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Politics

How Museveni regime has bungled the COVID-19 response, leaving Ugandans most vulnerable

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President Museveni.

By Moses Ssejjoba

Amidst the global outbreak of the coronavirus, Ugandans are in a state of uncertainty, following a sequence of erratic decisions by the Museveni regime in response to the pandemic.

It all started with a declaration by the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga telling Ugandans that “a cure for coronavirus was going to be available in a week’s time”, and that “it will be first used in Uganda”.

Shortly after, a video emerged of Museveni meeting two conmen; an American and a Ugandan, where he is heard telling them; “please make sure the medicine cures other viruses too, so that it’s effective after we have defeated the coronavirus”.

This attracted international ridicule of Uganda, especially during a time where the virus has ravaged the most industrialized economies with no cures yet found.

“Who bewitched us?” Ugandans complained. “Other countries are marshaling efforts to respond to the pandemic, our leaders are busy hobnobbing with conmen,” many said on different social media platforms.

Then early this week, Museveni announced a 14-day quarantine for all people coming to Uganda. Immediately, morally bankrupt government officials saw an opportunity “to eat”, by entering a completely immoral deal with a hotel in Entebbe, which was to take in all people in isolation for the two weeks, at their own cost.

“The hotel which was charging US$ 50 a night suddenly doubled the price at the request of top officials from the ministry of health. The officials had instructed the hotel to remit to them the balance,” said a senior journalist who closely followed the debacle.

Passengers that already were airborne by the time Museveni announced the quarantine were the first victims. “We got to know about the quarantine as we boarded for our final leg of the journey from Kigali to Entebbe,” said a young woman, a student who was returning from Germany where she studies.

She added amidst sobs: “When we got here, hundreds of us were crammed into a tiny room for many hours, from where we were eventually told we would be quarantined in a hotel at our cost. Where will I get 1400 dollars?” (for the 14 days they are supposed to be in the hotel) she asked in tears.

As if that was not enough, it emerged that the very officials who were herding people into quarantine, handpicked passengers they knew and cleared them to go back to their communities “We were with them on the plane and some of them actually were coming from high-risk countries now they are out there probably spreading the virus,” a fellow passenger said.

Others, as later reported by Raymond Mujuni, a journalist with NTV, bribed their way out of the horrid conditions at the hotel.

“Those who cannot afford the hotel charges have been denied meals, water, basic sanitary needs,” Mujuni reported. “What will happen for the rest of the 14 days?” asked the journalist.

“The ministry of health and immigration cannot account for all the people in quarantine. Some have since been sighted in Naguru (a Kampala suburb). Are there track and trace operations being done?

“The entire process has been bungled and we could potentially be having hundreds of cases in the population, infecting even more people,” the journalist continued.

Many of those in the quarantine are concerned they will contract the virus because of mingling with suspected cases and may be infected with a host of other diseases owing to the horrible conditions at the hotel.

Following uproar by many Ugandans over the conditions these people were living in, health minister Ruth Aceng eventually paid them a visit, where she did nothing but abuse the suffering Ugandans.

Former Daily Monitor investigative journalist Angelo Izama wrote: “After her poor planning exposed innocent lives to #COVID19 @JaneRuth_Aceng flanked by military officers is heard losing her temper ‘shut up’

she shouts” We will leave you here.

“The only thing drastic about the measures here is herding people together, without proper medical facilities and testing and then with insult to injury charging them for endangering their lives,” added Izama.

This touched a raw nerve of the regime’s praise singers like Andrew Mwenda and Museveni son in law Edwin Karugire. But Ugandans could not be hoodwinked. Many took to social media to condemn the heartlessness of Aceng and the general lack of direction in the fight against the outbreak.

On Saturday, Museveni and his wife hosted a National Prayer whereby the country expected leadership from him. But once again, Museveni just saw this as another opportunity to blow his trumpet. “On this very day in 1979, I attacked Amin’s soldiers in Mbarara and I defeated them, I will also defeat the coronavirus,” Museveni rumbled.

The audience included religious leaders from different denominations. He however provided no concrete strategies on how he would “defeat the virus”.

Following the so-called prayer many Ugandans concluded there was no national leadership on this matter.

Indeed on COVID-19 Ugandans are more than ever convinced they are on God’s mercies, alone.