I saw a photograph making rounds on social media showing a street in an Italian ghost town littered with currency notes. There was a caption which I can paraphrase as saying, disillusioned Italians were throwing away money saying it was all useless in the face of death.
And true – money is nothing when life is under serious threat.
The rich including those that have followed the golden wisdom of saving for old age, and lived a responsible, well planned life, have come to realization that all was empty before Coronavirus.
We are about to hit a million cases milestone around the globe. The virus has been beaten countries that thought had it all; USA, China, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, name it. We are all in danger. The whole world is under fear.
Uganda has not been spared. We should however applaud the leadership of the aging president, Mr Yoweri Museveni and his health minister of Jane Ruth Aceng. He has used his wisdom and experience so far to manage as we await for what is to come in the next couple of months.
However, his goodwill has limitations. What is left of him is planning to feed the hungry population locked up in homes, and of course, announce economic stimulus packages after this war is won. We don’t know at what cost! But more importantly, we still have stupidity driven by the appetite for profit. This means there are many people who have not realized the problem we are faced with.
We are about to reach a new mark in the number of infections in Uganda. 50 is not far away. Soon we are shall 100, 200, 500, 1000. The more the numbers rise, the more fear is spread across the country. The more reality will sink in that nothing has prepared the country for this problem. However, we see officials planning to loot as they have done in the past.
The government is planning to release about sh500 billion to tame the coronavirus. Interestingly, out of that money, only sh81 billion will go directly to the health sector. The Ministry of Health has come clean – Dr Aceng and her team need to be lauded. They have showed us where their money is going. On Thursday, April 2, 2020 she showed the country what she plans to do, including ensuring there are ICU beds at district level. At least a half bread is better than nothing. That is commendable. However, where does the rest of the money go? Sh419 billion is going into hands of fortune hunters!
The other day, the president was telling us that the cost of purchasing testing kits was high. We actually bought his argument. However, we got more concerned that government agencies are seeing this as an opportunity for something else. We learnt that sh80 billion will go to security! What security? We are all in fear. All people need is food. Unless stick holding LDUs are going to distribute food, we are not faced with any defence challenge now. There is also another group in the ministry of information who asked for a billion shillings to run social media campaigns. Really?
Then, there are media houses including newspapers and televisions who are budgeted over sh10 billion to announce proper messages! Really? What then is the use of the media if they have to be paid to communicate!
This brings me to the next point. After the president announced a partial shutdown. We have seen unprecedented security officials provoking the anger and hunger of the public. Instead of talking properly to the masses to absorb the message of the head of state, Local Defence Unit forces deployed to restrain the masses and make them obey the presidential directives, descended on the people and started beating them like animals.
The old women beaten on the streets by the young men in LDU uniform made a pathetic scene. These are some of the people asking for billions of shillings from the taxpayer. To beat the taxpayer, really? These people beat up nurses, food suppliers, counsellors, among others, who were on duty. They didn’t want to listen to anyone. What however came to mind, does the LDUs think they are also immune to the coronavirus?
The other group are media colleagues. As a journalist, I am entitled to a sticker to do my work. Guess what? Uganda media fraternity was shocked to discover stickers were shared between UBC, New Vision, Nation Media Group, NBS, CBS, BBS, and a few others! There are over 500 media in Uganda in field of radio, televisions, websites, newspapers, youtubers, etc. Many would love to render a service. They cannot because a few media took the stickers which would allow them to move around freely. Imagine, it is a serious sacrifice to go out there to risk infection of coronavirus. But still, people are willing to fight over this risk! This is Uganda. Or rather, greed in humanity.
At times like this – we should come together to fight a common enemy. It is unfortunate some people are willing to store treasures at times like this! It is foolhardy for someone to think about breaking and expanding their stores because they see an opportunity to grow richer and wealthier.
This is a time to join hands and come up with measures and mechanisms to save the human race. It is so stupid of anyone think they can use this time to make profit. The tower of Babel is crumbling. Time for humility is now. This is what Italians have discovered, albeit so late. Money, power, fame, beauty and other things we adore, are useless before death and destruction. Very soon some officials here will come to this realization.
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