Stop beating citizens over corona directives

Tuesday March 31 2020

This photo taken on March 26, 2020 shows a

This photo taken on March 26, 2020 shows a vendor reacting after she was beaten up by a Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel downtown Kampala as they enforced President Museveni's directives in a bid to forestall the spread of coronavirus. PHOTO BY ALEX ESAGALA 

By Editor

While every effort must be made to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country, the authorities who have been tasked to do this must treat every person with respect.

The Daily Monitor of yesterday carried a story, ‘Battered vendors narrate ordeal.’ The story carried a picture of two elderly-looking women, Ms Hadijah Aloya and Ms Christine Awori, crying after they had been beaten by Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel, for having carried their fruits to sell on the streets of Kampala.

It is saddening to note that the LDUs and the police, who were with them did not first inquire what the women were doing on the streets. They did not even ask them to leave. They just pounced on the defenceless women and in the process, made them lose their goods and other belongings.

Lt Col Deo Akiiki said their action on that day was to avert suspected planned city chaos. The authorities do have a right to put things in order where they have been tasked to, but nobody ever said they should do so with violence.

The beating of people, who as per the presidential directive, had a right to sell their foodstuffs, was wrong and beyond apologising, the government should compensate these women. Making a living has become doubly hard within a matter of days for many people because of the directives on public transport. Therefore beating up those who are able to make it to their work stations, in the process making them lose their capital and dignity, is adding insult to injury.

In the same measure, the Minister for Trade, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, announced on Friday that shops that sell other goods and were not in markets, including those in arcades, salons and depots were not to be touched and were to continue working. Yet as Daily Monitor reported, they remain closed after security officers ordered them to lock them up.

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The government needs to come with a clear plan on how to implement the presidential directives without falling short and without harming those trying to make ends meet, and have found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. The Covid-19 virus is one the world has not experienced until now. There is uncertainty about how to deal with it. Harassing the population only makes things worse.

The security officers must, therefore, be seen to go about their work in a humane way. And while they are at it, an assessment of how the LDUs work in this country needs to be done. Should they continue the way they have been doing, then we are headed for trouble.

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