To victims of his state sanctioned fake medicines racket, Museveni’s prominent role in the Lome Initiative is an insult
By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
This past weekend, President Museveni jetted into the Togolese Capital Lome to participate in a two-day France-Africa summit on drug trafficking and counterfeit medicines on the continent.
According to information released by the organizers the summit was attended by the leaders of seven African countries: the Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Uganda. The septet was expected to sign a pact for stronger legislation to prevent and punish the sale of fake counterfeit medicines. This was at the end of the summit that was held under the theme; “Fake drugs a real crime”.
The news of Museveni’s participation attracted angry reactions in the country for the reason that Museveni presides over one of the most dysfunctional and predatory regimes anywhere in the world today. In fact commentators were left wondering if that is the attribute that won him a ticket to the event, as opposed to leaders from countries where governments actually care for the people.
“If it was their way of trying to corner him into some commitment against a problem that he happens to be deeply part of, we can only pray and wait to see if anything material comes out of it,” a skeptical resident of Kampala, Richard Tezikuba observed over a glass of beer as the news was aired on local television.
To another one, Ken Balaba however this was an exercise in futility, even before the ink on the agreement had dried. “I wish some of these people would carry out polls before choosing who to invite for these meetings,” a seemingly well-informed Balaba said. “The initiative is important but Museveni is hardly the man to commit to anything!
“He is a counterfeit conman and is a problem himself and has a poor track record of honoring commitments,” the angry Balaba added, citing the numerous agreements the ruler has breached in the past.
In the realm of promises that Museveni has made and broken alone to Ugandans, it would take only God to enumerate them.
The doubts about Museveni’s trip to Lome are justifiable since the statistics presented at the summit about the scale of the problem could have as well been lifted from Uganda’s own records.
According to the Brazzaville Foundation, the UK charity that organized the meeting, since 2013 Africa has accounted for 42 percent of the counterfeit medicines seized worldwide. That number is just 1 percent below the national prevalence of fake medicines in Uganda.
Still, according to the same source, the two drugs where the problem is most manifest either through the availability of expired or ineffective copies are antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs which are used to tackle more than 70 percent of Uganda’s disease burden. Weak legislation (deliberate in Museveni’s case); poor healthcare systems and the widespread poverty; all which have encouraged the growth of this parallel, deadly market are all hallmarks of Museveni’s Uganda.
“If he can in broad daylight comfortably superintend over a system where his citizens are sold into slavery and the human organ trade markets by his bosom buddies, why would you expect him to fight a lucrative US$ 200 billion a year racket of fake medicines,” asked an anti-graft activist that requested anonymity for this article.
Uganda has one of the weakest anti-narcotics laws anywhere, to the extent that the country has been turned into a major transit hub in the international narcotics trade. But because the culprits are more likely to be the “system’s” own mandarins, penalties have been left to be so ridiculously low (if even enforced at all) that foreign missions often advise the rare citizen who gets arraigned to plead guilty, pay the fine and walk.
Besides ineffective drugs, patients cannot be sure of lab results because the chemical reagents used in investigation are themselves expired or counterfeit.
Agricultural output is performing below potential because more than two-thirds of pesticides and other agricultural inputs on the market are fake. To add insult to injury, the few farmers with means who try to import genuine inputs from neighbouring countries are instead the ones that are arrested and charged with importing what are then branded “fake” agro-inputs.
Meanwhile, the system sanctioned kingpins of the fake pharmaceuticals and other chemicals continue to enjoy protection.
To those familiar with this reality, it was a sign of the naivety on the part of the international community that they would expect a man like Museveni, who has never shown any value for the life of humans to be among the “champions” of a life-saving initiative.
That is unless one is willing to commit a huge budget from which Museveni and his henchmen can steal and still have something left to drive the initiative.
That was the sad reality Ugandans discovered when in 2007 a scandal revealing how money from the GAVI Fund had been swindled by Museveni’s close associates, including his own wife. Alice Kaboyo one of the people that was convicted but got off the hook with a token fine of US$ 5500, is today Museveni’s Presidential Assistant in charge of archives. She also was the key architect of the recent so-called “great trek,” that turned out to be another lie by Museveni.
The python grip of the Mafia is chocking Ugandans and naïve international groups seem not to see it.