It is raining cats and dogs here in Apac. There is rarely a day without a heavy downpour. Grey clouds will assemble in the horizon at some point during most days, usually in the early evening, and it will rain heavily for hours and into the night. Today the weather gods have blessed the afternoon with relatively light showers.
‘Ai, rain disorganises you!’ said Rose Ogwal the other day, her voice almost drowning in the drumming of heavy raindrops on the iron sheets above her. People arrive late for work or fail to return after the lunch break; it gets too muddy to ride a bike. Many farmers have had to wave goodbye to this year’s harvest of beans, as the pods are ruined by heavy rains. Another crop, sesame, is however benefiting from the abundance of water and sun.
Some parts of Apac, however, are hard hit. The western part of the district is almost completely cut off from the district headquarters and town of Apac. Chegere Road runs through several areas of swamp, and the road is now flooded by water in many parts. The water is too deep for you to ride your bicycle to the other side. Standing on one side of the flooded road, you observe others cross before you attempt it yourself. A man tells you ‘Come, we go.’ You can follow in his foot steps as he knows the shallow route. You take your shoes off as the man removes his flip-flops, pull your trousers up to your knees or hold your skirt up with one hand. Then you take the first step into the water, telling your mind to forget about the many snakes that live in the swamp. The water is cool and your feet get massaged by the small stones of the murram below them. You follow the man, he is carrying his bicycle on his shoulders; by now you cannot see your feet through the water anymore and the water reaches your knees. In the middle of the pit there is even a current as the water streams from the swamp on one side of the road to the swamp on the other side. Reaching the other side, the man introduces himself; he is a secondary school teacher and works in Kampala. Getting home to his village in Kidlani will be a bit of a journey for him, there are at least four flooded crossings within your view.
Zooming out of Apac, many populations in northern and eastern Uganda are worse hit by floods due to “unusually heavy rainfall since July 2007” (New Vision on Friday). Crops and houses have been destroyed and thousands of people have been displaced; some even have died. According to the government, 150,000 people have become homeless because of the floods. The Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru, yesterday surveyed the areas by air. “The problem is how to reach the beneficiaries,” he said. “Access to some communities is almost impossible.”
Beyond Uganda, 17 countries in East, Central and West Africa are affected by floods. The world media has yet again taken the opportunity to speak of “Death, Devastation” and a “humanitarian disaster” in Africa where “scores of people have died”. The Sudanese government has said that these are “the worst floods in living memory.” Associated Press suggests that the floods are due to deforestation. But given the geographical reach of the “unusual” weather, from Senegal in the extreme west to Ethiopia in the east, one wonders, however, if the rainfall is rather caused by man-made climate change. Such line of enquiry would of course take you, not to the heartland of Africa, but to the heartlands of carbon dioxide consumption.