Museveni’s undocumented Covid-19 deaths
By Edith Wandera
When he shows up for his next Covid-19 monologue on national television, it is unlikely that President Museveni will resist the temptation to claim success in the battle against the Coronavirus. With the numbers of those discharged overtaking those in admission, according to his own claims, Museveni will particularly want to emphasize the boast that his shambolic healthcare system has not lost a single Covid-19 case.
While the numbers might appear to support that boast however, it is unlikely to rhyme with people like Annet Nalwanga (not real name), and many others who have suffered loss of loved ones to Museveni’s haphazard Covid-19 response.
With only hours to full term, Nalwanga on April19, set off from her humble dwelling in Kajjansi, 12 kilometres south of downtown Kampala for the nearest public hospital. Accompanied by a relative, they walked the 13 kilometres to Kiruddu Hospital, a satellite of Mulago National Referral Hospital.
Despite her obviously desperate condition, the medics at Kiruddu referred her to another Mulago satellite, Kawempe Maternal Hospital – a good 16 kilometres away. Nobody cared to offer the heavily expectant mother a ride in one of the ambulances or hundreds of vehicles that have been mobilized for the Covid-19 taskforce.
Along the way to Kawempe, she passed by the spanking new specialized women’s hospital in Mulago. Built a couple of years ago using tax payers money, the facility is not for the likes of Nalwanga, having been now reserved for the women of the elite; amongst those that previously traveled abroad to be delivered of their children. Nalwanga can never afford the US$ 2000 bill that a few days stay at the facility costs.
Miraculously, at Kawempe, Nalwanga delivered a healthy pair of twins without much effort. But that is where the worst of her torments started. Kawempe casually discharged her with her burden of twins, again without the benefit of an ambulance to return her to Kajjansi. A request for assistance from Kawempe Divisional Police Headquarters a short distance away returned a negative.
They claimed not to have fuel. Tragically, as Nalwanga struggled through the 16 kilometer trudge back home on foot, Nalwanga lost one of her twins along the way. Yet despite this tragedy, she could neither stop, turn back or get help to reach home by any other means.
Nalwanga’s infant was one of the hundreds of undocumented deaths that are directly attributable to Museveni’s mostly incoherent and often contradictory orders on how the Covid-19 containment response should be handled. It is illegal for anyone to transport the critically sick and heavily pregnant like Nalwanga to a health facility without written permission from one of Museveni’s resident district commissioners.
The RDC’s work nine to five and only on weekdays. The helplines that have been set up are like the entire system just a sham. Meanwhile, dozens of people have been maimed and even killed by gangs hired by the RDC’s, all in the name of enforcing Museveni’s directives.
On April 21, Isanga Charles, an elderly shopkeeper in Lwandha Village in rural Jinja, succumbed to injuries that had been inflicted on him by guards attached to Jinja RDC Eric Sakwa. They also robbed the little money he had made in sales before they pounced. Isanga’s crime had been to keep his small grocery shop open, which in Sakwa’s mind was a violation of Museveni’s orders against opening “none-essential businesses.”
Museveni launched a public appeal for well-wishers to contribute to the Covod-19 response. But it does not appear aimed at addressing the longstanding structural challenges of the health system. For instance he is asking not for ambulances but sturdy 4X4’s that he wants brand new.
Far from helping the situation, Museveni’s Covid-19 appeal has fast degenerated into an opportunity for the corrupt to deepen their ties with his regime.
For example there have been several incidents in which businesses (mostly Asian owned) donated hundreds of millions of shillings to Museveni’s kitty, only to lay off thousands of workers without compensation the next day. Without any embarrassment and purely for public relations however, Museveni has been pressing the more legitimate employers not to lay off workers.
As they come to terms with his duplicity however, few Ugandans still have faith in his theater.