Police in Kampala on Saturday arrested Pastor Augustine Yiga of Revival Church Kawaala for uttering false information and spreading harmful propaganda in relation to the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19).
Yiga, commonly known as ‘abizaayo’ reportedly used his Television Station to tell the public that there was no coronavirus in Africa. He coined his argument on the fact that no single death had been declared in a number of African countries, yet in the west, nations that were battling the disease had lost lives in hundreds.
In the video which went viral on social media, the TV host is heard asking the pastor whether his claim is backed with a spiritual vision from God. However, the pastor avoids the question and instead argues that coronavirus is just flu which has been already existing on the continent.
Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said that Pastor Yiga’s utterance undermines government efforts in fighting the pandemic and exposes the public to dangers of laxity in observing the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health on its control and prevention. Onyango adds that Yiga’s action is considered as a direct attack on the people of Uganda.
Yiga is currently detained at Old Kampala Police Station where police questioned him about the motive of his utterances.
“The actions of Pastor Yiga promotes the spread of the COVID-19 and can therefore be considered as a direct attack on the people of the Republic of Uganda. We appeal to the public to desist from making false or alarming utterances concerning over COVID-19 and disregard information not from authorised government structures,” Mr Onyango said.
Prior to his arrest, Dr Daina Atwine, the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary took to her twitter to condemn Pastor Yiga and also appealing to Uganda Communications Commission which regulates broadcasters to crack the whip on his TV station over what looks to be a breach of broadcasting standards. She further alerted the police to take action.
“UCC and police need to help (and) bring this person to book. Our laws are clear,” Dr Atwine said. She added that many other Ugandans on social media were already bashing the pastor who in the video dared the police to arrest him.
Section 171 of the penal code act criminalises negligent actions that are likely to spread infection of disease. The offense attracts seven years of imprisonment upon conviction.
A lot of misinformation about the virus has been making rounds in Africa given the fact that it took long before spreading to Africa.
Uganda has so far registered 23 cases of coronavirus. 46 countries in Africa have confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 3,426 testing positive, 94 deaths and 253 recoveries.