Coronavirus – Uganda : Government and World Food Programme (WFP) distribute take-home food for 130,000 school children in Karamoja

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MOROTO, Uganda, July 14, 2020/ — The Government of Uganda and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are distributing take-home food rations to school children in the Karamoja sub-region in north-eastern Uganda to support home-learning while schools remain closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak across the country.

The take-home food distributions began on July 6 and will run through the month, covering more than 300 schools in all Karamoja’s nine districts. Nearly 130,000 children will each receive a ration of maize, dry beans and fortified vegetable oil.

“This year, Karamoja was hit by insecurity, floods, diseases and locusts and then a lockdown that coincided with the lean season and cut off school meals, which attract children to school,” said the Minister for Karamoja Affairs John Byabagambi.

Byabagambi said these compounded elements had left a vulnerable region at an even higher risk of food shortages and malnutrition, which create an unfavourable environment for home-schooling. 

School meals for children were halted in Karamoja when all schools countrywide had to close to contain the spread of COVID-19. A total lockdown that followed left many parents without jobs and coincided with livestock being quarantined because of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Even before the closure of schools and lockdown, 84 percent of people in Karamoja were unable to access a nutritious meal regularly.

With food stocks running low, many families are forced to reduce the frequency and size of meals until the harvest season from August to December.

“However, we have some stocks of food grown within Karamoja and with these, we can provide school meals by another means and children can learn.’’ Byabagambi said.

Take-home rations, to which the Government, through the Ministry of Karamoja Affairs contributed 360 metric tons of maize, to supplement the WFP ration, will enable children to stay home and take advantage of alternative schooling guidelines introduced in May until schools can safely re-open. The government is distributing learning materials for home schooling in vulnerable regions including Karamoja, which has very low literacy levels.

“Take-home rations are working for WFP around the world in these unprecedented times enabling us to maintain the gains we have made through decades of school feeding, including keeping girls consistently enrolled in school,” said WFP Uganda Country Director El-Khidir Daloum.

“Because of take-home rations, we believe parents will see the direct impact of food on learning and therefore will be encouraged to send their children back to school once they re-open.”

WFP has provided school meals in Karamoja since the 1980s at the request of the Government in a bid to encourage children to enrol in and finish school. WFP normally provides at least one meal a day for all school children in Karamoja. The governments of Ireland and Germany currently fund school meals.

Since 2014, the Uganda Government has been contributing cereals to school feeding with support from WFP in line with its Karamoja feeds Karamoja Project.

Apaa Land Saga, Parliament Asks Gov’t To Halt Plans To Evict People From Apaa

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File Photo from Apaa

The Select Committee of Parliament has asked Government to halt plans to relocate or evict people from Apaa.

The Committee established last year has also recommended that the proposal by Government to degazzete 25sq. km be reviewed, to ensure that there is adequate land to accommodate the community needs.

Parliament established the committee to investigate the state of affairs relating to the land conflicts in the Apaa Community; determine the root causes of the conflicts and internal displacements of persons; and to propose the way forward in finding a lasting solution to the said conflict for purposes of promoting harmonious co-existence of different ethnic groups.

Presenting the Committee Report to Parliament sitting on Wednesday 8 July 2020, Chairperson, Hon. Agnes Ameede, said that the conflict in Apaa was three dimensional, highlighting a conflict between Uganda Wildlife Authority and the residents of Apaa; the border dispute between Amuru and Adjumani districts, and the tribal conflict in Zoka between the Acholi and the Madi over land.

“Due to the animosity that characterized the conflict, the Committee recommends that a Peace and Reconciliation Committee be formed to foster community relations and facilitate the Acholi community to accept the new administration of Adjumani District Local Government,” she said.

Ameede said that the conflict in Apaa within the Reserve was between the residents who claimed customary ownership of the land and UWA that had the mandate to manage all the wildlife reserves.

She said UWA moved in to evict the people who had settled in the Wildlife Reserve, but were faced with stiff resistance leading to confrontation.

She added that the border dispute between Adjumani and Amuru and encroachment of the East Madi Wild Reserve started in 2007; and that Committee observed that there was a long stretch of land of 27kms connecting the sources of River Choro and River Ceri, which Government had declared as the border.

However, the boundary was disputed by the people of Amuru District who argued that the boundary was at River Zoka/Juka.

She also told Parliament that regarding the tribal conflict between the Madi and the Acholi over land ownership in Zoka, located outside the Reserve; the Committee observed that “there was a systematic form of organized militia to cause insecurity or sow mayhem, with the sole purpose of displacing people and to grab land”.

The Committee report indicates that inter-tribal clashes arose out of incitement by the political leaders from both Amuru and Adjumani districts, who urged the people to protect their customary land; with the last clashes registered on 17 and 26 January 2019 and 06 February 2019 in Zoka C.

Ameede commended police and other security organs for establishing peace and stability in the community through containing the inter-tribal attacks and clashes.

“The Committee observed that the establishment of a police post at Zoka C had contributed to the enhancement of security in the area. It also addressed the discomfort and mistrust by the Acholi community which had been apprehensive to report cases at Adjumani District Police Headquarters,” reads the report.

Coronavirus: Denmark Injects US$1 Million in Cash Relief for Refugees in Kampala.

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) received US$1 million from the Government of Denmark today to assist refugees in Kampala struggling because of the socio-economic impact of lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19.

WFP began delivering cash assistance to an initial group of Kampala-based refugees on 5 June. Thanks to this contribution, WFP can continue rolling out assistance in coming weeks. Each refugee receives the equivalent of three months’ worth of cash—with this funding supporting almost two months of that.

“The people of Denmark are aware of how desperate the situation for refugees living in Kampala could become without assistance,” said Henrick Jespersen, the Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Denmark in Uganda. “We hope that this contribution can help stem the dire economic situation of refugees in Uganda’s capital while acting as a symbol of our solidarity and partnership with the people of Uganda and its government during this global crisis.”

Jespersen acknowledged the strategic and effective measures that the Government of Uganda have taken to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in the country while at the same time continuing its progressive refugee policy. “The way you welcome your neighbours in your country is a testimony to Ugandan hospitality and is what makes Uganda the leading country in the world in delivering on the global Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework,” he said.

Kampala hosts over 81,000 refugees who sought refuge from conflicts in neighbouring countries. Unlike refugees in designated refugee settlements in Uganda, refugees in Kampala are not normally given food or cash assistance from WFP because they can access markets and services.

Before the pandemic, most refugees in urban centres worked day-by-day in the informal sector for instance as casual workers and were expected to be self-sufficient. COVID-19 and measures to contain its spread however forced tens of thousands out of work and deeper into hunger and poverty.

In a WFP survey in April, 87 percent of refugees said that the pandemic had negative impacts on their livelihoods, with at least 50 percent saying they had lost 75 percent of their income due to lockdowns. Refugee families headed by women, the elderly and the disabled were hardest hit.

Market food prices in Kampala increased by as much as three percent in the first week of the lockdown, making it even more difficult for people to afford enough food for their survival.

“This is an unprecedented emergency and as such, WFP came up with innovative ways to reach those most in need,” said El-Khidir Daloum, Country Representative for WFP in Uganda.

“Despite this global health emergency, the basic needs of refugees in Uganda remain and, in many cases, have deepened,” he added. “We were ready to help when the Government asked for our assistance with Kampala-based refugees. We are extremely grateful to those new donors who came forward to support this urban response.”

WFP’s cash assistance is delivered through mobile phones, which means people don’t have to gather in large crowds. WFP works with the Office of the Prime Minister and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to check the identities of Kampala-based refugees. WFP’s cash assistance complements cash transfers by UNHCR to help refugees meet their non-food basic needs.

“With or without COVID, our approach to the way we respond to refugees will not change,” said Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness and Refugees Musa Ecweru. “When people have food in their bellies, they are more likely to cooperate with government safety guidelines. Generous donations from the Government of Denmark and assistance from WFP is actually keeping both refugees and Ugandans safe from COVID-19.”

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

LAST MILE CONNECTION: Umeme Unveils UGX310 Billion Investment Plan for Increase Power Supply, Efficiency and Stability While Powering Uganda.

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Umeme’s Selestino Babungi (in red shirt) with one of Umeme’s Board Directors at the new and bigger Lira Integration Substation in readiness for the upcoming 600 MW Karuma Hydro Power Station. As part of the UGX310 billion, Umeme has allocated significant resources to evacuate and distribute power from the in-construction Karuma and 16.5 MW Siti II Hydroelectric Power stations.

As part of its Vision 2040, the Government of Uganda has through its Electricity Connections Policy 2018-2027 committed to increase its populations access to power from the current 28% to 60% by 2027 and 80% by 2040.

To meet the above targets, all players in the power sector have been asked to come together and connect at least 300,000 new customers annually until the end of 2040 if they are to meet the needs of both the underserved population visa vie the growing annual demand- rated to be at 9.1%.

For this to be achieced there is need to maximumly harness Uganda’s hydroelectric power potential, estimated to be at about 4,000 MW, but also tap into other energy sources, especially geothermal (450 MW), solar (1,000 MW), and nuclear (30,000 MW).

As at the end of December 2019, Uganda enjoyed roughly 528.9 MW of surplus power supply- Uganda’s peak system demand was 723.76 MW versus installed generation capacity of 1,252MW. When Karuma Hydropower Dam which is at 98% stage of completion is finally inaugurated, peak excess could as well reach 1,000MW.

With significant generation ability, Uganda now needs an equaly significant investment into the last-mile connection; getting power to where it is needed most- with huge focus placed on households, factories and schools.

As this development soars on, the whole country is keenly looking up to Umeme Limited. Uganda’s largest power distribution company, that controls up to 97% of all distribution while harnessing Uganda’s ambitious universal access to electricity. Its a show of solidarity with the people of Uganda but also demonstration of UMEME’s  ability to power Uganda.

Its no surprise that, Umeme, last week unveiled its ambitious USD83.3 million (UGX 310 billion) capital expenditure plan for 2020, promising to continue investing strategically in support of the government agenda.

Unveiling the investment plans for 2020, Selestino Babungi, Umeme’s Managing Director said that the power company would, including the USD83.3 million, invest altogether up to USD450m (UGX1.7 trillion) between 2019 and 2025 investment agenda, in support of Uganda’ major energy objectives- increasing grid connections, increasing demand, reliability of supply and driving efficiencies. 

“In 2020, Umeme, secured approval from the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) and has gone ahead to allocate USD83.3 million to 6 critical areas of the business, which when completed, will see us reliably connect over 300,000 customers this year alone,” Babungi said.

Adding that, their 6th  strategic areas will shift to: “addressing energy losses and improve operational efficiency (USD 26.89 million); addressing load demand growth (USD22.72 million); power supply reliability (USD18.89 million); power generation evacuation and supply (USD10.79 million); network systems automation (USD1.93 million) and network protection and security (USD2.06 million).”

Babungi said that in light of government’s bold energy agenda Umeme had increased its investment by 7.2% this year, much closer to the 9.1% growth in demand. Umeme last year invested UGX289 billion and UGX230 billion in 2018. Altogether, Umeme has to date invested over $650 million since it started running the energy distribution concession in 2005, adding 1,210,000 customers. The number of customers have now crossed the 1,500,000 mark, up from the 290,000 the company inherited. Energy losses have also been more than halved from 39.8% in March 2005 to 16.4% as of 2019 at the end of 2019.

 Accoirding Babungi, in 2019 alone Umeme connected 180,000 new customers, out of whom, 178,152 were financed by the Government and development partners under the Electricity Connections Policy.

“With the new capital investments we expect to boost our new customer connections to about 250,000- 300,000 per year,” he said, adding: “We are also investing in leveraging technology and business process improvements to reduce power losses and continue delivering more reliable power affordably,” he said.

“Every money saved in energy losses, our customers benefit directly by way of reduced cost of electricity,” Babungi said.

Detailed investment plan: Central, Nothern and Eastern Uganda to benefit more

  1. USD26.27 million (UGX98 billion) will be invested in converting the remaining 150,000 customers to prepaid metering to address losses as well as improve operational efficiency in customer service;
  2. USD 9.23 million (UGX34.7 billion) will be sunk into evacuating power from the 16.5 MW Siti II Hydroelectric Power Station in Bukwo District, Eastern Uganda;
  3. USD5.99 million (UGX22.5 billion) will be used to construct feeder powerlines to the new Tangshan Mbale Industrial Park. This shall also include a new switching station to ensure effective power supply to the industries in the region;
  4. USD3.4 million (UGX12.7 billion) allocated to evacuating power from the new UETCL substation in Mukono to the Mukono Industrial Area as well as the almost complete National Water & Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) new water plant in Katosi, Mukono District;
  5. USD2.37 million will be spent on evacuation of electricity from the new UETCL Substation in Namanve to enhance power supply quality to the Kampala, Industrial Business Park (KIBP), Namanve;
  6. USD1.82 million (UGX6.8 billion) has been allocated to constructing a switching station at Matugga on the northern outskirts of Kampala City to enable network reconfiguration and network operational efficiency around the Liao Shen Industrial Park, Kapeeka and the surrounding Bombo area;
  7. USD1.66 million (UGX6.2 billion) will be spent on replacing the Bombo substation;
  8. USD1.93 million (UGX7.2 billion) has been allocated to operational and network management systems to ease the provision of the services to its customers;
  9. For Northern Uganda, USD1.56 million (UGX5.8 billion) is being allocated to an evacuation line from the new Karuma Hydro Power Dam, to address demand growth in and around Gulu district.
  10. Another USD1.32 million (UGX4.9 billion) will be spent on reconfiguring the Gulu substation to supplement and improve the old substation infrastructure and address the overloading of the existing power transformers.
  11. In Kampala, Umeme is replacing the obsolete power transformers and switchgear at the Ntinda substation with new 33kV gear to address the quality of supply in the Ntinda area at a cost of USD2.1 million (UGX7.8 billion).
  12. USD1.7 million (UGX6.3 billion) will also be injected into a new substation in Nakawa, Kampala to address the growing power demand from housing developments and industrial areas in the Nakawa and Bugolobi areas;
  13. In Entebbe, to meet the growing needs of the real estate sector as well as the ongoing Entebbe Airport expansion, a new substation is being built at Nakasamba SS at a cost of USD1.38 million (UGX5.1 billion);
  14. USD1.81 million (USD6.8 billion) to be injected into network refurbishment in Njeru Municipality, Jinja district;
  15. USD1.8 million (UGX6.7 billion) to be allocated to injecting new transformers in the network across the country.  

Childfund Releases Over Ugx 100 Million For Distribution Of Reading Materials

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Daina from Kampala displays learning materials received from ChildFund

ChildFund Uganda Country Program has disbursed over UGX 100 million to 9 local partners to support over 29,000 children in accessing reading and learning materials.

The nine implementing partners spread across 28 districts are working with the RDCS, CAOs, DEOs, and other local authorities to ensure that children receive the learning materials released by the Ministry of Education and Sports. This is in addition to sensitizing communities and families to ensure that children are given time and space to read and revise while at home.

With the continued closure of schools, children from vulnerable families are struggling to cope under the circumstances. For most, education and any form of learning has come to an abrupt stop as they spend their days supporting the family labour in gardens and other household activities. 

Noeline a senior three student from Masodde Community in Kyankwanzi district says despite the government disbursing reading and learning materials to all sub counties country wide, they were not enough for each family to receive copies.

Photocopying the reading materials for Noeline and her four siblings at the local printery near their home would cost over UGX 40,000 which her family could not afford. Consequently, the family decided to photocopy only her learning materials and for her brother in senior four.

She added that some of her siblings often go to the neighbors with Televisions to study which increases risks of sexual abuse especially for the girl child.

“I am not happy that my siblings cannot get the learning materials like I did but I have to accept the situation since my parents do not have enough money to get materials for all of us” Noeline said

Similarly, 16-year-old Alindah in senior four was the only one to get some of the reading materials photocopied out of all her five siblings.

Given the high cost of photocopying the learning materials, most parents in Massodde community prioritized securing materials for children in the final years only. Noeline says this has brought about discrimination in homes leading to fights and bickering amongst children.

ChildFund Uganda’s Education and Early Learning specialist Lukiya Kibone says that distribution of reading materials to children will lessen the pressure and burden of demands on parents and caregivers struggling to care for their families amidst the shutdown of major income streams like petty trading.

She appeals to parents/ caregivers to support and protect children during this period, avail space and time for children to read and be aware that the most offenders of children’s rights are people close to them. “Children should not be left at home unsupervised because it puts them at a higher risk of being abused,’’ Lukiya says.

ChildFund continues to monitor the situation and will provide additional support as the situation evolves.

In addition to national partners, ChildFund will continue to work closely with the nine local implementing partners: Acholi Child and Family Program in Gulu, Masindi Child Development Federation in Masindi, Lango Child and Community Development Federation in Lango, Community Efforts for Child Empowerment in Kyankwanzi, Kampala Area Federation of Communities in Kampala, Jinja Area Communities Federation in Jinja, Partners for Children Worldwide in Soroti, Mbale Area Federation of Communities in Mbale and Busia Area Communities Federation in Busia.

Otunu’s Open Letter to President Museveni on Battle Against COVID-19

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Dr Olara-Otunu - Online Photo

Your Excellency , Mr President ,                                                        

 Re : Uganda’s Response to Coronavirus .

Our country , in tandem with the whole world , is under siege from a deadly , invisible enemy , Coronavirus ( Covid-19) . Barely  two months following its discovery in Wuhan , China , this little-known new virus had already turned the whole world upside down .  In its wake , we are witnessing the decimation of lives and the collapse of livelihoods ( economies ) on a scale unknown since the influenza epidemic of 1918 .

Overcoming the pandemic  has  become an existential struggle for all societies and all governments . For the most part , all governments are drawing from the same repertoire of response measures ( testing & tracing  , washing hands & physical distancing , banning gatherings   , closing schools , controlling  travel & borders ,  stopping work ,  imposing quarantines and lockdowns , etc ) ,  under guidelines provided by WHO . The effectiveness of responses  has varied , turning largely  on the timing ,  robustness and comprehensiveness of the response measures adopted .

Mr President , here in Uganda , you have been spearheading our national response . That is the reason for addressing this open letter to you . Since mid-March , you have now convoked the nation on 15 occasions to deliver televised addresses , devoted to Coronavirus . You have issued 35 mandatory directives . The nation-wide lockdown , first announced on 21 March , has been renewed three times .

From the outset , I must express a very warm tribute to our health professionals and scientists . They have risen to this moment with great  professionalism and dedication  . Under  the very able leadership of Health Minister , Dr Jane Ruth Aceng , they have demonstrated , against enormous odds ,  that they are up to any task ,  anytime . The stellar performance of these unsung heroes , underscores the appalling conditions in which they have been labouring for so many  years .

Another impressive success has been the awareness campaign . All communities in Uganda are  now well-informed about Coronavirus . Hand-washing routine has caught on everywhere . May this continue long after Coronavirus ! The big challenge , requiring more effort , remains practicing physical distancing . Ugandans are  finding it difficult to adapt to this rather strange , anti-social ,  but absolutely necessary conduct . For the foreseeable future , we are bound to observe physical distancing everywhere .

Mr President , the  measures you have promulgated are all on target  . Indeed all of them correspond to WHO guidelines and actions taken by other countries . In order to draw necessary lessons for the long fight ahead and for future crises , it is important to review key aspects of Uganda’s response  . This is the purpose of this open letter to you .

I. Major Lapses in Response

 We have been especially weak on testing .  Yet aggressive testing within communities has been the key to effective response everywhere .Without wide randomised community testing , we cannot know the levels of infection within the country .

The focus , during March ,  on monitoring arriving passengers at Entebbe Airport , was necessary and important . Unfortunately ,  this exclusive preoccupation with one entry point , diverted attention from three equally crucial sources of risk that needed very early intervention , namely : travelers entering Uganda through land borders  ; cross-border truck drivers ;  and community testing . The rapid testing survey conducted since end of April is useful , but it came quite late and its coverage remained  narrow . Mercifully , the survey results are reassuring . But without broader and longer community testing , it would be premature to conclude that “we have no community transmission “ .

Unlike  entry into developed countries , most travelers enter Uganda  through formal and informal land border crossings ; some also enter via lakes Victoria and Albert . Apart from South Sudan ,  Coronavirus announced its impending  arrival by striking our neighbors first .  From the very beginning  , government should have focused , like a beam , on these high-risk , corruption-prone , porous land border points . But , until end of March ,  it was ‘business-as-usual’ at these border-points . This was a major lapse in response .

The worst and most costly lapse in response relates to the cross-border , long-distance truck drivers .  We have known , since the earlier experience with HIV-AIDS , that this group can be a particularly efficient conveyor of contagion . Following a series of WHO alerts , and certainly the  arrival of Coronavirus in our own neighborhood , government should have made the monitoring and testing of truck drivers its absolute top priority . Testing of these  drivers only started on 16 May .

Incidentally , I notice that government has suddenly started to divide into two categories ( Ugandans and non-Ugandans ) persons who have tested positive within Uganda . This is chauvinistic and misleading . This fight is about public health , not nationality .

The high spate of infections emanating from Dubai seemed to have caught government by great surprise . Dubai has become a massive air transit hub for travel to China , Europe and North America . For our traders , it is the largest sourcing center for consumer goods destined for Uganda and many other African countries . That is why the three daily flights , from Entebbe to Dubai ,  are always packed . In the context of Coronavirus , our intelligence would have quickly signaled Dubai as a source of far greater risk for Ugandan travelers than any European or North American country .

If ever there was a crisis tailor-made for a collective response by the East African Community ,  then it is certainly Coronavirus . By now , several EAC virtual summits should have been held ,  devoted to  Coronavirus , to charting a harmonized  EAC-wide strategy and  response .  Where is the EAC , when we need it most ? Valiant but divergent national interventions are inefficient and not as effective . For Uganda particularly  ,  as a small ,  landlocked , transit country  , it will be well-nigh impossible to insulate itself from what may continue to circulate in the regional neighborhood . It is simply in everybody’s interest to press for collective regional response ; it is late , but not too late .

II. Important Pending Measures .

Mr President , you have issued a raft of directives . However , we have not yet heard anything concerning some of the most critical  necessary measures . Let me signal some .

Most people are hurting terribly from the impact of the lockdown . Families across the country are actually starving . A lot of SMEs and informal-sector operators risk collapsing altogether . We have been waiting for two critical packages from government . First ,  a relief package to provide immediate mitigation and support for those in desperate need ; this  package would should include relief measures for taxes , rents , loans , utilities , and food . Second ,  a financial package designed to stimulate economic recovery after lockdown ; this should especially target small-scale farmers , informal-sector operators and SMEs .

The  2020/21 budget was prepared  before Coronavirus turned the world up-side-down . We have a radically new situation . That budget must be revisited . It should now be devoted to three priority tasks : containing Coronavirus , mitigating the impact of the lockdown , and facilitating economic recovery .

In the regular budget as well as the recent supplementary budget ,  “ classified” expenditure , continues to loom unnaturally large , amounting to a whopping 2.8 trillion shillings and 524 billion shillings , respectively .Government must now level with Ugandans about the purposes of these enormous , unaccountable funds . For years , this mysterious expenditure has operated effectively as a private ATM at State House .  It was always a scandal . But given the pain of Ugandans today , this is all the more unacceptable and immoral . The “classified”  funds should be redeployed for the epic fight against Coronavirus.

We all are very proud of the heroic efforts of our health workers and scientists . To underscore the importance of their work and the appreciation of a grateful nation , government should immediately earmark funds to support them and facilitate their crucial work . Immediate provision should include adequate PPE , necessary hospital equipments , logistical support , ambulances , and decent wages .

 We are now witnessing the humiliating spectacle of the government , begging bowl in hand , frantically pleading for donations from the public , to buy everything ;  to buy PPE , ambulances , vehicles and machines for hospitals , testing kits , etc . Where then has all the government money gone , from taxes , international aid and grants , and loans ? Before this crisis , how many ambulances and hospital vehicles had been purchased by government itself ( not NGOs , embassies or MPs ) ? Instead of investing in our own health service , government has been spending over 500 billion shillings annually for medical treatment abroad .

Mr President , I notice that , with long-haul cargo stuck at our borders , you have been calling for the urgent revival of the railways , arguing , correctly , that “railways is a far more efficient and economic means of transporting cargo than trucks “ . I welcome this epiphany . It was your administration that deliberately dismantled ( in favour of self-serving private interests ) the railways , together with several key institutions and services , including :   cooperatives ;  marketing boards for coffee , cotton and produce ; Uganda Commercial Bank ; Uganda Airlines ; subsidies and support to farmers ; etc. These institutions and services were designed to empower Ugandans and build a solid domestic economic base .

A  particularly important  pending issue is the reopening of schools . Closing was easy , opening is more complex . I support government decision to start with candidate classes only  . In the ‘new norm’ , it will be necessary to organise physical distancing , hand-washing , mask-wearing , temperature monitoring , and randomized testing , in schools . This is a major undertaking . Moreover , most rural schools simply do not have the facilities to adapt to the ‘new norm’ . A lot of planning , reorganization and new investment are required before full reopening can be safe .

In any democracy , there is no exercise of power without accountability . That is why , as they take tough response measures to contain the pandemic , we see leaders , all over the world ,  regularly reporting and seeking  approval of their parliaments . This has not been the case in Uganda . This is highly anormalous  . It is critical that the far-reaching measures you are compelled to take are reviewed  and scrutinized by Parliament .

In the televised addresses , you have unveiled several immediate steps and the reasons behind them . We now need a national plan of action , setting out a coherent and systematic strategy for this long fight . Since you have started to ease the lockdown , people are eager to know where all this is heading  .

III. Non-partisan Leadership .

Mr President , when their nations have been under a crisis of this magnitude , historic leaders have reached deep within their own souls and decided to park on the side their entrenched partisanship , self-serving interests and parochialisms ; this for the sake of the greater common good  .  At this seminal moment  for Uganda , will you find it within yourself to do this  ? Some of the recent actions have been quite alarming .

Consider the saga of food distribution . All over the world , when the population

 is exposed to hunger ( as Ugandans are today ) , their government will readily welcome all who can pitch in   – – charities , churches & mosques , leaders from all sectors – – to distribute relief to those in distress . At this very moment , this is going on in most countries  . Alas ,  in Uganda , you have decreed otherwise . Apart from the government task force , nobody is allowed to distribute relief. Can it be that calculated political gains that may accrue from this monopoly  are trumping the desperate needs of starving Ugandans ?

Mr President , you have gone one step further . In an extraordinary development , you have actually ordained that any persons  found distributing food , outside the official task force , would be charged with committing “attempted murder” ! When I first heard you say this  , I was stunned .  I thought this was a ‘slip of the tongue ‘ that you would immediately correct . Instead , you have repeated this outrageous pronouncement with obvious glee . How have we come to this ?

This pronouncement has incited certain elements in the security forces to commit atrocities . This is the backdrop to the arrest , torture and savaging of Mityana MP , Francis Zaake . I could not believe that your only reaction to this horror was to ask a casual rhetorical question . You wondered aloud why the police singled out Zaake , while turning a blind eye to food distribution by government ministers and NRM big wigs . So , in the the matter of torturing  Zaake ,  the president and the commander-in-chief has suddenly become a helpless bystander !

Mr President , all this calls for some serious soul-searching .

Mr President , the world will not be the same after  Coronavirus is done with us . From the ravages of this pandemic we can draw seminal lessons to reset and reorder key aspects of our nation’s comprehensive   brokenness . Once again , this calls for a genuinely patriotic , non-partisan leadership that is animated , above all else , by the best interests of Uganda and Ugandans . In this ,  history will judge them , not by their words , but “ by the fruit they bear “.

 Mr President , lest I forget , I saw your office push-up routine . Quite impressive .

Please , accept my best wishes for your continued good health . May God protect and bless our country in this moment of great tribulation .

                                                           Olara  Otunnu, Buddo .

                                                                                                                        

Incurring John Nagenda’s Fury, His Former Teachers at Budo, Would Mark Him Down , for ‘Padding’!

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Former UPC president Olara Otunnu. Inset is Mr John Nagenda, the Presidential Adviser on the Media. @Monitor Picture

Guest Pots I By Olara Otunnu:- I recently wrote an open letter to President Museveni , concerning Uganda ‘s response to  coronavirus ( Sunday Monitor , 24 May ) . In New Vision of 30 May, John Nagenda ( Presidential Adviser on the Media ) provided a rejoinder .

It is very striking that , in his response , John studiously avoided addressing any of the specific issues I raised , concerning coronavirus . Instead , he unleashed a fury of abuse , choice epithets and falsehoods , under the heading “ Replying to Ivorian Olara “. My teachers ( and John’s ) at  Budo , would have severely marked him down , for ‘padding’ !

In my open letter , I make it clear that the measures imposed by Mr Museveni were appropriate and necessary . They conform to WHO advisory and interventions by other countries . I also pay special tribute to our unsung heroes , the medical and scientific personnel .

Uganda’s response to coronavirus

In fighting coronavirus, the effectiveness of a country’s response turns especially on the timing and robustness of response measures. Everywhere, early intervention is key. In Uganda, despite well-known risks and early warnings , government was very slow to act in several areas of major vulnerability . 

Late interventions in the following four areas have been particularly costly for Uganda : imposing strict control and surveillance at land borders ; robust monitoring and testing of cross-border truck drivers ; focus on Dubai as a massive international crossroads and the biggest hub for Ugandan travelers and traders ; and randomised  testing across communities .

Although Mr Museveni has promulgated many measures , he has remained silent on some of the most consequential issues . These include : relief for families in great distress ; a serious stimulus package , whose beneficiaries must include small-scale farmers and informal business operators  ; a special fund for immediate support for medical service and medical staff ; overhauling of  2020/21 budget , including reallocation of the massive “classified” secret expenditures ; submitting  presidential promulgations to scrutiny by Parliament ; and providing a coherent roadmap , instead of ad hoc interventions .

 I ask John : Which of the issues raised above “drips with malicious poison from every pore . . .  “ ?

Since writing the open letter , the situation has got worse  . The incidence of infections is climbing rapidly . We now have community transmission and infection of medical personnel . The situation at key border posts and the issue of truck drivers are spiraling  out of control ; this underscores  the imperative for collective EAC intervention . Some regional referral hospitals have already been overwhelmed by caseloads . The distribution of relief food and public transport are in shambles ; now add to this , the proposed distribution of village TV sets  . Plans for reopening of schools and distribution of masks are on shaky and shifting grounds . Systematic randomised community testing is yet to commence . Crucially ,  presidential leadership remains highly partisan and belligerent  .

I do not wish to rain on John’s parade ! But Ugandans need to discuss these issues seriously , without being obnoxious , where we may disagree .

I called out Mr Museveni for his very offensive and incendiary edict , stating  that any independent distribution of food relief to starving Ugandans is “attempted murder “ . This has already provided license to some security elements to commit atrocities with impunity  . I urge Mr Museveni to apologise to the country for this pronouncement and the torture of Francis Zaake . I ask John : What is your stance on “attempted murder”  and the savaging of Zaake ?

A larger context

John refers to “others whose names start with “O” as Otunnu “ . I cannot decipher this coded message . Who exactly are “the others” in Uganda ? In another big leap , John declares :  “ Let Olara Otunnu , and his types , fail in their pathetic attempts to keep Ugandans apart “ ! Where is this outburst coming from ? Can John kindly point to a single line in my letter which would remotely support this gratuitous falsehood? So , “the gross impudence” of raising pertinent questions about government response to coronavirus , amounts to “keeping Ugandans apart “ !  I get it .  This is precisely the mentality and logic that lead inexorably to the doctrine of “attempted murder “ .

There is a larger context to all this . In the Museveni era , John has exalted in promoting ethnic and regional bigotry and discrimination . He is one of the NRM cadres who developed and inculcated the sectarian division of Ugandans into  : “us” and “them” ; “those people” and “our people” ; “northerners” and “southerners” ; “ Baganda” and “Westerners” ; etc. Sadly , this is the lens through which John views Uganda and Ugandans .

Our sectarian leaders the critics and escape scrutiny . This is what John is doing , when he declares ostentatiously , “Let others who thrive on tribalism perish “ . Honestly , John should address this admonition to himself , first and foremost .

John’s elliptical reference to “Ivorian” and  “Ivory Coast”  may have been lost on many readers . This is actually John’s triumphalist return to the scene of his previous crimes . John was one of the hatchet men who conducted a vicious campaign of persecution , disinformation and  smear against me , throughout my sojourn abroad . ( During this particular sojourn (1986-2007) , I served as professor at American University in Paris , President of the International Peace Institute in New York , and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations ) .

 For over twenty years , the Museveni regime rendered me a stateless person  , by denying me  Ugandan passport . The regime then fabricated the story that I had renounced my Ugandan citizenship ! John peddled this and other lies,  repeating them ad nauseum . I would be proud to be the citizen of any African country . But this was about my Ugandan citizenship , my birthright .

Incidentally , this explains why , on my return to Uganda in 2007 , there was a long standoff at Entebbe airport .  I had flown into the country without a passport .

Given his particular background and admirable talents ,  I feel very sad about John’s chosen path . As for the hatchet job on me over the years , I forgive John . The chief reason for doing so is very autobiographical . John is the son of the legendary William Nagenda of Namutamba , who was a pioneer and leading light of the East Africa Revival ( together with Simeoni Nsibambi, Blasio Kigozi , Yosia Kinuka , Joe Church , etc ) .

My own father , Yusto , became a leader in that movement . William and Yusto were close revival brethren . “ Nagenda “ remains a greatly revered and beloved name in my family . So , at a very personal , emotional  level , John is family .

Cross-Border Communities get Face Masks Worthy 60M from East African Business Council.

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R-L - EABC Directors Simon Kaheru (Coca-Cola Beverages Africa) & Stuart Mwesigwa (Roofings Group), First Deputy Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Gen. Moses Ali, Minister in charge of General Duties Mary Karooro Okurut, COVID-19 National Task Force Member Robert Kabushenga

In support of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the East African Business Council (EABC) has donated Face Masks worth UGX60million to cross-border communities in Uganda.

The reusable Face Masks are intended to help protect over 30,000 members of communities at Uganda’s border points who at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19. In recent weeks Uganda has recorded COVID-19 positive cases mostly from cargo truck drivers crossing the borders from within the East African Community (EAC).

While making the donation, the EABC appealed to everyone in the EAC region to avoid stigmatization of cargo truck drivers as it could lead to a break in the supply chain in the EAC, affecting trade and investment.

The EABC has approached the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to support the distribution of the masks at the border points of Malaba, Busia, Mutukula, Katuna, Kikagate, Kagitumba, Cyanika, Elegu, Nimule, Oraba and others where cross-border activities take place.

“We trust the URA as one of the government agencies that has been central to Uganda’s success in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, and recognize the effort invested in tracking and monitoring truck drivers. We know this will support the work of the Ministry of Health and we will encourage more businesses to contribute to all government efforts against COVID-19,” said EABC Director Stuart Mwesigwa (Roofings Group).

The communities to benefit from this consignment include customs officials, clearing agents, cross-border women traders, porters and truck drivers themselves.

The masks were procured in Uganda and manufactured by Ugandan SME Chrisams Designs.

“This is an indicator that the EABC values local content in East Africa and we will actively support the development of business at all levels. We have also arranged to order similar consignments from each EAC Partner State and we urge the governments to focus on building business in East Africa,” said EABC Director Simon Kaheru (Coca-Cola Beverages Africa).

Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Gen. Moses Ali, welcomed the gesture as significant and highly meaningful.

“We are winning this war because of contributions such as these. COVID-19 is the enemy and the enemy is already squatting. Every contribution we get will help us defeat this enemy fully. It is also good to note that these Face Masks were made by a Ugandan and East African business,” said Gen. Ali.

He was flanked by Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut, Minister in charge of General Duties, and COVID-19 Task Force Chairperson Emmanuel Katongole and Member Robert Kabushenga.

The EABC has also donated masks to Rwanda Revenue Authority to aid in the fight against the Covid-19 at Rusumo One Stop Border Post, and will continue to mobilize business across the region.

JUST IN: Museveni Clears Finalists to Return to School.

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President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

President Museveni has announced that pupils and students in O and A’level as well as well as undergraduates in their final year of study will be allowed to return to school.

This he says will allow them complete their studies while adhering to the rules of social distancing.

According to Museveni, allowing these selected category will ensure adherence to the set social distance rule aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

However, this he says this will take precedent only after 14 days owing to the fact that government would have given out free mask to all citizen.

63 Recoveries, 248 Cases of COVID-19 Registered in Uganda.

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KAMPALA, Uganda, May 18, 2020/ — The Ministry of Health confirms twenty one (21) new COVID-19 positive cases from 1,071 samples that were tested from various Points of Entry on 17th May 2020. The 21 confirmed cases are Ugandan nationals; 17 from Elegu Point of Entry, 3 from Mutukula Point of Entry and 1 from Malaba Point of Entry. All 253 community samples tested negative for COVID-19. The total number of tests done were 1,324. The total number of COVID-19 confirmed cases is now 248.

In the same vein, the Ministry of Health has noted fake results were being communicated by malicious persons via a fake Ministry of Health social media page stating the ‘105 truck drivers have tested positive’. The Ministry would like to inform the general public that COVID-19 results were not released yesterday, 17 May 2020.

Following the Presidential directive of allowing only truck drivers who test negative for COVID-19 into the country, samples from truck drivers had to be sorted appropriately and divided between Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) by the laboratory teams for quick turnaround time. Testing at NHLS started at 7:30pm yesterday evening hence the delay in reporting results.

Additionally, all truck drivers must undergo COVID-19 testing and receive results before proceeding to immigration at the borders. Foreign truck drivers who test positive for COVID-19 are advised to return to their place of origin for treatment while Ugandan truck drivers will be admitted at the various hospitals for treatment.

Please disregard any fake posts circulating on social media and always verify with the Ministry of Health before re-circulating.

Currently, there are 57 admitted COVID-19 confirmed cases and all are in stable condition.

So far, Uganda has registered a total of 63 COVID-19 recoveries