A preacher long ago once said: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and, therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
He was talking about the church bells of those days that used to ring out (or toll) the message that someone had passed on and how people would inquire as to who had died when they heard those bells. “Don’t ask!” was his message, “because the bells are tolling for you”! Tolling in this case also meant “calling.”
The tragedy of the capsized MV Templar on Lake Victoria stunned everyone! It boggled the mind to read about all the mistakes that were made; overloading, the lack of life jackets, a leaking boat, a drunken crowd, the warnings from the marine police, the inexperienced rescuers who were overwhelmed and so forth. It was like something out of a Greek mythology! A conspiracy of the gods of the lake? Were they starved of blood? It was akin to the sinking of the Titanic or the story of the Fall of the City of Troy. A death that stalks its victims but which you can see coming from afar! In short, it was tragic.
Survivors, including singer Iryn Namubiru, have written about all the signs they ignored and we may ask why the owners of that boat and others, did not heed the signs. My take is that it is because those signs were not for them but for us. What good can the signs do for those that are now deceased and for whom we mourn? The MV Templar is a metaphor for our Uganda. For us as individuals and for us as a country. There is disaster ahead and if we do not heed the warning signs, we may not survive the shipwreck that looms in the darkness ahead of us.
As individuals, we ignore the warning signs as we selfishly and recklessly party on, only mindful about ourselves, desperately trying to live our dreams at the expense of others. We disregard the rules of law and order, traffic rules, having little regard for the poor and needy while we also participate in or turn a blind hopeless eye to the culture of corruption. We dance on deck as death stalks us on our roads, in our buses, taxis and the ever unruly boda bodas! We don’t care as long as we live and make merry.
As a country, population growth is outstripping economic growth, while infrastructure development lags behind. The jobless youth numbers are exploding. Climate change is upon us and wreaking havoc with landslides, floods and droughts. Worst of all is the culture of corruption and the erosion of a culture of law, decency and order that is causing huge cracks in our already leaking boat. I also heard of rescuers at that lake incident asking for rewards! What happened to us?
But I know Ugandans are better than that. The essential elements missing that led to that boat tragedy was lack of information and lack of good leadership. We need to interpret the signs and we always need good leaders to show us the way through the darkness where death awaits our mistakes, ignorance and negligence. In this holiday season, let us remember that the bells that have tolled for so many this year are also tolling for us, if we do not heed the signs.
Mr Kisaka is a communications specialist