Thursday, May 24, will mark six months since the fateful Saturday when the MV Templar, a cruise boat, was involved in an accident on Lake Victoria and sank, killing 31 people.
No clear report has been released by police or any other authority in the government as to what investigations show was the cause of the accident, who along the chain is, to be held responsible and what remedies, especially long-term, have been taken to avoid this kind of tragedy from happening again.
Sadly, another boat has sunk on Lake Albert, taking with it precious lives. The event is said to have occurred on Sunday afternoon, at about 4pm. By press time, nine bodies had been retrieved from the lake. It is, however, feared that 30 people could have drowned. Luckily for many, the boat capsized about 300 metres from the shore and so people were able to rescue them. Mr Godfrey Komakech, the Buseruka Sub-county district councillor, said volunteers were able to rescue 20 people from the lake. If the boat had capsized further into the lake, more lives would have certainly been lost.
Lake Albert is notorious for sinking boats quite unexpectedly. Statistics show that many lives have been lost on the lake in the past few years - 23 people in December 2012; 109 on March 22, 2014; nine on December 25, 2016; and four on May 1, 2017. The list, unfortunately, is not that short.
The reasons as to why these boats capsize are usually the same – overloading of passengers and cargo; drunk boat operators; damaged boats with holes in them; and passengers travelling with no safety gear. This raises many questions:
Do the boat operators have the requisite skills and experience to ride these boats and passengers on the waters? Is any vessel allowed to sail the lake regardless of its condition and state? Are there any checks made by the responsible persons before a boat goes out? After all the previous tragedies, is there a plan by the government put in place measures to ensure that we do not have deaths that could have been prevented?
If the government can ensure that UPDF and police marines can regularly arrest people who get illegal fish from the lakes, they must also be able to provide safety measures to ensure that any boat or passenger who should not be on the waters, do not get there so as to save precious lives.