The country continues to mourn the loss of more than 32 precious lives that perished in a preventable accident on Lake Victoria last Saturday. But as we come to terms with the tragedy, as a country, we must reflect on the many careless ways we live our lives and end up causing needless pain, suffering and loss of valuable resources.
A lot has been said about how those that boarded the ill-fated boat refused to heed the warnings. The first warning came from the boat itself; Kampala’s top partygores accepted to board a dilapidated fishing boat that had been baptised as a Cruise boat.
There are countless lessons from the tragedy that must never be lost to anyone. No sane Ugandan should ever accept to board a boat on a major water body without a life jacket.
The government and the private sector should urgently work together to review regulations with the view to capturing the dynamic nature of businesses on water bodies.
While the accident may have shocked people away from the lakes, there is no denying the fact that the lake remains a huge untapped potential. Countries like Egypt have built multi-billion dollar tourism and entertainment businesses on river Nile.
New measures to regulate all businesses conducted on the lake must spell out minimum basic standards of boats that must be used by every type of business. If these guidelines are developed, the private sector would then be motivated to invest in new ventures such as introducing genuine boat cruises or transportation vessels.
Whereas, the president pointed out that all all boats on the lake would hence forth be registered and issued with electronic tracking gadgets, this would need to be written down in law with sanctions against those who violate the law.
The recent boat tragedy has also exposed Uganda Police Force once again as an ill-equipped force largely incapable of carrying out emergency rescues. It was revealed that the police has a mere 8 marine inspectors.
In addition to the inadequate human power, it was reported that the Marine Inspection Unit of the Uganda Police Force is crippled by a laughable budget of just UGX18m a year. Without significantly boosting the budget of the marine inspection department, we should not start to think that any directives or regulations will be implemented.
In addition to the marine inspection department, Uganda police force must critically start to think of rationalising its budget with regard to boosting its rescue and recovery department. During Gen. Kale Kayihura’s reign, the police spent huge amounts of money to buy war guns and anti-riot vehicles.
Departments such as that of Fire department got about two trucks but with no supporting gadgets. The recent incident at the Postal building when janitors got stuck when their cleaning equipment development mechanical problems, is a fresh reminder that the budget and utilisation of the Police rescue department needs significant boost for it to be able to effectively handle challenges. During this problem Police came with fire fighting equipment but minus ladders to rescue the victims
By allocating huge sums of money towards quelling riots and ignoring other life-saving functions of the police is a selfish and blind strategy. The Sunrise wishes to call upon the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Works, Fisheries, ICT, UPDF to form a joint task force that is capable of providing quick response.
Coupled with the electronic registration of boats, the adoption of GPS technology would allow people in distress situations on the lakes to raise an alarm and be rescued faster than the case is these days.
But all this can only work if we have a society that is sensitive about preserving life. Life is precious and must not be taken lightly by ignoring laws and precautions.