On Wednesday, Mr Christopher Kalemba, the Kakuuto County MP, called on the government to come up with measures that would protect families of Ugandan businessmen who have crossed into Tanzania to do business.
The MP is concerned that traders from the districts of Kyotera and Rakai who had shops at the Mutukula border have gone to Tanzania to start doing business and this puts their Ugandan families at risk of contracting Covid-19.
Since the Uganda side is still closed as required by government guidelines, the businessmen have chosen to cross over and work from Tanzania. Now Kyotera is among districts with high number of Covid-19 cases. Before Covid-19 came along, Kyotera and Rakai, its mother district, had been ravaged by the HIV/Aids pandemic.
That they need their MP and government’s protection points to the possible things Uganda is doing wrong in this Covid-19 fight. The government is failing to notice the needs of ordinary citizens. Things such as food, shelter and the financial needs of families have been ignored.
Somehow leaders in government confuse these needs to mean trivialities, inconveniences that people could live without. That is why during his last address on Covid-19, President Museveni told Ugandans to stop complaining and follow the guidelines as designed by the government, because everyone was being inconvenienced.
According to President Museveni, he too had been stuck “here”. By stuck here, the President meant State House Nakasero, the venue of his address. The President hasn’t travelled as often as he would have, if it wasn’t for Covid-19, but he has been around.
In the same speech, the President said he had been inconvenienced as he could not meet his mobilisers or check on his cattle.
With the line about meeting cattle and mobilisers, the President demonstrated that he did not understand power of the rules he spells out during the Covid-19 speeches. There are families going without all their meals because the government has closed businesses and not provided alternative sources of livelihood.
There are private school teachers who do not know what to do next with their lives because schools are suspended indefinitely. The President confuses this with inconvenience.
This is why the people of Rakai and Kyotera, a community that we can comfortably say has been among the most hit by a pandemic in Uganda, are crossing into Tanzania to work. Until President Museveni and the officials around him understand the weight of these decisions in people’s lives, we shall start to see a larger scale of what looks like courting a pandemic.