Flash floods: Is our disastrous ministry prepared for disaster?

Saturday December 14 2019

Asuman Bisiika KCCA contractor

Asuman Bisiika 

By Asuman Bisiika

There is no defining characterisation of the State as the authority to exercise power, capacity and deportment to detect and fight crime and insecurity. But if we limit ourselves to the definition of crime and insecurity as that (action) which undermines State power, how then would we classify undermining of the State by natural disasters? For ease of reference, I bring the Haiti earthquake disaster. The earthquake disaster undermined the Haiti State so much that it became a de facto UN mandate.
It is a fact natural disasters like flooding, landslides, famine, earthquakes can undermine the sanctity and security of the State. So, is it not wise that governments develop mechanisms to prevent (or mitigate) these natural disasters? And since we are unlikely to prevent these natural disasters, is it not wise for governments to develop mechanisms to offer immediate rescue, relief and social security to people affected by natural disasters?
When I was still available for TV and radio talk show appearances, I was a regular invited on matters related to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Ugandan journalists, with their condescending attitude towards State deficiencies in the DR Congo, always had a difficult time with me whenever they portrayed the DRC State as absentee.
One time I appeared on NTV and a journalist asked a question carrying the air of sympathy for the limited State presence in eastern DR Congo. I challenged him on the material meaning of ‘State presence’.
The contemporary State, by nature and characterisation, is a socialist construct. So, whereas the NTV journalist hinged his question on the absence or limited presence of the State’s instruments of coercion (armed forces) in eastern DR Congo, I challenged him to recognise that State presence also denotes the provision of social services and amenities.
And we now come to the floods flooding the country. There were these particular pictures on social media that I found awe-inspiring. A young man, who was identified by Sarah Kagingo’s Soft Power as a ranger of Uganda Wildlife Authority, was captured carrying an almost one-man lone-ranger rescue mission.
There were no UPDF whose claim to heroism is patent-strong; neither were there police. There was only this guy whose sense of duty has led to calls for State recognition of his efforts. Some fellows have even asked Mr. Balaam Barugahare, a ubiquitous event manager and NRM militant, to help the Bundibugyo hero treat with the Head of State. Returning to Kampala on Thursday morning, I have not been a consumer of Ugandan media for a week. I do not know whether our always unprepared disastrous ministry responsible for Disaster Preparedness has done anything reasonable in Bundibugyo.
David Bradford Nguru, an old hand at disaster management, who honed his skills as a Uganda Red Cross society division field officer, said he had made contacts among relief agencies to do the needful. I know Nguru has good contacts in ADRA (Adventist Relief Agency) and Uganda Red Cross Society.
But the State presence is still necessary. There is a need for the State to prepare for such disasters. Those who are familiar with the science of these things say all these natural disasters are caused by environment degradation.
And we ask: From what strategic vision does government derive the policy directive to even dream of constructing a dam at the world famous Murchison Falls?
Once again, how prepared is our disastrous ministry for disaster preparedness? The Minister for Disaster Preparedness may have visited Bundibugyo. But there is a need for more. The media too need to do more than passive reportage; we need vigilante journalism in some situations.