The continued partial closure of places of worship is a violation of the rights of all Ugandans, human rights activists have said.
However, the zero lack of interest from Members of Parliament and other political representatives in the reopening of churches, mosques and synagogues is more worrying because it violates the right to worship.
According to Winifred Kiiza, a former Leader of Opposition in Parliament and Woman MP representing Kasese District, politicians have betrayed their people.
“The issue of stopping people to congregate is an act of the devil,” Hon Kiiza said during a townhall meeting on Monday.
Themed ‘Covid-19, the Global Political Response: What are the benefits, costs and implications?’ speaker after speaker, including Kiiza, Simon Senyonga and Emily Burns condemned government for blocking Ugandans from worshiping God.
Burns is Republican and Congressional Candidate for Massachusetts 4th Congressional District in the United States of America while Ssenyonga is a human rights lawyer.
The meeting was hosted by Evelyn Naikoba.
“The time the first lockdown was declared, there were zero deaths or COVID-19 cases. We thought we were being prepared by the government for the catastrophe ahead. But as time went on, we realised lockdown was for political reasons. Many people were forced out of business while opposition political actors were curtailed,” Kiiza, a founding member of opposition political party Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), said.
ANT is headed by Gen Mugisha Muntu, a former ally of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
“Lockdown was never about ensuring Ugandans do not get COVID. In fact we thought our politicians meant well, but the issue has been mismanaged and this is a violation of human rights,” Kiiza said.
“As churches are closed, places such as Kikuubo are still open. Why would you stop people from congregating (in church) but have others in crowded places?” she asked.
Places of worship were recently reopened by President Museveni following almost two years of a ban on congregating caused by an interruption due to the global pandemic.
Upon reopening, Museveni said the number of believers must not exceed 200, provided the place of worship can have a distance of two meters on either side and adequate ventilation, full compliance with all mandatory regulations, including hand washing / use of alcohol-based disinfectants, temperature monitoring and ensure that all believers, including the choir and the celebrants, wear face masks at all times.
But like Kiiza, Ssenyonga said places of worship are not super spreaders and should therefore be opened.
“Continued closure of places of worship is something the state is using to suppress her people,” Ssenyonga said.
“Right now, children are not allowed to access these places (considered super spreaders). Churches should however, remain firm that this all will end.”
It is anticipated that the continued closure of places of worship and schools will lead to high levels of mental problems.
“Because children are being kept away from church, and school, and more importantly themselves, we shall find children who only know Mummy and Daddy. This is not good,” Hon. Kiiza said.
“We are using COVID-19 to keep our children illiterate.”
On her part, she urged Ugandans to pressure their politicians who have failed them by either demonstrating or doing whatever is necessary to end the policies that are unjust and designed to exclude some members of society.
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