By Joachim Buwembo
The signs are all there, even if some people are not seeing them. The smart thing to do in such times of anxiety is to observe what the most informed person is doing. In our case, the man who knows more than the rest is he who controls all the national intelligence gathering machinery – the President.
Being at the centre of all information gathered by the best facilitated institution – government – President Museveni got concerned early about the possibility of Covid-19 entering Uganda from the then high-risk countries. You heard him expressing regret for not closing down the airport earlier. Anyway, that is water under the bridge and in any case, virtually all those who slipped through the airport net were traced, most contacts identified and the transmission eventually grounded to zero.
The borders were closed and the truck drivers remained as the only risk factor for a while. However, they got contacts. Then there was the police station in the mid-west of Uganda. Then Tanzanians started fleeing into the country at the southern border. Then came the big one at the South Sudan border. Then the medical workers. Things are no longer that good. Then the anecdotal but disturbing false results from Makerere. Even as some are agitating for total lifting of the controls because no (resident) Ugandan has died (yet), the dark covid cloud looms closer, and a second lockdown is more likely.
Minister Jane Ruth Aceng once explained President Museveni’s vantage position in the Covid-19 crisis. She said that the president has all the requisite medical personnel to inform and advise him; he has experienced epidemiologists at his disposal; he has the intelligence both internal and external, he has the entire government administrative machine at his disposal. If you don’t watch such a man as your compass in the covid-19 turbulence, who then would you watch?
You have heard the man explaining how the virus works. He has used even warfare illustrations to guide the nation to safety from Covid-19.
You have heard him explaining the lifestyle he now leads which involves imposing a lot of restrictions on himself. You have seen him exercising indoors in his office. You have heard him advising on diet.
You have heard him virtually ‘past-tensing’ tourism, psychologically preparing tour operators and hotel owners for a long haul without foreign visitors. You have also heard him past tensing gyms, bars, churches, and loudly doubting the opening of school this year.
But more tellingly, you have seen him start to lose patience with the people. From the story-telling grandpa of the past three months, to a rather harsh school master saying he is not going to beg people to do the right thing.
Finally, came the ominous warning. That if you want to see dead bodies like you have been seeing in other countries, you will see them. The old man is resigning to seeing some bazzukulu buried over Covid.
Consequently, you have seen him working to provide a mask to every Ugandan – so that nobody has an excuse that they were not equipped to avoid the virus.
And then you have seen the bold actions. He has thrown his weight behind a crash programme to manufacture the ‘artificial lungs’ – (BULAMU) -medical ventilators to equip all regional hospital so that people with acute respiratory problems can be kept alive and breathing while under intensive care to save their lives. No less a personality than the minister of health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng was in Ntinda at Kiira Motors to see how this Uganda-made technological innovation works.
And now the man is preparing Namboole Mandela National Stadium to work as an emergency hospital for those who will come down with Covid-19. The medics wanted to prepare the country for admitting nine thousand Covid-19 patients at a go. The man instead is preparing for forty thousand admissions (to be shared between Namboole and the 15 regional referral centres)!
And you still take the Covid-19 threat lightly? I would rather err on the side of caution with Museveni on this one.