Uganda has been commended for its success in taming the Corona Virus, an invention that has brought the first world empire to its knees. Whereas the United Kingdom and United States of America have had the biggest number of infections and deaths, Uganda has, to date, recorded 1,560 infections, 1,411 recoveries and 15 deaths. The Ministry of Health and the government were congratulated on their valiant efforts to protect its people.
However, recent events have caused the curve which was almost flattening to spike. With the campaigns underway, the public as well as the leaders forgot the impending threat. The voters and campaigners alike interacted without observing the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Although the infections and deaths are rising now, the makings of the country’s current state of affairs started before the lifting of the lockdown began.
After gallantly shutting people in their homes, one major problem remained; the porous borders. Understandably, the government could not close the borders without crashing the economy. Nonetheless, the matter was handled with laxity. All the cases that Uganda recorded during the lockdown were from truck operators who entered the country. This issue exposed the government’s inability to tackle the situation as it toyed with solutions; often never executing the ideas. In the end, the virus spread beyond the border districts.
Profiteering also became an issue during the period. The government had pledged to avail food to the daily income earning population. Without the means of in-house production, the government had to contract a supplier. The effects of colonialism loom over us to this day. The spirit of communalism that made African societies so rich dissipated. We therefore have self-serving individualists in the contemporary Ugandan society. The food scandal was a reflection of this!
The contractor supplied substandard food to the government at hefty prices that cost the taxpayers loads of money. The daily income earners had survived on a bare minimum of food supplies from their meagre savings. Their hope was delivered in the form of bean-sacks that were half filled with stones. The quality of the posho was equitable to that of poultry feeds. The outrage forced the government to start a system of vetting the food quality; including that which was donated by well-wishers. However, this translated into more government expenses!
There were – and still are – individuals within higher ranks that have cost the country gravely. So much was donated by many. Some selfless citizens having to travel miles to donate a measly UGX 10,000. Other deep pocketed companies – perhaps in a PR campaign – donated sums, in cash and commodities, that amounted to billions. However, this was squandered by the aforementioned high ranks. Some people from the office of the Prime Minister were charged with embezzlement. Although, some believed that these were ‘scape goats’!
As Uganda adapted to the protracted stay at home, discontent started to show among her citizenry. The government had failed to fulfil its pledge regarding the food provision. It had equally failed to contain the spread in the border-districts. The levels of accountability from government regarding the donations, procurements and other expenditures were below standard.
Parliament, during the same period, had authorised a payment of UGX 10 bn to itself without giving reason for such generous national charity. The Speaker ferociously handled any queries against the issuance of UGX20m to each of the 400 plus Members of Parliament. The fact that no accountability was anticipated regarding the money was crystal clear. Parliament resorted to fire fighting as each justified their receipt of the scandalous sums. A few denounced this behaviour and distanced themselves from it. Yet, the damage was great!
As that went on, the looming campaigns started to become an issue. Many started to believe that the government was protracting the lockdown for political benefit. Whereas everyone else wasn’t allowed to operate, the Chairman of the NRM party continually addressed the nation in a manner that improved his standing with the voters. Some referred to it as ‘incumbent campaigning’. This was not helped by the figures from MoH that did not add up. We all noticed that point where there were more recoveries than infections! Who dropped the ball?
All these events led the public to distrust the government. Not that this is new! However, the rate at which the government had failed its people was new. Perhaps it was because many were home, attentively paying attention to every muscular twitch of the government officials. As such, many of the things that would have been missed or ignored by the public were noticed.
So, when the gradual easing of the lockdown began, those that were left behind voiced their discontent. None were shy! Criticisms were made with nary a worry about consequences. Government had lost its moral high ground; Museveni had lost the same shortly after my year of birth.
It came to the extent that there are citizens who believed that the virus is absent in Uganda. I think that the virus is a real threat to us all. The disparity in the MoH figures would cause any reasonable Ugandan to question the validity of their results. Nonetheless, there are infections as well as deaths. Whether the numbers are accurate is a question of the intrepid kind! This has created Uganda’s conundrum today.
With a populace that doesn’t trust its government, the curve should be expected to spike further. Ugandans grew restless, aggravated, doubtful, angry and more. Even people that often choose to be ignorant of the political situation had time to reconsider. Now, they find it difficult to believe that they face a real threat from the virus.
There are those that think the infection and or death tally is made up as a scare tactic for the incumbent to regain the advantage he had earlier this year. Others believe that there is no need to observe the SOPs, these simply being restrictive towards business. Some have just grown tired of the drama and have chosen to throw their hands in the space, hence a sense of ‘whatever happens, happens’ or ‘if we die, we die’!
Losing the fear of the virus by the public has weakened Uganda’s administrative defences. The loss of faith in government has translated into everyone doing as they please despite the threat of infection. Unlike earlier days – when most were genuinely worried – the number of infections per day grows worrying. Instead of working against the spread, people are complacent because of the notion of propaganda.
We tend to think that the government is diabolical enough to fabricate a death toll. Maybe it is, or it isn’t! Yet, it is better to be safe than sorry. We should, as a country, consider respecting the SOPs. Not because the government decrees it, but because if we do, any rampant spread of the virus is attributed to government failure; not to public insolence. Doing otherwise would give the incompetent components of government an excuse for their incompetence.
Perhaps, another incentive to consider strict observation of the SOPs in our places of work is the fact that government is mulling a return of the lockdown. In a tweet, the Minister of works and transport noted that if the country carries on as is, public transport could be suspended. Although – given the recent trend wherein the government has eased the lockdown in spite of the spiking curve – it is unlikely that the government will suspend transport again. Still, truly, it is a possibility.
The government’s incompetence has caused the people to disregard any fears they had of contracting Covid-19. The country regards the rising infections and deaths as a tool of propaganda. This means that very few will adjust to the ‘new normal’! It might take another lockdown to curb the virus. How unfortunate! The government mishandled the situation and squandered the public’s good will. Once again, they have to become villains; incapable of being good even when the opportunity avails itself.
Thus, in a way, the government, not the people, is responsible for the rising number of infections. Truly, the government is faulted for the deaths to Corona Virus. Its individualistic philosophy has cost this country a lot.
- Joel Kenneth Ndawula is a Student of Law at Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi. He is an inspired writer, the editor and author here; a blogger of sorts.
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