First of all, let’s establish that I hate to make the statement that is about to spoil your clean computer screen. I am loathe to say this. But I will, because this is where life has brought me; I am a hopeless, useless, shameless cynic. I believe in nothing. I am bereft of faith, confidence and any concept of the future that is not doom smouldering in the shadow of wasted years, themselves benighted by squandered opportunities which have, on their part, been cast to the ground by our extensive, sustained, unceasing upf**king.
I have been in Uganda for a long time. I am not a young man. I have seen hope in Uganda. And I have seen what happens to hope in Uganda. In Uganda, it dies. We kill it. Every time.
So, with that having been laboriously cleared up, on to the statement.
Dam the falls.
Murchison Falls are picturesque… no, no, no. That isn’t even the word. They are magnificent. They are magnificent. They exude the kind of raw, ageless, unbridled freedom that just grabs your head from the inside and twists it… Unless you are pathologically narcissistic, to be in the presence of Murchison falls is to understand something you never knew about yourself, that you are small and weak and to finally understand how small and how weak, because you have seen something truly large and powerful, something that has been flowing for eons, as powerful and free as this since long before you were even statistically a potential.
Every instant a force strong enough to crush you and everything you own and hold dear gushes through that gap and has been doing that every single instant for hundreds of years. Kintu and Nambi were in diapers while Kabalega was already falling.
The government says they want to build a dam there. Make us some more electricity. Yeah.
The chief objection to this has been that, “Dude, it’s Kabalega falls (I am not going to type Murchinbiki again. If a phenomenon like this is going to die, let it live out its last days with dignity of a better name.) It’s gorgeous! It’s spectacular! It’s awe-inspiring! You can’t destroy something like that! Also, tourism!”
You guys, that won’t stop them. Beautiful things are bulldozed to bland flatness all the time in Uganda. Great things are brought low. It’s how we do business.
And our objections mean nothing.
I should feel outraged, not resigned. I should feel angry, not apathetic. And you are probably outraged by my resignation, angry at my apathy. I am sure you should be. But stay with me for a moment. I might have a point here that you could use.
Uganda is a poor country; that is a thing we so often forget. Uganda is really poor. Uganda is so poor that people die of malaria. You remember the last time you got malaria? Remember how you just popped a few pills and got rid of it?
Yeah. Malaria was the leading cause of death in Uganda just a couple of years ago. As in the number of people who died because they could not get their malaria cured was greater than the number who died of anything else.
I know there are other more academically sound measures of poverty, and poverty is a complex and nuanced socio-economic subject that can’t be glibly defined. But it is such a ponderous part of what we are as a nation that it pretty much amounts to the main thing. It’s the whole point. It’s the first priority. Everything we should be doing should be to get our poor people out of it.
If the choice is between providing infrastructure and energy and industry and other means to facilitate the rise out of poverty vs a beautiful river, it is our moral, just, obligation as a country to damn that river.
If the choice is between reducing poverty and maintaining beauty, well,
poverty is ugly and mean and ruthless and it doesn’t leave much room for comfortable choices between easy options. It’s always sacrifice and pain, rocks and hard places. Some things have to go.
That is what I would say when I was still idealistic.
Part of me still is. I am still very obsessive compulsive about plastics and waste disposal, conservation and environmental protection. I will carry a guveera for miles for hours until I can find a proper dustbin.
But now, where I am, at this point in Uganda’s history, my position is, Leave Kabalega alone. Get your hands off our falls.
Because, well, it’s this government that wants to build the dam. And really, you think they know what they are doing?
Does this government know feasibility, sustainability, opportunity cost, background research, thinking things through, taking a minute to step back and go “Let’s look at the numbers.”
Can we trust this government to actually base their decision on whether the damming of Kabalega will be better for Uganda than alternatives?
These guys who bought flying white elephant, stifled the growth of the internet industry with a carelessly applied tax, stunted the mobile money economy, and who knows what further damage is being read in today’s budget.
Yes. Cram that poem. It could be our new national anthem.
They will destroy Kabalega, and it won’t be worth it. But there is nothing we can do to stop them. Well, we could try voting in 2021…
Now, that I have wasted your MBs, put what’s left to good use here. Simon Kaheru shows how much we should worry here.