Confessions of an Academic Pseudo-Giraffe
Another night in Kampala
At about six p.m. last Wednesday the wind started picking up. Theoretically, there was still more than an hour of daylight, but soon hardly any light entered our house. It was roaring outside; clearly a genuine tropical storm. Of course, power went out instantly. In a few minutes, the yard was practically flooded. Since, like most houses here, we have ventilation holes above all the windows, sounds generally move as if walls didn’t exist. That meant it was roaring inside too. Normal speech would have been impossible to hear. The umbrella trees outside seemed to bend so sharply that I half expected them to snap in the middle.

I quickly closed all the windows. Still, our bedroom was getting flooded because the ventilation holes are covered by nothing but mosquito nets. Every window has something like a little roof of its own, with the eaves extending well out and below the level of the holes, but this did not help. The wind came straight at one of the windows and simply threw the water so hard that part of it escaped upwards into the openings. Inside, the mosquito nets breaking the flow, it looked a bit like the mist that flies off waterfalls. I drew the curtains to at least protect the opposite wall from the shower.

Although this storm was exceptionally fierce, they never last long. Even the power came back for a few moments, so I didn’t have to dry the bedroom floor in candlelight. There was about ten litres of water inside. Quite an achievement with the windows closed, I thought.

The following morning, I heard that a church had collapsed on the north side, in Kalerwe. Lots of worshippers had been inside – the service had been extended because of the storm – and the death toll had risen to twenty-six. Over a hundred injured and hospitalised. It was one of those unfinished buildings which seem permanently under construction but are still used as if they were finished. Two of its big walls simply fell like domino pieces, one of them on top of the people.

Retrospectively, as usual, everyone is blaming everyone else for the catastrophe. The city council said the building was illegal: it had no permits but construction could not be stopped because the government was protecting the pastor (who apparently owned the site). State House denied this and ordered a probe. People were arrested for looting. A source said the unapproved architectural plan was faulty. Another said the plan was good but the architect was not given proper materials for construction. The pastor denied everything, saying that there was nothing wrong with the building. Mightier forces were at work. As The New Vision had it, “word was rife that the tragedy was masterminded by a powerful evil spell cast upon the church by a pastor of a nearby rival church”.

Of course. Christianity and witchcraft go well together. Besides, this explanation answers all the questions. Whether the construction plans and methods were adequate is totally irrelevant. It would be stupid to build well and expensively when a spell cast around the block can bring it all down anyway. If the building survives a storm, it’s due to God’s grace. If it collapses, it’s clearly the fault of the guy leading the other church. It’s obvious that you will resort to dark forces if you have been born again in the wrong way.

Old Ones
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