The power supply to Mandela National Stadium, Namboole, was interrupted during a recent match between the Uganda Cranes and Guinea. It was an important game teeming with dignitaries and fans.
The interruption lasted about 15 minutes, we are told, but such was the annoyance of the authorities that the stadium manager was arrested and briefly held by the police.
Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Kaweesi, recently promoted to head operations, and who ordered the arrest, was bouncing off the walls in the dark. “Such an embarrassment was simply unacceptable,” he later told a newspaper, perhaps struggling to contain his emotions.
“There should have been a generator to immediately take care of the problem. People should learn to be careful.” You could almost visualise the stadium manager cowering in the corner in some police station while officers towered over him, their anger reflecting off their shiny boots, their authority riveted onto their bodies in their officious epaulets.
The police officer, of whom I have heard mostly good things, was quoted as part of the inquest that followed in the media. The voltage of halogen lamps versus LEDs was dissected with meticulous detail. Electrical engineers were sounded out to explain the 15 minutes of darkness.
For a moment I imagined ‘careful’ men in white lab coats and hard hats poring over stadium wiring diagrams, trying to isolate the problem and ensure that this embarrassment is never repeated.
However, the story that kept coming back to me was from a few years ago and a totally different experience with power failure. The two regular readers of this column might have read it here before and to them, I apologise in aance.
A friend who was doing her medical apprenticeship at Mulago hospital telephoned me at around 1.30am. She was sobbing uncontrollably on the other end of the line and it took a few minutes before she could summon the courage to speak.
The power supply to the hospital had been cut but more seriously, the stand-by generator serving the Intensive Care Unit of the Paediatrics Ward where my friend worked had not kicked in as expected. They had run around frantically in the dark looking for the Man With The Key or The Officer In Charge to no avail.
Desperate, my friend had thumbed through her telephone to try and find someone, anyone, who could help. Such was her desperation that all she could find was a lowly newspaper editor and ‘official enemy of the country’s development’. “The babies are dying,” she cried into the telephone. “They can’t breathe.”
In the background I could hear, barely audible, laboured gasps of breath and feeble cries.
Dear Reader, never have I felt so impotent and so bitter in my life. Machines die and equipment fails so such a double whammy could have happened in many places but what rankled was the knowledge that this was, in many of our hospitals, the rule, not the exception.
How many people do you know who have died or lost their beloved relatives because power went off during a surgical operation in a hospital, or because something as basic as oxygen was missing?
How many ministers, commissioners, directors have been pulled out of their air-conditioned vehicles or cars and arrested for these senseless deaths? Why do we pretend to be surprised about things that stopped surprising us decades ago?
People should learn to be careful? Really? Which people? Who should we really be arresting? And would we have enough space in jail? We have been reduced to groping in the dark for answers we already have, arresting the innocent to protect the guilty.
By they way, Uganda won the game 2-0 but we lost our soul many, many years ago.
Mr Kalinaki is a Ugandan journalist based in Nairobi. firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE: Daily Monitor