Will Covid-19 stop Uganda acting like a drunkard?

Sunday April 05 2020

Thanks to Uganda’s freedom to believe what you want, a God-fearing government minister recently implored people to pray (because it was prayers that would end Covid-19), while another minister at a different time might caution citizens that prayers cannot end Covid-19.
Because of this, our mostly under-educated citizens are getting confusing messages.

The government has closed churches, clearly because they and their congregations have no more divine protection than our beer manufacturers. But biblical passages that give false frames of divine anger and divine protection are being peddled completely out of context. Some minds apparently draw special satisfaction from explaining specific current human events by setting up a biblical ‘mirror’, however simplistic the scriptural connection.

The Old Testament prophets understood less about epidemics than our witchdoctors and herbalists.
St Luke, a first-century doctor, knew less about the causes of ill-health than Maama Fiina.

On Tuesday evening, during President Museveni’s address to the nation, the Acholi traditional leaders were ‘accused’ of attributing Covid-19 to evil spirits. The President promised to talk to, and enlighten, the Paramount Chief.

I support him. But he must go the whole hog. Neo-pagan Christian fundamentalist ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ are daily attributing the same virus to the wrath of God, or to the mischief of Satan and other supposed evil spirits. What is the difference?

Enlighten all of them. A President who has been preaching “science…science…” for decades should not condemn the Acholi interpretation while embracing Isaiah’s vision of God’s anger.


There is no divine anger; only a smart virus that wants to survive. If there is any anger, it is enlightened social anger at those masquerading as God’s messengers, who are fighting tooth and nail to exploit the unscientific masses to continue making money.

With or without prayers, Covid-19 may be defeated, or mutate and stay around in a less virulent form. A vaccine is not ruled out. Then we will wait for other viruses.

Now, before Covid-19 arrived, different nations went about their affairs in different ways. Uganda behaved like a drunkard.

Staggering, sometimes almost tumbling aground like a wretched sack, Uganda used to live with a foolish cheer.
Uganda spent prodigally and borrowed recklessly. It stole like a hyena and ate like a pig. It counted oil dollars that were not yet there. It invested in stupid things like unviable electric cars instead of manufacturing bicycle parts and wheelbarrows.

It went to the graveyard and resurrected an airline as if purposely to lose money. It squandered today and hated thinking about tomorrow. Its politicians were hunters and gatherers in very large cars.
Covid-19 found them in the fast lane, and they had to stop and think.

Lockdown. Fine. But the security forces had been taught that enforcement means whipping people like violent drunkards whip their family ‘subjects’.
Help the stranded. Suddenly, the complexity of even a semi-functional banana republic became evident. Clear also is why sober nations use the good times to build capacity to redeem themselves in bad times.

But when a wealthy West African ‘friend’ of the President gave Uganda $150,000 as Covid-19 aid, the State House mindset, or senior presidential functionaries, thought of buying three new vehicles.
Are you astonished that there were no higher priorities? Pity yourself.

Although the lockdown means that hundreds of would-be-redundant government vehicles can be commandeered for the Prime Minister-led Covid-19 Task Force, buying new vehicles is not scandal-ridden for nothing.
But then again, there is a Resident District Commissioner in western Uganda who went to collect the district chairperson’s vehicle for Covid-19 work as required. The chairman reportedly slapped the commissioner exactly where Covid-19 gains access – on the face.

Attempted murder? Why not; if Opposition food donations to the needy are tantamount to attempted murder!
Seriously, after Covid-19, one hopes Uganda will try to avoid behaving like a drunkard.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.