If you ever thought shooting before aiming was just a figure of speech, you need to watch Uganda under Museveni dealing with Covid-19.
Here the, government actually shoots before aiming. Museveni announces his directives before thinking through the comprehensive implications of them – and has to come back over and over again to clarify.
He gets shocked by the translation of what he announced and has to run back and correct himself. But in the process, people’s lives are ruined.
The sadder part is that these are no-brainer directives. A group discussion of undergraduate students at the School of Public Health would make succinct projections in a single coursework.
No wonder, appearing at the Uganda Media Centre over these directives in the first wave of Covid-19, former Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde disgustingly noted that one needed “a little common sense” to see the lack of rationale and sheer impracticability of Museveni’s directives.
One of the things that pain me much is the seemingly smart young persons around this man. But maybe I am wrong. Perhaps as is always the case, we are witnessing the fruits of Museveni’s perverse anti-intellectualism as he drives back to the Stone Age.
You would imagine there are no public health experts in this country, nor political economists, but soldiers – and only soldiers.
You all saw how Museveni gambles with our lives when he announced a lockdown but allowed Kampala residents a week [7-11 July] to take their already infected bodies to the countryside.
We all saw Ugandans crisscrossing, sweating into each other and swiping saliva in the bus and taxi parks as they pushed and shoved for a ride to the countryside. What type of mitigation measure is that which immediately translates into already infected people moving to the countryside?
As if that was not painful enough, her aide, soldier Edith Nakalema would go to the bus and taxi parks, harass and arrest bus operators for “overcharging their customers.”
What is that crime in a free market economy? Does this soldier know how Ugandans are overcharged on the daily basis by her co-conspirators in big businesses?
Does this woman know how Airtel, MTN, the foreign-owned commercial banks, Umeme Ltd and many others steal from impoverished Ugandans? That bus operators were overcharging in the middle of a pandemic? When did capitalism become a thing driven by cheap moralising?
How many more arrests has this woman done of clinics and private hospitals. Nakalema is the living embodiment of abuse of power and sheer populism. In fact, in a good country, Nakalema had to be arrested for interfering with the free flow of demand and supply. Her crime was adverse economic sabotage.
You would then see her overworking herself feigning care, mobilizing transport for students to their villages. While many applauded her initiative, you could not miss the sheer display of gambling and fire-fighting mentality.
Only after images and videos of these students stranded in the taxi parks did these chaps in government remember to care.
If they really cared about these poor school children, they would have arranged to pick them from their schools before exposing them to the virus in parks, and later driving these infected kids to their even more vulnerable parents. Did they think Covid-19 spreads like HIV/Aids?
Good people, I know, death and illness has numbed our curiosity. It has made us desperate and are gobbling down any folly from our leaders – especially since they enforce their idiocy with violence.
Look, after 85 per cent of the country is exposed to Covid-19, this man proposes to lock down without even telling us how the Indian variant reached Uganda. I have four families close to me, in different suburbs of Kampala and Wakiso.
All of their members have been down with Covid-19 with different degrees of infection, and showing different symptoms. My entire network of friends and colleagues and their families continue to battle Covid-19 through homecare.
Majority aren’t testing because they cannot afford it, but are displaying well-publicised symptoms. You have seen the long queues at pharmacies, majority are Covid-19 caretakers on self-medication.
There are literally no vaccines as the country has not even imported a million doses for an estimated 40 million population. There are literally no hospitals for ordinary folks.
Fully aware that he does not have the capacity to offer food and other home supplies to sick and locked-down persons, this man nevertheless locked down.
Aware that lockdowns do not work in his country — as we learned last year, that locked-down people, compelled by more urgent needs such as food and water, simply crafted an underground economy, which is simply more expensive and costly —Museveni goes ahead and locks down.
Aware that there are more dangerous diseases/ conditions such as pregnancy, malaria, TB, HIV/Aids, which killed way more people under the previous lockdown, Museveni still locked down. For whom and for what did this man lock down the country?
Dear reader, I am not trying to simply malign Museveni's effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, my contention is that lockdowns without proper public health safeguards are not only pretentious, but actually kill more people than they save.
Let me explain further: I am lucky to have lived through two lockdowns, one in Uganda and another in Europe. When the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that lockdowns were better ways of mitigating the spread of Covid-19, they were not thinking about Africa but, rather, Europe and North America.
In Europe, one will live through a lockdown and the only pain they would feel is being denied leisure activities such as movies, games and travel. But neither of the necessities of life – such as water, food and medicare.
Just a few examples: There are no power blackouts in Europe and North America. Water supply is steady year in year out, even for the so-called poor and vulnerable, as long as they still have a home. In Europe, no one lives in a house without a postal address, which means, anything can be delivered to that house by courier and post companies, which are very much developed.
With 98 per cent of homes connected to fairly affordable Wi-Fi connectivity, and with online shopping having cultured, one is able to buy anything they wanted – including organic chicken from farms – without stepping out of the house. Shops were closed for walk- in customers but remained open to online shopping.
In the area of health, one had not to explain to any soldiers for a visit to their doctors. You just moved to your doctor, which is often by appointment. Ambulances are in every corner and never ask for cash before picking a critically ill patient.
That was how a lockdown looked in Europe and North America. That is what WHO had in mind when declaring lockdowns as controls against contagion. This is why some countries on the African continent that understood the peculiar nature of their environments never locked down.
Sadly, the WHO Mzungus simply pushed their lockdown onto these African countries without much thought into the intricate conditions on the ground in these poor African countries. Men like Museveni simply copied and pasted lockdowns – especially since billions of dollars followed lockdowns.
They have done it again, and over $550 dollars could be on its way.
The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.