Uganda is presently managing national emergency response to COVID-19, floods, landslides and possible famine in parts of the country that require a well prepared national risk register. The register should comprise civil emergencies that could conceivably strike Uganda and how government responds to each of them. During the two months the talk didn’t get translated quickly into planning, funding, preparedness and stocking vital equipment which have all caused the slowdown in effective response.
By Ofwono Opondo
The unknown dangers and threats from COVID-19 pandemic entry into Uganda in February of this year pushed all the abrasive actors to the edge forcing them to comply without complaints against government measures including many drastic actions like banning large gatherings, mass transportation, closure of businesses, imposing night curfew, and an extended countrywide lockdown. This was in according to many, a vote of confidence in Government and particularly, President Yoweri Museveni’s able leadership.
For the last one month, parliament has been rumbling hungrily and angrily firstly, against an apparent lackluster relief food distribution to the vulnerable city dwellers within the Kampala metropolitan area, which has sadly walked a snail’s pace partly because of logistical challenges, slow food supply, and organizational inefficiency, incompetence and corruption. Having been exposed over 10Bn backslap, MPs are now seeking refugee in anger.
When President Yoweri Museveni announced countrywide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 fight, not many people apparently immediately knew the full extent of the social and economic distress that would ensue particularly to the urban underprivileged. Consequently, the decision to give relief food items in Kampala metropolitan was grossly underestimated, and understandably slowing down supply and distribution to the most vulnerable beneficiaries.
Two weeks ago, MPs while considering a 304Bn Supplementary budget, managed to slap their back hand with 10Bn ostensibly to help them fight COVID-19 in their respective constituencies enlisting a public backlash from which many can now only speak in hushed voices. There is a countrywide lockdown and individual MPs can’t do much on their own. Facing the heat, parliament leadership climbed a pedestal telling MPs not to bother explaining the unfolding embarrassment to the public.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced Ugandans into a countrywide lockdown of almost forty days from March 20 when President Yoweri Museveni first dissolved large gatherings in schools, religious, political and cultural ceremonies including burials, and weddings. Mid this week, he extended the lockdown to May 5, keeping in place all measures of the past two weeks. These include ban on mass and private transportation, trading in non-essential goods, bars, solons and night curfew.
Ordinarily I should have left Tuesday’s outburst against me by the ever bully Speaker of Uganda’s parliament, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga to pass without much comment, had it not been made on the floor where I have no right of reply. But alas, it is now habitual for Kadaga to try ride the high horse on matters of legitimate public discourse whenever she disagrees, or simply feels slighted.
In times of a major global crisis as the current COVID-19, especially for poor countries like Uganda, it is when the test, and taste of leadership comes to the fore. In Uganda’s case, we have gone through crises of catastrophic proportions, but emerged from them looking almost unscathed because of able leadership.
It is three weeks since Uganda began an aggressive response to the sprawling Coronavirus (COVID-19} in which government initially issued precautionary and preventive measures because the virus was still thousands of miles away in China, US, and Europe. Gradually, COVID-19 has reached Africa, and Uganda in particular through importation by travelers from the epicenters.
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.