Allan Brian Ssenyonga
East Africa is going through a rather trying time going by some of the things that have caught my attention lately. For starters the rains seem to be beating us so hard. Floods seem to be everywhere cutting off roads and washing away homes and property.
In Rwanda the disaster ministry has recorded more than 100 deaths due to the heavy rains that often result in mudslides. With its hilly topography the danger posed by these rains is real.
In places like Nairobi, Kampala and Dar the poor drainage systems are again a topic. The problem is multifaceted with some of the existing drainages being blocked by the poor disposal of plastic bottle and plastic bags that we seem addicted to. Sometimes you look at an island of trash made of plastic bottles and you wonder how life was before the capitalists lied to us that if water is not bottled then it has no minerals!
The sodas that we took rarely had the discipline of returning the empty bottles are now also in plastic bottles that we swig at and throw away without a second thought. Those trying to recycle these bottles are not yet up to speed with our collective bad manners so when it rains we see the same bottles blocking rain water from finding its natural path. However this is the smaller problem on our hands. The bigger one is that of powerful and well-connected people who see wetlands as future prime land for their real estate investments.
The tourism fraternity is also still grappling with the shock of 11 lions that were poisoned in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park allegedly by villagers living close to the park after one of the big cats killed their cow. This is a very relatable story for Rwanda because this is precisely how the lions in Akagera National Park were wiped out by cattle keepers in the late 90s. Lions were only reintroduced recently with help from South Africa.
As if the news from Uganda was not bad enough, last Wednesday, three rhinos were found dead with their horns missing in Kenya’s Meru National Park. Just a month ago, Sudan, the last living male northern white rhino died. Rhino poaching is still a very big problem in East Africa despite the heavy security around the few animals left. Rwanda and Uganda have only recently had the rhino reintroduced in the wild just like Chad that got six rhinos from South Africa. The issue here will always be that once we lose these animals for good then what will tourists from the rest of the world come to see here.
Oh and I hope there is no one thinking of responding humorously to the above problem by saying we shall import Cuban wild animals. Social media users in Uganda made a joke about out of the statement by President Yoweri Museveni that he wanted to bring Cuban doctors to replace the Ugandan ones because the latter were striking and patients were dying. Consequently, a so called #CubanChallenge started trending in Uganda with different things that Uganda can import from Cuba.
On a more serious note, the news that Uganda and Kenya are planning to bring in over 300 Cuban doctors to address the shortages of medical staff is disturbing on many levels mainly because it comes off like a temporary situation to a problem that is not even knew. Drain brain of our medical staff is not a secret but curbing it continues to be a challenge. After years of intense training in medical school, one is quickly pushed to the edge by the working conditions and pay that the governments often offer.
The fact that other countries are ever so willing to snatch our medics is proof that they are good at what they do and we are better off doing all we can to retain them. Of course we can do with a few specialists like we have always done. I don’t think there is a country that never benefited from Cuban generosity as far as the medical sector is concerned. However they were countries recovering from tough times.
It is real bad optics if in this day and age we are still in need of importing doctors when we can train more of our own. The money to airlift and pay these Cubans should go into training more of our own and improving their working conditions. We can do this.
First Published by the New Times