Museveni blames opposition for surge in Covid-19 cases in Uganda

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  • President Yoweri Museveni has boasted that Uganda has had only two Covid-19 waves while other countries in the region have seen three or four waves.
  • To counter sharp food price increases, he has urged farmers to produce more to bring down prices.
  • He has also encouraged Ugandans to follow an indigenous diet that he says has guaranteed him long life.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda says those who "don't believe in God and themselves" predicted doom for his presidency and blamed an "undisciplined opposition" for a surge in Covid-19 cases in the country.

He didn't stop there. In the face of a surge in food prices, partly due to the war in Ukraine, he also advised Ugandans to take up an indigenous diet, which he said had made him reach the age of 78. He said he was "doing very well" healthwise.

In his State of the Nation Address on Sunday, the Ugandan strongman said the opposition's election campaigns ahead of the January 2021 elections had been the reason for the country's increased Covid-19 deaths.

He said:

In Uganda, the death toll up to now is 3 600, out of a total of 164 153 that were infected. Our deaths from corona up to March 2021 were only 335 persons. It was the indiscipline of the opposition during the elections that pushed the figures to the present 3 600.

During the campaign season, only 70 people were allowed at meetings because of the country's Covid-19 containment measures. But the meetings of Museveni's most notable rival Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, attracted huge crowds.

Uganda, which has a population of 43 million, has had fewer Covid-19 cases and deaths than its eastern neighbour Kenya. Kenya has recorded 324 000 Covid-19 cases and 5 649 deaths.

Museveni attributed the relatively low number of Covid-19 cases to his "account of the strictness, taking the Biblical narrow path".

"Uganda, up to now, has had two waves of the corona pandemic, while other countries have had three and even four waves," he added.

The surge in food and commodity prices

Like all economies, the near two-year Covid-19 lockdown hurt Uganda.

The World Food Programme said the proportion of urban nationals with poor or borderline food consumption increased from 11% in May 2020 to 16% in June 2020 at the onset of lockdown. It said months later, it got worse.

While Uganda seeks to recover from the Covid-19 shocks, the war in Ukraine has led to an increase in food prices and food shortages.

He advised farmers:

The real medicine for high prices and shortages is increased production. Produce more, if you can.

He said it was time for Ugandans to "both thank the NRM (National Resistance Movement, the ruling party) and reconfirm its credentials as a no-nonsense, problem-solver".

Coming into power through a military coup in 1986 and having been a rebel involved in the war that drove Idi Amin out of Uganda, he said food price hikes and shortages had existed back then and that his new government had dealt with them.

That alone made it easy for him to do it again, he said.

READ | 'Soldiers are for fighting, not for sitting': Museveni says his army ready if needed in Mozambique

"However, this history (of solving price hikes and shortages) is clear. Therefore, the recent phenomenon of high commodity prices is indeed a problem, but it is easier to solve than, for instance, Covid-19 was," Museveni said.

He said despite the price of imported foods being on the rise his government would not put in place subsidies or remove taxes because that would be "suicidal and a blunder". He said it would affect the country's R72 billion ($4.5 billion) reserves, which were only enough to support imports for four months.

Alternatives

The president said Uganda was working on home-brewed solutions, such as using sunflower oil and castor oil for soapmaking, and banana and cassava flour for breadmaking.

While at it, Ugandans should follow his example of eating traditional foods.

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"Apart from eating the traditional foods, for many years now, I do not eat wheat bread or rice. I eat our richer indigenous foods, such as millet, cassava, bananas cooked in their skin, groundnuts, peas, and beef," he said.

In conclusion, he said Uganda's biggest problems regarding food security were its reliance on only rain-fed agriculture, damage to the environment, and international conflicts.

Museveni is due to address Ugandans again on 7 June.


The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
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