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Coronavirus spread versus urban famine: a president's dilemma

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Coronavirus spread versus urban famine: a presidents dilemma

Fellow Ugandans,


I completely understand the mental struggle that many people have with the idea of locking down, even shutting down, our country. Trust me, I am not one who is blind to the realities of our socio-economically challenged country, and the struggles of Mundua, Mukasa, Muhame and Musani in our towns and villages. 


Many people in Uganda do not have a financial or dry food cushion to survive days, let alone weeks of a 24/7 curfew. This is especially so in the towns where people live hand to mouth, with no personal gardens or granaries. So, the statement that people in urban areas will die from famine is understandable. Likewise, the statement that the lockdown will damage the country’s economy is true, as is the fear of law and order breaking down.


But what is the alternative? Here we are not dealing with an enemy with a soul. The Coronavirus will not jump the markets and all the places where we congregate. It will not spare you or me if we give it a chance. It may still get you or me even with all the precautions we are taking, but I will not willingly invite it into my space and my body. That is why I will continue to do what it takes to protect myself and, by doing so, to protect others.  


And please do not even be tempted to think that living in Canada makes me safer than you are. No! Indeed, I am at a much higher risk than the average Ugandan at home right now. We have a serious outbreak in Canada, though it appears to have been slowed down by the tough measures that the authorities have imposed. Still I am on standby for duty anytime should my younger colleagues need my help. 


Whereas I do not claim a monopoly on the answers, here are the only TWO choices that I see: 


  1. Shut down the country, and you will trigger an economic meltdown, from which the country will recover, but with a lower loss of lives and labour force and a less burdened health care system.


  2. Keep the country open, with the markets, shops and public transport packed with people, and you risk triggering a devastating spread of the Coronavirus that will overwhelm the country’s labour force, paralyse our very limited health care services, threaten the health of the police and other security services, and result in worse socioeconomic mayhem.  


To put it bluntly: Do you want your economy to be paralysed by a controlled presidential directive or to be destroyed by the ungovernable Coronavirus?


Shutting down the country does not mean that we let loose Darwinism on ourselves. I believe that there is enough wealth within our country to pay for food to distribute to those who need it. Uganda has given many people opportunities (free land, tax breaks, huge contracts, a huge market and so on) to become dollar multimillionaires. I understand one or two might even be billionaires. This is the time for them to give back to their clients. It is good business too --- for the future.  


And, of course, the president and his cabinet need to look at the country’s finances and shift shillings from non-essential expenditure to buying food and other life-sustaining essentials for the people who need them. Then pass the key financial relief programs that are necessary in these difficult circumstances...... and so on. BTW, where is parliament in all this?


Tough decisions for the president, but as we debate and wait, the Coronavirus replicates and multiplies. 

Stay safe my friends.


Muniini K. Mulera

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