A unique Christmas it is we are having this time around. It is one punctuated by disease and plenty of madness. But let’s back up a little. We ended the first quarter of the year with the arrival in Uganda of Covid-19. From then on it has been a surreal existence.
Little known. Much unknown. Hence plenty of fear of that unknown.
Today, more and more of us know someone (relative, friend, colleague, neighbour) who has contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
With increasing cases has come increasing numbers of the dead. Yet all evidence suggests we have relaxed our guard, possibly fatigued by the need to mask up, sanitise and wash our hands constantly. Across much of the country, it is back to business as usual.
In any year a health pandemic on the scale of Covid-19 would be bad news. But now we have a double whammy in Uganda. We have Covid-19 and we have general election campaigns. Once the election season kicked in formally, especially with the holding of the NRM party primaries in September, the politicians (and policymakers) decided Covid-19 was not a big deal after all.
Elections had to go on regardless. President Museveni in particular didn’t want the messiness of postponing elections through declaration of a state of emergency.
Essentially, our leaders made a pact with the devil: they let us go and die so they could campaign.
Now Covid-19 kills, elections kill. Covid started killing in July. So far nearly 230 dead. Elections started killing about two months ago. So far, about 60 dead. I can’t say how many will have died by the time of January 14 elections.
What is clear is these deaths have occurred or been accelerated because of politics. The electioneering season, where many aren’t bothered about SOPs but short-term political advantage, has made the health crisis worse. And now we are adding on holiday madness (creating a triple whammy), with its mandatory pilgrimages to the village to see the bazee.
We have written before about how taking your Covid-19 asymptomatic self to the village this holiday season is a horrible idea. You will infect those bazee and then suffer immense guilt burying them at some point in January.
I suspect many family WhatsApp chat groups are having some tough discussions about whether to travel.
For those silly enough to travel, there is the drama on the roads. You drive a DMC. You drive recklessly and dangerously. You overload. You drive without a permit. You drive under the influence. You will be in trouble with the law and the police.
Despite Operation Fika Salama, which is being revived, these crazy things will happen mostly because they will be allowed to happen. The cops will take kitu kidogo. These days they do not call it chai. They say: my sanitiser is finished. I need to stay safe. Do you have some sanitiser?
If you zoom around handing out bottles of sanitiser, you will end up in trouble. Either you stuff the cop’s hand with a ka 50K or allow to take the express penalty kipapula to go pay in the bank. (And, just so you know, if you don’t pay, they will catch you at some point.
The police have tracking gadgets now. In September, traffic police on Masaka Road nabbed me for a ticket I got in November 2016 on the Kampala-Gulu highway.)
The thing about bribes is that then cars and drivers who should not be on the roads stay on the roads. So, we can safely say that Covid-19 kills. Elections kill. Roads kill (and even Christmas kills).
Too much killing of Ugandans. Even then, Merry Christmas to us all.
Mr Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala. [email protected]