Curfew comes from a French word “couvre feu” which means to cover the fire.
This, the English adopted and it became “curfew” meaning a regulation by which fires had to be put out at a fixed time mainly in the evening, marked by the ringing of an evening bell. The fires, I assume, were used for lighting purposes.
This custom is said to have been introduced into England by Kings William the Conqueror. William the 1st, who was also sometimes known as William the Bastard was one of the mightiest nobles in France as the duke of Normandy, but he is remembered for leading the Norman Conquest of England.
He was, therefore, the first Norman monarch of England, reigning from December 1066 to September 1087 when he died. His custom of curfew was later abolished by Henry the 1st in 1100.
Henceforth, in English simple terms (which is popularly used in Uganda), curfew is any regulation requiring people to be off the streets and in their homes by a certain time.
In Africa and Uganda specifically, curfews have in the past years been put during war times in order to curb the populations’ movements during evening hours for purposes of reducing attacks from the insurgents and their movements too.
Such experiences, however, have never been faced by the majority of the current population since the biggest majority is below 30 years.
Lately, curfew has become a household word since its introducation in March 2020 by President Museveni.
Among other reasons, this curfew was meant to curb the spread of Covid-19, by limiting evening social gatherings and unnecessary movements of people unless one has a serious reason like medical or belongs to the essential worker’s category.
Also, curfew was to curb criminality since most people were not working and it was assumed that night robberies would increase.
Yes, curfew has played its major role of curbing night movements and probably reducing the spread of Covid-19 but it has in some instances failed to help deal with criminality since night robberies are being experienced in various parts of the country.
Worse still, murders have escalated during night hours, for instance in the greater Masaka region.
Curfew has also had a very huge impact on the economy since it prevents night economic activities as businesses such as fuel stations, hotels and restaurants, supermarkets, among others are not operating 24 hours.
Employees in other sectors such as banking and finance, insurance, legal among others have reduced their working hours in order to avoid arrests during curfew hours.
This has definitely affected their productivity and in some cases reduced their earnings too. Think of people who survive on roasting meat, plantain or chips by the roadside in the evening.
Also, boda boda riders or taxi drivers who would have worked until late since Ugandans move almost every hour. All these individuals contribute something to our Gross Domestic Product.
The curfew has also affected traders who initially moved with night buses to the capital centre to carry out transactions and then travel back the same day to
avoid incurring some costs such as accommodation.
Lately, such a trader needs about three days to do what he would have done in one day.
On the other hand, government has also spent excessively on enforcing the curfew. From setting up manned roadblocks to conducting night patrols, which is good for security reasons.
However, how long will this go on? It is evident that almost every Ugandan now has a clue about Covid-19. Right from how it spreads and how to prevent it.
I would suggest that government thinks of adjusting curfew hours to at least midnight or even lift it.
Bars and music/drama concerts that are the biggest avenues for night social gatherings where the virus can easily spread are still closed. So, were will the people go to apart from travelling and working longer hours or remaining in their homes?
Benjamin Agaba, Former Mayoral candidate, Ntungamo Municipality