President Museveni is seeking divine intervention as coronavirus infections overwhelm Ugandan hospitals. (Luke Dray/Getty Images)
By Gawaya Tegulle
How many of us will still be alive when the coronavirus pandemic finally ends…and, come to think of it, if it ends at all? Nobody has the answers.
Fate has a rather bizarre protocol: somehow, every war, disaster or such other horrific visitation has a habit of leaving a small remnant to tell the story. But none of us can be certain if they will be among the remnant that tells the tale.
Deadly things come in small packages, wise men have always warned over the years; but it is worse in our case, where we are dealing with an invisible enemy that has absolutely no respect for persons. None either for borders, laws and protocol. An enemy you cannot see is an enemy you simply cannot beat. Completely unpredictable; even the finest of scientists are still guessing its next move.
In the past it has been simple for President Museveni to sort out his opponents: send the police to pick them up on some flimsy or trumped up charges. Or send the military to beat them. Now here comes a virus that spreads rapidly, keeps mutating and only announces its presence when you see signs that it got in…a few days earlier.
You cannot deploy the notorious Special Forces Command (SFC) or Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) to finish off coronavirus. Sacks of money won’t help either. That is just about all of the content of Museveni’s toolbox. No matter how mighty a ruler may claim to be, there are those moments when humans are awakened to face the reality that our destiny is, ultimately, in the Hands of the Most High.
In 2020, Uganda had a very good opportunity to silence coronavirus. When the President announced the very first lockdown, there was plenty of goodwill from the people. So many came out to donate in cash and kind; we saw a nation united in a time of difficulty. International development partners gave us money; we picked even more from the Treasury. There was more than sufficient for Uganda to ride the storm. But you see, like our fathers always told us, circumstances do not make a man; they reveal what he is made of. The sacks of money that were being passed around during the very first lockdown were many, and certainly not innocent.
The crisis became an opportunity for the regime handlers to do what they do best: loot the country. Arcades and apartment blocks went up; new vehicles turned up on the roads, a select few got richer and richer.
The population was busy trying to survive, but the regime handlers were busy fighting for more and more opportunities for self-enrichment. At that time, the threat was basically external: ensure that whoever comes into the country is free of the virus. Presently the game has changed, for the worse: the virus is within us and having us for dinner.
Tests are very expensive: a month’s salary for the average Ugandan. Treatment is neither this nor that, and for those who make it to the more efficient hospitals, the bills are sky-high. More importantly, most of these big bills follow a dead patient! Coffins are selling really well; funeral services are doing brisk business. All because we are run by a manifestly corrupt and inept regime, completely out of its depth.
Government has no idea what to do; primarily because a military junta is only able to show itself efficient when subduing opponents – then when opponents’ heads are down under their feet, the junta proclaims that the country is “stable”.
It is a different ball game when under attack and success can only be found in efficient and effective systems and structures of government. Coronavirus might be just what the doctor ordered…to bring Museveni down.
Reality check: the virus could finish off the regime top dogs and introduce a new political order.
Reality check: the virus could cause what famine caused in Ethiopia in 1974 – cause economic chaos, civil disobedience, industrial strikes and mutiny in the armed forces, which led to the collapse of Emperor Haile Selassie’s government.
In the final analysis, not even this government may be around to tell the story, when coronavirus is through with us.
Mr Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda.
This article was published by the Daily Monitor.