Let them eat rhetoric

The convoy churned up clouds of ochre dust as we sped to the site of last week’s freak hailstorm – stopping only for the Gulu Regional District Chairman to sort out a domestic dispute with one of his five wives.

This one incident seems somewhat representative of the government’s response to a hailstorm that affected over 2,000 residents of Kal and Onyona parishes.

Namely a lackadaisical reaction to a serious situation.

The storm pounded over 2,000 acres of farmland with fist-sized hailstones destroying beans, maize, groundnuts, cassava and banana trees in the process. Over 100 livestock were also killed in what resulted in an estimated 3 billion shillings’ worth of damage.

That was over nine days ago.

With increasingly high food prices in the country, this community is on the brink of a famine.

Only now was Musa Ecweru, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness visiting the region.

Armed sentries faced the bush keeping guard, as the Minister addressed members of the community and the gaggle of journalists present.

Musa Ecweru, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness on aid for disaster-struck Kal Parish by marcellison

All about us were ravaged stems of maize, the soil still pockmarked by the impressions made by the tennis ball-sized hail.

Playing to the Acholi pride the Minister said that only the cruelty of nature had forced this self-reliant tribe to accept government assistance.

Ecweru also stressed that this was relief in the strictest sense of the word – which the government aid was just going to provide temporary relief to aid their pain, which it was up to the community to help themselves.

Later that day at a press conference at Gulu’s Acholi Inn, Ecweru also announced the creation of a countrywide emergency response centre to respond to future crises.

The locals seemed happy enough with his machinations, but I found it hard to keep my cynicism at bay.

Why the nine day delay? Why only create an emergency centre now?

For the people of Kal and Onyona what good will these promises bring them tonight with no food to eat?

Our motorcade left the parish of Kal behind, its residents left behind with nothing but the rhetoric of overdue policies to fill their stomachs.