As Covid-19 Pandemic Soars in Uganda, Activists Question Use of IMF Loans and Threaten Mass Protests

IMF chief Georgieva
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IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. Covid-19 pandemic soars even with hundreds of millions from the fund. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Preiss-MSC.

As the Covid-19 pandemic in Uganda soars unabated activists under an umbrella organization Union of Human Rights Defenders said they will organize mass national protests unless the minister of health and the permanent secretary in that department both resign within 24 hours.

On June 15, in an article under the headline “Vaccines and oxygen run out as third wave of Covid hits Uganda,” the Guardian reported that, “Uganda has all but run out of Covid-19 vaccines and oxygen as the country grapples with another wave of the pandemic. Both private and public medical facilities in the capital, Kampala and in towns across the country – including regional hubs in Entebbe, Jinja, Soroti, Gulu and Masaka – have reported running out or having acute shortages of AstraZeneca vaccines and oxygen. Hospitals report they are no longer able to admit patients to intensive care.”

The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) said the situation was dire, as the country records week-on-week increases in new cases. The WHO reported 1,735 confirmed cases on Sunday 13 June, compared with 60 cases on 13 May– an increase of nearly 2,800%. As of Monday, the total number of confirmed cases stood at 60,250 with 423 deaths, according to the WHO. The ministry of health reported figures of 63,099 cases and 434 deaths,” the Guardian reported. 

The activists say they want Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng, and the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine, to quit immediately. They say otherwise they will mobilize masses within 24 hours to go on the streets across the entire country and hold peaceful demonstrations against mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic loans.

Last year Uganda received a $300 World Bank loan to help fight the pandemic and $491 million from the International Monetary Fund. Ugandans in diaspora demonstrated in front of World Bank and IMF headquarters recently following reports that the funds were diverted to military use to suppress opposition party leaders and supporters or embezzled by senior government officials. The IMF ignored the protests and on June 28, approved another $1 billion loan to the Ugandan regime under Gen. Yoweri Museveni. 

The activists said enough was enough after the government yesterday released about $56,000 dollars to each of Uganda’s 529 Members of Parliament to buy themselves new vehicles and on the same date the prime minister called on the public to donate money to purchase vaccines. 

Ugandans have been under total lockdown for about a month now as the pandemic soars and are reaching their limit. While working class and low-income people are at home without means of traveling to work as public transport is banned, the rich are out there living a normal life.

Nana Namata Mw'Africa. Photo: Facebook

Nana Namata Mw’Africa Mbarikiwa, leader of the activists has been at the forefront for defending the rights of Ugandans and demanding transparency and accountability by the regime over the hundreds of millions of dollars on loans. The activists issued their ultimatum for the resignations of the top health officials at a news conference. 

The activists also called on Parliament to take action against the country’s top officials who have failed to contain the pandemic including the ones involved in stealing public funds. 

The activists also want relief for traders whose businesses have been closed down, demanding that they be provided  tax waivers, rent subsidies, and low interest loans to avert collapse. They also called upon the military not to abuse the human rights of civilians while enforcing the Covid-19 lockdown. 

Critics believed that had the almost $800 million loaned to Uganda last year by the World Bank and IMF been properly deployed, at least 70% of the population would be vaccinated by now. 

According to the June 15 Guardian report, “786,160 people had been vaccinated in the past three months.” Uganda has a population of over 44 million.

Columnist Kakwenza is a survivor of dictator Museveni's torture chambers. He can be reached at Kakwenzarukirabashaija@gmail.com 

 

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