OFF POWER OFF WATER OFF INTERNET WHAT NEXT
The patience of users of utilities, including electricity, water and internet / international phone services has been sorely tested of late for parts of Eastern Africa and Uganda in particular.
Electricity generation has been a problem in the entire region, but felt most harshly back here in Uganda, where our governments inability to pay contractually agreed dues to independent power producers led to the shutdown of some plants, which operators simply ran out of cash and were unable to put diesel or heavy fuel oil into the machines. Government then went on to explain that the promised subsidies on electricity bills could no longer be sustained, leading to a massive increase in tariffs and likely more power thefts by people unable to pay for electricity from here on and that available resources would be shifted towards gearing up generating capacity. Well, a fair point except for the failure to gradually phase out one policy element and alongside phase in another approach without disrupting the countrys power supply in the process. UMEME, Ugandas monopolist electricity distributor, failed in a media offensive as both parliament and the Electricity Regulatory Authority have asserted themselves and sharpened their claws, and last week the CEO of ESKOM, former owners of UMEME before selling to a British company, was detained by the CID at parliament after failing to give satisfactory answers to the investigators on the committee. Earlier this week she was reportedly too ill to appear for another round of grilling questions.
Talking of ill when one seens the often brown froth coming from our pipes, courtesy of Kampala Water, which if used to boil then has a brownish foam cover emerge on top, one can only say good riddance to their former CEO peacock, who was strutting about singing his own praise while shortages increased and the quality suffered. Mineral water producers now do booming business as many, at least those who can afford the 5 or 6 thousand shillings for the 5 gallon bottles, now use it to cook next step may be to shower with it too to prevent my grey hair taking on a brownish hue
And last to the internet providers a cut in one of the three cables off Djibouti, the owners never did come out to say if it was an accidental cut or sabotage in the pirate infested waters of the Gulf of Aden, was followed by the cut of a second cable off Mombasa, where harbour inefficiencies caused ships to stay on off shore anchorage and on dropped its anchor right on the cable. Repairs for both are still ongoing but the third, still functioning cable, then got cut inside Kenya, again not clear if by accident or sabotage, bringing internet and international calling traffic first to a halt before the much slower satellite backups kicked in. Still, the day was a mess, power disruptions attributed by a senior staffer of UMEME to a daily challenge we have to face due to the state of the network rich considering the obligations by UMEME to modernize the network since they took over under a clouded deal from former state corporation UEB, aka Uganda Electricity Board. It was also revealed yesterday that the company has reportedly written to the local World Bank office complaining about being harassed by parliament and the Electricity Regulatory Authority, prompting public howls of outrage and expressions of intent to refer UMEME to the International Criminal Court for crimes against electricity
On this humorous note I end, to face another day in paradise struggling with our public utility companies and service providers in darkness of course living off batteries, what else.