After two days of dry weather, the heavens opened last night and embraced Apac in heavy rain for the entire evening and night. Lightening carved sharp silhouettes out of the landscape and thunders raged for up to a minute each. It rained and rained and rained. This Sunday morning, the soil is drying fast as sunshine has returned. In stead of the drumming of rain, you can now hear singing and music from the many churches in the town of Apac.
Compared to other districts in the north and east where at least 47 people have died, Apac is only slightly affected by the floods. Some five schools have had to be relocated and several sub-counties are still cut off by flooded bridges and roads through the swamps. Unlike other Ugandans in the Lango, Acholi, Teso and Karamoja regions (read about the full scale of the disaster here), people of Apac have not had to flee their homes, but they are likely to feel the effects of the floods when they harvest their staple foods of beans, cassava, maize, millet and sweet potatoes as many crops have been unable to stand the heavy rains.
The impersonal body of ‘the humanitarian community’ in Uganda estimates that 300,000 people are affected by the floods. Slightly north or east of Apac many communities can now only be reached by air and the army is airlifting students that are due to sit their final primary or secondary exams at the end of this third term.
The president of Uganda is almost certain to declare a state of emergency in northern and eastern Uganda. It is the first time President Museveni invokes article 110 of the Constitution; it provides for circumstances, amongst others, “in which the security or the economic life of the country or that part is threatened by internal insurgency or natural disaster”. Some people here in the north wonder why the president never invoked this article during the long insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda and for that reason it is not clear why the initiative is taken now. MPs from the affected regions, especially the hardest hit Teso region, have however advocated for a State of Emergency declaration in parliament over the past weeks.
If the president declares that a state of emergency exists in part of the country, it expires after no more than 90 days, but the parliament may however extend the declaration for up to 90 days at a time. As exactly the north and the east of Uganda constitute the smallest power bases of the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), and overwhelmingly support the various opposition parties, it will be interesting to see if the state of emergency takes on a life of itself. That said, there are many periods of 90 days until the next election in 2011.