In Uganda there is a danger of epidemic contagion. It is not Covid-19 but a more dangerous epidemic: Democracy. At the national level, only 0.006% of the population has so far been infected with Covid19. The mortality rate of the total infected is among the lowest in Africa: 0.85%. At the continental level, the mortality rate is 3.47% while the percentage of infected people on the total population in Africa is 0.31%.
These simple calculations show that in August there was a certain amount of alarmism among the health authorities that is difficult to justify. Let us remember that Uganda acted immediately to contain the pandemic in the first 10 cases registered by imposing a total lockdown since last March. This excellent management prevented the spread of the virus. Regional observers have the suspicion that the threat of lockdown2 aired by the Ministry of Health is politically motivated and linked to the upcoming presidential elections where Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will stand in the hope of obtaining yet another presidential term.
The previous elections, regardless of the victories obtained, show a decline in popularity of Museveni and his party: the NRM (National Resistance Movement). There are clear signs that the Ugandan population is beginning to be intolerant of the cumbersome eternal presence of this president, albeit aware that Uganda’s long period of stability, peace and socio-economic development is due to Museveni. There has been no political change in power for 33 years. Furthermore, Museveni’s age makes him anachronistic. Often falls asleep during the sessions of Parliament.
For these reasons, it is suspected that Museveni had the intention of declaring the Lockdown2 to postpone the elections to a date to be defined (as did Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Ethiopia) or to hold elections with internet voting for which data manipulation it would be very easy to implement. These suspicions may be well founded as the Old M7’s willingness to stay in power is clear.
The Lockdown2 option has been abandoned. The risk of popular revolt was considered too high to force the hand. In its place, a series of health provisions were studied for the reopening of the country dictated last September 20. Measures that, if taken in careful analysis, prove to be more useful for social control than prevention of the pandemic. The curfew from 9pm to 6am is maintained. A useless measure from a health point of view as it is sufficient to keep discos closed and to enforce safety distances and the use of masks in restaurants and pubs.
All events (of any nature) over 70 people are prohibited even if the participants respect safety distances and wear masks. These provisions will prevent the opposition from conducting an effective election campaign. The ruling NRM party can easily do without conventions by having a near-monopoly of the media. The opposition will only have the possibility of using social media, unfortunately recently brought under control and heavily censored with the excuse of fighting the spread of Fake News.
The Catholic and Protestant Churches have not escaped. The churches cannot contain more than 70 faithful for religious celebration. No night prayers and masses such as large religious gatherings. Provisions that have been interpreted as an attempt to limit the influence of Christian churches on the electoral campaign. A preventive act considering that more and more critical voices towards the NRM and President Museveni are rising from Catholic and Protestant leaders?
The provisions hit various commercial sectors hard, increasing the already visible crisis by preventing economic recovery. Pubs, discos, casinos, gambling halls remain closed. Markets including livestock markets are also prohibited. A decision that will have a strong negative impact on the economic survival of thousands of small traders already in debt due to the costs incurred during the lockdown and the total collapse of sales.
The last provision, the most absurd, concerns immigration. The international airport and land borders has been open after 6 months of isolation. Foreigners can enter the country on condition that they present a certificate of negativity issued 72 hours before arrival. In fact, the visa period is significantly reduced for all foreigners: from 3 months to 1. All foreigners will be prohibited from coming into contact with the Ugandan population regardless of their serological status.
The opposition already denounces the political nature of these health provisions for the reopening of the country, underlining that these measures tend to limit the upcoming electoral campaign, the presence of foreign journalists and observers (who will not be able to have contact with Ugandans), as well as inflict a severe blow to the national economy already in serious danger. Considering the great experience of the Ministry of Health in containing more contagious and deadly epidemics than Covid-19 (such as Ebola) and the percentage of national contagion (0.006%), these severe provisions seem understandable only in order to create an unfavorable political climate opposition and increasing social control during elections President Museveni is not sure of winning.
Discontent and unease hover among the armed forces. A latent hostility is insinuating itself both for the management of the pandemic and for Museveni’s manifest desire not to want to end the senseless cold war against Rwanda dictated more by personal issues with the Rwandan President Paul Kagame than by real political differences between the two countries.
It looks like the Old M7 is playing with fire. Some political observers warn that there could be a risk of a military coup (UPDF Uganda People’s Defense Forces) to overthrow the Great Old. Covid-19 seems not to have particularly affected Uganda but could be the key element for the end of 33 years of undisputed power. Could the pandemic be able to give Ugandans the aspired and longed-for political alternation? On the holding of the elections (scheduled between December 2020 and January 2021), the Great Old Man has not yet pronounced himself. The numbers of contagion are not sufficient to justify their postponement, but under Museveni’s regime everything becomes possible if politically convenient.
Two signs of the severe deterioration that the country is undergoing are the mass prison break of 200 dangerous inmates, some with guns and ammunition, and the burning that has partially destroyed the prestigious University of Makerere, a jewel of regional culture. President Museveni continues to play a nefarious role in the Great Lakes by supporting the horrendous dictatorship in Burundi in an anti-Rwanda key. Uganda needs a total contagion of a democratic pandemic for the good of the nation and for the psycho-physical health of its citizens. The antidote must not be sought against this pandemic but against the “cancer” and its metastases that are compromising the nation.
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