Vaccination; it makes sense to follow the Kabaka

Author, Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

What you need to know:

These are rather desperate times and they call for desperate measures. Only the abnormal will act normally in abnormal situations.

Uganda is almost making one year and nine months of the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Businesses have collapsed or are working with excess capacity. Jobs have been lost, while many have taken a pay cut in the face of rising inflation.

We have tried everything to keep the spread of the disease at bay from hand hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing, staying home and observing a dawn to dusk curfew.

We have now zeroed in on mass vaccination as the panacea to our predicament. The threshold of about seven million people has been set as the target before we contemplate a full opening up of the economy.

The vaccines are now available after a long wait. The challenge is the uptake. Since most of us are adversely affected, one would have thought that a mad dash, with people falling over each other to get the vaccine. It has not happened.

There are several bottlenecks. Trust issues come up because of the information overload regarding the efficacy, safety and adverse effect that rumors associate with the vaccines.

Even if that was not the case, the healthcare system is not as widely spread, equipped and adequately manned or motivated as possible to take on this gargantuan task.

Those in charge also seem to have strange ideas on how to get around this issue. Uganda recently bought double cabin pickups for political appointees at the district level to ride around caring out ‘surveillance.’ We can only wish them well and pray that the funds required for their maintenance will not affect the budgets for motivation and remuneration of staff.

These are rather desperate times and they call for desperate measures. Only the abnormal will act normally in abnormal situations. When the house is on fire they say, any help will do. Even that of an enemy.

If the people are not coming to the health center for the vaccines, let us take the vaccines to them. If we can’t find the people then we should call upon those who they listen to, to convince them. We have tried using bar owners to call upon their patrons, religious leaders and prominent people.

For me the master stroke that should be commended is the move by whoever suggested that vaccination should take place at Bulange in Mengo. Bulange, commonly referred to as Mengo, is the seat of the government of the Kingdom of Buganda or the Kabaka’s government.

The turn-up was massive in very uncomfortable circumstances, for many. Unlike places like the airstrip where people have a seat in the shade, here they withstood long lines on their feet; braving the unfriendly mood of the weather. 

So what happened to people who were generally hitherto lukewarm about vaccination deciding to change their minds?

It is about trust and leadership. Many Baganda and people who live in Buganda believe in the leadership of the Kabaka and respectfully grant him genuine blind obedience without coercion or enticement of any nature.

It is something many people find inconceivable. Many have asked me why Baganda prostrate and kneel before a ‘mere mortal?’ It is a long story that finds itself deep in the culture and DNA of who Baganda are.  Unfortunately, it irritates many who find it irrational and antiquated.

For instance, Mengo has not had a smooth relationship with the NRM government. There are many from the NRM government including moral midgets; whose records are tainted with all forms of vices, from violence to kleptomania, who at every available opportunity will make disparaging remarks about Mengo and the Kabaka.

They have claimed that Mengo is tribalistic, parochial, insistent of establishing feudalism, etc.

The last elections of January 2021 made matters worse as most parts of Buganda voted for Robert Kyagulanyi (a Muganda) of the opposition NUP party, en masse. Somehow people leaning on fallacious logic roped in Mengo and the Kabaka in a rather shallow understanding of the situation.

But whatever we think of the the Kabaka and Mengo, lessons should be taken from the popularity of most of the various engagements and programmes initiated by the Kabaka; the latest being the successful weekend vaccination exercise at Bulange. (Those with a sense of history will recall the effect of the tour of the then Sabataka on the direction of the NRA war in 1985.)

Want it or not, the Kabaka His Majesty Ronald Edward Frederick Kimera Muwenda Mutebi II   is a major factor, one that cannot ignored in the leadership of the largest ethnic group in the country. That has an effect on the country as a whole.

The Kabaka is a useful ally in the mobilization of the people in geographical centre of the country which is also the nerve centre of the economy.

Whoever is in the business of winning the hearts and mind of the people in Central Uganda and therefore Uganda is better off taking note of this.

It makes sense to follow the Kabaka.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues

Twitter: @nsengoba

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