e. spouses, parents, children…), those we offer services, the younger people and all.  It makes no sense to show our care when we have already lost lives.

Many revellers on that boat had not bothered to inform their immediate family that they were headed for a party on the boat. Imagine how shocking the news was to the people in that category.

Some had lied about their whereabouts, no wonder the Police now suspects some of those that were rescued from the boat ran off.  I am sure, they feared to be seen on TV by the people that knew they were in other places. Why in the world would one scamper on being retrieved from a lake? Wouldn’t such people be in need of some medical care and above all counselling?

Back to the national day of mourning, the government is right. We need to mourn. Mourn for a nation whose citizens do not respect their government. It is reported that a Police officer attempted to block the cruise and the revellers threatened to drown him, so he backed off. If the captain had any respect for the law, he would have listened to the officer and not continued with the cruise.

Mourn for a government whose ministries have lost grip of their docket. The line minister told Ugandans that they knew about MV Templar, the killer boat, but have been looking for it in vain. Does that mean an alert was sent out to impound the boat on sight and yet no one saw it load more than one hundred people? I doubt.

Sad that the owners of the boat died in the accident, they probably had their story to tell. Maybe nobody ever told them about how dangerous their vessel had become. Sometimes we need experts to show us what seems obvious.

We indeed need to mourn, yes, for Bosco Owecho, the fisherman who died rescuing the people on the sinking boat. Owecho on realizing MV Templar was in danger decided to use his boat to ferry people to the shores. Indeed, according to reports he had taken one route and was on his second when the crowd overwhelmed his boat killing him in the process. We must all mourn for Owecho, such people are now a rare gem in this banana republic.

We need to mourn more. Yeah, for the youth that are drinking more than their ancestors and especially since they are not drinking the alcohol we know. No, it is not Malwa (Millet brew) or Tonto (Banana wine), they are drinking liquor we the older ones have never known about, smoking weed, shisha and speaking a language we cannot fathom. When we try to ask why, they swear like sailors and we coil to a cold corner waiting for our fate.

We need to mourn…

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