Gen. Tumukunde, Coronavirus and Desert Locusts

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What a month makes. March, 2020, the flamboyant Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Henry Tumukunde announced his presidential bid in style hoping to subdue the Coronavirus and desert locust invasion news, which has apparently failed. Tumukunde’s outbursts, subsequent arrest and now remanded in prison over alleged treason hasn’t generated the firestorm he anticipated and should be pointer to how he will inconsequentially end. 

When granted media gigs, in that short stint, Tumukunde blew himself, bragged having a thousand tricks and networks of followers that would respond beyond containment to cause a standstill if he was arrested or killed. Tumukunde talked of being ‘killed’ well-knowing the NRM government doesn’t use assassination to deal with dissent. It was a measure of shaping his narrative as victim to enlist public sympathy.

But the loud political calmness countrywide, should show him that Ugandans have gone past being scare-mongered. While Ugandans appreciate the invaluable sacrifices made during the Luwero Triangle bush war, and rebuilding Uganda, we must reject the innuendoes of entitlement by the likes of Tumukunde. Tumukunde tried to re-write his career as if people who know him aren’t available to give eulogy at his funeral, and we say, it is time he lies down. 

The Corona virus, otherwise named COVID19, continues to spread especially in Asia, Europe and US, and in isolated parts of Africa. Although Uganda is so far spared, this week, President Yoweri Museveni after quiet consultations with key stakeholders including religious, cultural and business leaders, issued twelve guidelines as precautionary steps to prevent or deal with an eventual outbreak, enlisting broad public support. Museveni communicated facts and directives without causing panic.

The main measure is to temporarily close down all high concentration points like education institutions, political and, religious gatherings, as well as traditional and cultural ceremonies like marriage, burials and funeral. Markets as commercial points will continue to operate but with strict standard operating procedures. As effective step, the current school semesters from pre-primary to university have all been closed down for the next one month in the hope that by then COVID19 would have subsided or rolled back. The slowdown in China, the initial epicenter is a welcome development and China is already providing technical and logistical support to many countries including Uganda.

Following President Museveni’s address, it is expected that the line ministries and agencies will work with stakeholders to formulate and issue harmonised guidelines to operationalize the measures issued by President Museveni including working out mitigations on their effects.

The ban on entry into Uganda and travel to high-risk countries that included Italy, France, South Korea, China, USA, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Norway, Austria, Malaysia, Pakistan and San Marino is critical for containment. It is important to note that while many of these countries enjoy high standards of living and have better health facilities, they at the same time have aged populations that are very susceptible to attacks by the aggressive coronavirus.

I read a former journalist on social media, Louis Jadwong describing President Museveni’s measures towards COVID19UG as a “lockdown” and comparing them to the two violent changes of governments in 1979 and 1986. His main issue appeared to be the limitations placed on social gatherings like bars, weddings, religious ceremonies, music shows and concerts, sports and political assemblies and markets. Jadwong ought to be reminded that in both 1979 and 1986 the state, government, leadership, and economy had all totally collapsed, on account of which, there was widespread violence. Also, Uganda had degenerated into a jungle where it was a survival for the fittest and everyone by themselves. Today, fearsome as it may be, COVOD19 isn’t yet here. In addition, the measures being issued and implement are by a lawful, legitimate, functional and effective state, government and leadership.

This brings me to the invasions last month of Uganda by desert locusts entering through the eastern district of Amudat and has now spread to twenty-four districts in eastern and northern Uganda where surveillance, and aerial and ground control teams are currently working to nipped the effects in the bud. Contrary to the earlier fears, so far there is no widespread devastation evident to food crops and general vegetation cover by the locusts because the swarms of old locusts that have so far entered Uganda aren’t that destructive.

Also, the surveillance, chemicals being applied and actual spray teams by the UPDF have been effective in destroying the locusts, which is commendable, a case in point being the swarm spreading over six square kilometers that was sighted and suppressed in Masike, Kangole town council last week by the UPDF. So far 2045 UPDF and 85 UWA personnel, 385 extension workers and 450 district government staff are actively involved in the field. There has also been good coordination among the various regional agencies and trans-boundary control activities with Kenya.

The COVID19 and desert locusts are far more important issues in Uganda whose effective monitoring, handling and possible preventions are critical for the survival of the economy. But sadly, some Tumukunde’s surrogates in the media want to cause distraction, and they shouldn’t be permitted.