This Week in Ugandan News
Saturday, March 14 – Sunday, March 22, 2020
Effects of Coronavirus reach Uganda
Finally, the much dreaded Coronavirus reached Uganda. Health minister Dr Ruth Aceng confirmed the dreaded news on Saturday night, March 21 that the flu-like pandemic that was first reported in China in December 2019 and has spread rapidly around the world is in Uganda. A 36-year-old Ugandan who had travelled back from Dubai aboard Ethiopian Airlines tested positive for COVID-19 in Entebbe.
Surprisingly and somewhat unbelievably, despite the fact that almost all of Uganda’s immediate neighbours from the north to the south had confirmed they have patients in their territory: Uganda remained untouched for almost a month after the disease entered the continent. Sudan has two confirmed cases, the Democratic Republic of Congo which just shrugged off the the devastating Ebola virus has twenty three cases, Rwanda which has had a frosty relationship with Uganda for most of 2019 to the point of closing off its border with us has reached seventeen cases, Kenya perhaps the most outward looking and cosmopolitan nation in the East African region has for the last month been battling to bring its seven Coronavirus numbers down and is querulously grappling with how to lockdown to contain the spread of the disease.
Protectionist Tanzania with its fiercely nationalist leader John Pombe Magufuli has six cases, must turn to the world and accept help.
There are other nations on the continent with confirmed Coronavirus cases now. Egypt (depending on its mood which sometimes doesn’t spiritually consider itself part of Africa despite the annoying geographic bind) started us off and presently has 294 confirmed Coronavirus cases. Algeria is not far behind with 102 COVID-19 cases, Morocco has 96 cases. Many West African countries have confirmed COVID-19 cases as of this day Sunday, March 22, 2020. Mauritania (2), Senegal (47), Guinea (2), Ivory Coast (14), Nigeria (25), Cameroon (27), Ghana (19), Burkina Faso (40). Alarmingly, Africa’s largest economy South Africa has reported 240 cases.
On Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Uganda finally faced up to the fact that it could no longer act like would remain untouchable and started to put in place measures to prevent or contain the spread of Coronavirus. The measures were announced by Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni at State House, Entebbe, just afternoon 5pm.
Like China had first done in the city of Wuhan in January 2020 when the disease became impossible to ignore and the World Health Organisation has recommended other affected countries follow suit, the measures call for a near total abandonment of public life as we know it.
*Summary of the president’s speech on Coronavirus countermeasures*
✔Closure of schools starting Friday 20th March at midday for 1 month
✔Religious Gathering suspended with immediate effect
✔Political and Cultural public meetings to be suspended for 32 days with immediate effect
✔Outbound travel to and through countries affected by Coronavirus
✔Ugandans returning are to be quarantined at their expense
✔Markets and parks to continue under compulsory MoH guidelines including washing hands at the entrances
✔Weddings postponed for 32 days. Couples who can’t wait can go do scientific wedding
✔Funerals to have less than 10 people
✔Animal markets banned for 30 days. Those who want to buy or sell animals should do it from their homes
✔Do not use public means unless it is absolutely necessary
✔Bars, concerts, sports, cinemas, etc, are suspended
✔MoH to advise on handling of money. Encourages use of Mobile Money.
✔Don’t touch your mouth or eyes with unwashed hands
✔Prayer for the country on Saturday 21st
🌸Take at least 3 litres of water (MoH)
🌸Eat fruits, vegetables (MoH)
🌸Have frequent meals to boost your immunity(MoH)
In that short, concise speech, one of his best, President Museveni outline a national emergency response to forestall a Coronavirus outbreak in Uganda. He is set to make a third state of the nation address on Sunday afternoon in light of the fact that Uganda has confirmed its first COVID-19 case.
The Ministry of Health, the Uganda Police Force, Bank of Uganda, major communication and supplies companies have all issued equally detailed response measures in addition to the presidential directives.
This maybe the closest to war footing the country has come since 1986 only this time the enemy is invisible and possibly everywhere and nowhere. We wait: 32 days.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s bad week
Parliament of Uganda Speaker Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga is one of the most respected politicians in Uganda. The first female speaker, Kadaga was already a power broker in Busoga region before she ascended to this lofty office in May 2011 taking over from a beleaguered now Vice President Edward Ssekandi who looked headed to lose the seat if he insisted on trying to contest for it.
Ruling party Members of Parliament and opposition politicians generally concede she has been a fair speaker of the house. Some of her most devoted supporters have even suggested she should go one better than Specioza Wandera Kazibwe and be Uganda’s first female President. She is quite popular, after all, regularly at the top of most admired politicians and women leaders in the country.
But this week, Kadaga suffered a significant stumble that dents her high standing. Kadaga appeared to believe and endorse the claims of “American investor” Prof Safraz K. Niaz and Mathias Magoola that they had come up with a cure for the Coronavirus pandemic that presently has the world on its knees and largely locked indoors. WHO & countries like China that have engaged with the disease at scale still saying there is no cure for the Coronavirus. The cure in form of a disinfectant spray.
Instead of backpedaling like any experienced politician once the lie in the claims of Prof Safraz K. Niaz and Mathias Magoola were exposed, Kadaga stubbornly continued to defend them. Even after medics under their Uganda Medical Association had firmly said there was no truth whatsoever to the claims Prof Safraz K. Niaz and Mathias Magoola were making for their “miracle vaccine” that all the world needs but does not yet exist.
In the end, it emerged that the “Coronavirus vaccine inventors” were angling to “eat” from the investor incentives cake Uganda offers “industrialists” who wish to set up in the country, in their case, a hand sanitizer factory, they claimed.
Days later, in this same week, on Friday, Kadaga stepped into another puddle while making a hospital visit to Lowena Rachael Nkya, the S.6 student of Nalya Lugazi Mixed Sch, who was shot in the mouth during a KCCA/Police operation against hawkers.
Then with the cameras rolling, Kadaga clambered onto what she expected to be a high horse that would elevate her profile by saying, “I’ve just been in Mulago Hospital, ward 7, to check on Lowena Rachael Nkya. I’m so hurt. Neither the Police nor KCCA leaders have ever checked on her!”
It was not true and KCCA corrected her that the acting Kampala Capital City Executive Director Engineer Kitaka was the first high profile official to visit her. KCCA has pledged to work with, “Doctors at Mulago National Referral Hospital to ensure that Racheal and mother Irene Nakachwa who got injured on Tuesday get adequate treatment.”
It behoves admirers of Kadaga to pay closer attention to her utterances as they consider her for the highest office, truly troubling if they are an indicator of how she thinks.
David Tumusiime is a Nile Post editor.
Email: dtumusiime @nilepost.co.ug