MV Nyerere capsized, scores died but we all know this sad song

Rescuers retrieve a body from the water near Ukara Island in Lake Victoria, Tanzania Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. Net.

These days many of us experience the beauty of technology through the smart phones that we hold. For the music lovers the scenario where you heard a song and recognised it but could not seem to recall the title or the singer is quite a common one.

The ones with good memories ease through the moment and can even reel off more details about the producer or the year the song was released and something about the personality or life of the artiste. For others, the angst of trying and failing to recall the song can be frustrating.

Enter technology and we now have apps (like Shazam or Soundhound) on our smart phones that we can open and have them ‘listen’ to the song and in a flash pour out all the details that we need to know about a song.

These apps are so good that sometimes they will ‘listen’ to the song and tell you what song it was once your internet connection improves. I am also fascinated by how language evolves over time. Of late the phrase ‘do you know this song?’ is often used by people on the internet to refer to something familiar.

When someone who is supposed to pay you for work done tells how they are waiting for the cheque to mature or some other common excuse then in your mind you will have that déjà vu moment of “I think I know this song.” For you have heard it before and are not easily moved by hearing it once again.

The same feeling hit me when news filtered in that the MV Nyerere, a ferry operating on Lake Victoria on the Tanzanian side had capsized and more than 200 people (by the time of writing this) had died.

The tales surrounding this horrible accident are so heartbreaking. The ferry capsized just as it was about to dock. Over 40 people were rescued but for scores of others the mission was about finding their bodies. Four days of national mourning have been declared across Tanzania and flags will fly at half-mast. The president has also ordered for the arrest of the staff responsible for the ill-fated vessel that was said to be overloaded with people and cargo since Thursday was a market day in the area.

What eats me up here is that nothing sounds new here save for the dates. Incidences of vessels going under in the waters of Lake Victoria as well as other water bodies in this region have become something we are getting used to that the shock value has waned over time. It is always so sad but not shocking. In May 1996 more than 800 people died in the deadliest ferry accident on Lake Victoria.

You have to feel pity for the people who live in areas where this is the only viable mode of transport. They board ferries people daily to get to markets, schools and to their families. You pity them because if there is a type of transport most neglected in this region then it is water transport. I have commented about this issue several times on these pages and pointed out that many times water transport makes it to the news only when there has been a horrible accident on the waters.

There are always stories of how a vessel was overloaded and or in a very poor condition that it eventually gives in to the rough waters and goes with so many lives and property. The response is now more of a ritual, condolence messages, days of national mourning and an investigation is launched. Little is done to change the way things are done before another disaster happens and we do the same things once again. Of course some expect different results from this repetitive process.

Why would a ferry carry more people or cargo than it is allowed yet if buses or trucks on the roads will reap very heavy fines for doing the same? Why do we have to wait for a disaster to appreciate the role of maintaining these vessels in good condition? What about rescue services, how equipped and prepared are those concerned?

This region is blessed with so many water bodies but transport on these bodies remains a big challenge. And yet if we could fix these challenges then we would reap so much from what nature has gifted us and probably stop hearing this sad song of accidents on our water bodies.

Twitter: @ssojo81

The views expressed in this article are of the author.