When President Museveni first announced measures to control the spread of Covid-19, most Ugandans did their best to comply, as this felt like a national problem that required everyone’s cooperation. The leadership’s lack of empathy has, however, compromised this spirit.
This lack of empathy has manifested itself in different ways. The most heart breaking ones include security personnel killing citizens in the name of enforcing the President’s guidelines.
On Wednesday, this newspaper reported the death of Eric Mutasiga, who had been the head teacher of Merry Time Primary School in Mukono District. He succumbed to gunshot wounds at Mulago hospital where he had been hospitalised after he was shot last month. He was trying to defend a neighbour who would have encountered a similar fate for selling chapatti during curfew time.
Mutasiga is one of at least seven people that have died at the hands of security personnel, which has shot, burnt and beaten people in the name of enforcing Covid-19 guidelines.
In Kalungu, a man died in detention after he was arrested and allegedly tortured to death for not wearing a mask. Then there is the case of an 80-year-old woman killed in her home, when security personnel came searching for a grandson that had allegedly been out during curfew hours.
In addition to the deaths, several Ugandans are nursing lifelong wounds inflicted by security personnel while it was enforcing Covid-19 guidelines. In Gulu, security forces burnt Joyce Alanyo with cooking oil from her food vending business.
In most of these cases, security forces do not bother with any form of accountability, however, plastic. The security forces have simply blamed the victims, while the President and other leaders act like these individuals who have been killed or maimed are not humans that deserve some form of acknowledgement.
The refusal to acknowledge the pain of orphans left behind to fend for themselves, could look like an effective strategy for leaders trying to act like their fight against Covid-19 has been unmitigated success. But it is not a sustainable one.
It is true that Uganda has not yet registered a single Covid-19 death. But when leaders ignore such unnecessary deaths, the national effort to keep up this record is lost.
It does not matter whether the minister of Health goes ahead to implement the lockdown she is threatening. As long as the population feels like the lockdown is about the government exercising its power over ordinary citizens, the fight against the spread of Covid-19 is doomed to fail.
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