By Moses SsejjobaPresident Museveni and veteran journalist Charles Onyango Obbo.
In his latest article in the Daily Monitor veteran journalist Charles Onyango Obbo paints Museveni’s regime as “an efficient” government when it comes to response to epidemics.
The article, published under the headline “When epidemics visit, Uganda becomes a different country” Obbo is full of praise, seemingly to sanitize the badly tainted Museveni regime. The piece dwells on the outbreak of the flu caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID19. The bug currently is ravaging the world and already has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.
“Imagine him linking the fact that there has not been any case registered in Uganda to the alleged efficiency of the Ugandan health system! This is preposterous!” said a reader.
All neighbouring countries – such as Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia and others – have registered, and reported cases of the virus on their territory in a transparent manner. According to credible sources, the fact that there is no reported case so far in Uganda could only point to sheer luck, sheer inefficiency of the systems to detect the virus, or sheer incompetence in looking after the health of Ugandans.
“My bet is that contrary to Obbo’s claims, our health system is so sick that I can’t rule out the fact that we could already be having the sick among us but unreported,” said a veteran journalist.
Others have pointed to the lack of the general awareness about the disease among ordinary Ugandans to further indicate lack of preparedness for the pandemic. It already has spread to over 170 countries since it was first reported in China a few months back.
A random survey that was conducted by local journalists across the country showed many people to not have heard of the virus. Ironically, among the sampled communities, the Tororo region (Obbo’s home region) stood out as most uninformed, with everyone, including local leaders oblivious of the outbreak.
Obbo picks on two outbreaks: Ebola and HIV/Aids that have previously ravaged Uganda to proclaim Ugandan efficiency; yet it looks an ailing system ill-prepared to respond to outbreaks.
“He is cherry-picking the two examples (though it is not proven that Ebola or HIV were contained due to the alleged efficiency of the Museveni government) but ignores the more relevant and recent realities. This is very suspect,” said an observer.
The recent realities include an award-winning documentary that exposed the rot in Uganda’s health system, where a cartel linked to government has been stealing drugs meant for poor Ugandans only to sell it back at exorbitant prices on the black market.
The documentary, which was the work of then NBS journalist Solomon Sserwanja in collaboration with a team of reporters from BBC, traced the epicenter of the cartel to Bombo, inside the headquarters of UPDF. The regime got wind of the investigation at its tail end, and locked up the journalists. But after an international uproar (with the involvement of BBC), they were released.
“Talk of disaster response and what will immediately come to mind is the recent outbreak of desert locusts, where senior government officials found it an opportunity to eat,” said another commentator.
He pointed to the leaked budget breakdown from the locusts’ response team in the office of the Prime Minister, which exposed the entire nation to ridicule, going by the items that were named and their cost. The budgeted items included things like “Masai drums” or “purchase of stones”.
It also included hiring of stone-throwers (to chase the locusts). All this took billions of shillings, money that was rapidly requisitioned.
Readers will also wonder whether Obbo forgets another scam in the health sector when three ministers colluded to completely embezzle money meant to immunize Ugandan children against deadly diseases. The money, valued at US$ 200 million donated by GAVI, was embezzled by then health minister Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi and his two state ministers Mike Mukula and Alex Kamugisha.
“What happened to them when they were caught with their hand in the jar? They got a pat on the back from Museveni,” a reader commented.
These are just a few of the examples that Obbo should have used to show the real picture of our health system and the government’s general preparedness to handle disasters but he chose to sing praises to Museveni.
Obbo can sing Museveni’s praises all he wants but then using a disaster that has shaken the world to this magnitude to validate an inefficient government is gross, said the reader.
To qualify Uganda’s readiness to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, Obbo points to Museveni’s persona as an alleged ‘germophobe’ claiming the latter is allergic to poor hygiene.
People however know Museveni has made Uganda practically a dump-site with Kampala itself among the dirtiest cities on the continent. The garbage that litters the city is traced all the way from State House Nakasero, everyone sees.
Museveni is someone that has been seen blowing his nose and spitting in front of people while giving public addresses.
Obbo has for the past 30 years built a name as a journalist many admire. However, his latest praise singing of Museveni, much as it could have surprised some, many saw it coming.
To understand Obbo’s latest ‘bromance’ with Museveni, this website spoke to different sources close to the Museveni regime. All the answers pointed at the role of another journalist-cum-spin-doctor, Andrew Mwenda – another turncoat from the former brilliant journalist of 20 years ago.
Mwenda is now openly working for Museveni as his errand boy and publicist; activities from which he mints hundreds of millions at the taxpayer’s cost.
Earlier this week, Mwenda released a series of tweets and video clips from different hospitals. In the tweets, he declared, “Uganda is more than ready to contain the coronavirus”.
These ignited laughter and anger among Ugandans in equal measure.
Of course it was a spin, and immediately, many Ugandans called him out for “the blatant lies.” They pointed hospitals he was talking about have even failed to treat basic ailments, much less a pandemics of the coronavirus proportion.
“Obbo’s recent soft spot for Museveni can therefore not be divorced from Mwenda’s role; they are close friends are both known to have already traded the noble profession they were once known for.”
To get the full grasp of Uganda’s preparedness to combat the outbreak, look no further from Museveni’s address on the matter held on Wednesday, which was a monologue, half of it delivered in Runyankore.
“It lacked the policy direction that all Ugandans expected from a head of state, and we can only pray the outbreak does not get to us because it will be catastrophic,” a health professional said on condition of anonymity.