Festus Luboyera, the Executive Director of the Uganda National Meteorological Authority
No, this is not a fairy tale, and it does not take place in Wonderland. And no, it is not a film, either, although there is film about a man that tried to own the weather. In 1998 Scottish actor Sean Connery starred in the film The Avengers, in which he played a mad scientist hell bent on controlling the weather.
In a case of reality imitating fiction, we have a scientist (could he also be mad?) hell bent on doing what that Connery character tried to do. Lost in the Godfrey Mutabazi’s circus about SIM registration was the news that the Executive Director of the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), Festus Luboyera, had written a letter to several TV stations warning them against broadcasting unauthorised weather forecasts.
In his letter, Luboyera quoted the UNMA Act of 2012 and warned them against, among others, ‘making weather forecasts or observations, or releasing information about the climate in Uganda’, without written permission from the Executive Director.
When I first saw that on social media, I thought it was another case of ‘fake news’; but some people defended Luboyera, and said that those TV stations had been misleading farmers, at times predicting rain which never materialised.
I don’t know about you, but is there anybody that takes official Ugandan weather forecasts seriously? For the longest time, official Uganda weather forecasts run something like, ‘there will be scattered thunderstorms in some parts of the country;, while the rest of the country will be sunny and dry’.
I don’t know what the said TV stations broadcast, but what self-respecting farmer relies on these weather forecasts to plant crops? Most farmers don’t even believe their own rain-makers, so how can they believe some guy on TV?
For the record, what kind of forecast does Luboyera give? An excerpt from the UNMA web site has it that this April ‘there is an increased probability for above normal rainfall for western sector of Uganda, normal rainfall for central, Lake Victoria Basin, south-eastern, and central-northern Uganda, and below normal rainfall for Karamoja region and some parts of Lango and Acholi regions’. Just how different is that from the ‘scattered thunderstorms’ forecasts of old? If you were a farmer, would you plan your crops based on that?
But Luboyera warns that anyone that even speaks about the weather in public in Uganda without his (Luboyera’s) written permission can go to prison for two years.
sharing weather info in public can get you 2 years in jail
It is a fact that most smart phones have an app that will give you a forecast of the weather wherever you may be; so it means that before you can share this, say on social media, you have to get Luboyera’s written permission to do so, or you might go to jail.
Charles Dickens, in his classic novel Oliver Twist, wrote that ‘the law is an ass’. What would he say about the people that passed that UNMA law? Or the people that are seriously embarking on enforcing it?
But let us give Mr Luboyera the benefit of doubt, and agree that it is only him, by default, that can talk to the public about the weather. So it follows that he should take full responsibility for any adverse effects that come from unseen weather conditions.
If it rains and floods destroy property, blame Luboyera. Any landslide? Luboyera is liable because he did not warn the people. Did you fall and injure yourself trying to take cover from the rain? Luboyera should pay the medical bills, he should have told you it was going to rain so carry an umbrella. If you have the goose, hey get the gander too.
Insurance companies have incidents they refer to as ‘acts of God’, where you cannot get compensated, for example if heavy rain washed out your function. But now we know, it is an ‘act of Luboyera’, he should have warned you that it is going to rain heavily. Or his agents with written permission to do so should have done so.
In that 1998 film, the mad scientist fails to sell the weather to world leaders, and is eventually killed by a storm. The film also bombed at the box office, made less than it cost to make, and is maybe a lesson that those that dare own the weather are fated to fail.