Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s minister of Health, is in the spotlight. Several posts showed her in a large gathering of people without a facemask.
Dr Aceng has always been singled out as a shining star in President Museveni’s Cabinet as she leads the fight against Covid-19. Her attempt to clear the air did not satisfy her critics, who accuse her for not walking the talk in disregarding the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Dr Aceng should lead by example, but she is also a human being, who can err. I am only disappointed that she did not apologise and chose to shift the blame to resident’s excitement when they saw her, which I think is not truthful. To earn people’s trust, you must be honest and consistent. Lies totally diminish trustworthiness.
At the moment, a substantial number of Ugandans think the country is almost free of Covid-19. The daily updates on Covid-19 by the Ministry of Health are no longer taken seriously.
Local village elite now consider the pandemic as the ‘big mans’ disease. Others think that Covid-19 is a scam by government to squander public funds.
In reality, government has tried to be aggressive in educating people to make them aware that it is about their health more than anything else. But they cannot take it anymore. The attitude of urban dwellers is probably worse.
Saloons are operating normally and the boda bodas are busy carrying passengers. The teachers have started teaching school going children in private houses. At burials, politicians, including ministers address large gatherings of mourners. Government officials no longer put on masks or observe social distancing when addressing people.
This is what we see while watching news on TV. The same people go to bars and restaurants to enjoy themselves in disregard of the curfew time. Saunas and gyms operate and their main customers are government officers who still receive salary.
This is the state of the nation at the moment. The cost of enforcing Covid-19 presidential directives has caused deaths of many Ugandans to the extent that people wonder what government is up to.
We thank God, no one has died of Covid-19-related illness and may be like our neighbours Tanzania, God has heard our prayers and saved us from Covid-19.
Enter the political season and Ugandans are of the view that schools and places of worship are being sacrificed for no good reason.
To many Ugandans, they are closed not as an essential component of a general effort to contain the virus, but as a grand plan by government to make a case for a scientific election that benefit them.
Minister Aceng has announced she will contest as MP, meaning that she will concentrate in politics than containing Covid-19.
The entire government machinery is now busy in politics and have no time to fight Covid-19. Going by what is taking place, scientific political campaigns will just be in theory except may be at the presidential level that security operatives can easily monitor.
We are in the era of mistrust unlike before when all Ugandans, including Opposition politicians, trusted and supported government to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. Complacency of government politicians and top technocrats has set in.
The popular perception is that there is unstated political motivative in the continued closure of schools and places of worship is worrying. The government must walk with its people in every step.
Practically, the economy is already open in unorganised circumstances. With the low rates of Covid-19 in the country, government may be sidelining their allies -the churches, mosques and schools that are probably more organised and with high level of public trust to help the country in sensitising the masses and ensuring SOPs are adhered to.
Mr Mesharch Katusiime is the dean of Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences & associate professor at Kabale University.