By Ivan Mwine
The leadership Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has demanded government to produce accountability for money that was contributed by the public and other entities towards the fight against COVID-19.
The FDC also urged the government to open up schools, churches and mosques despite the fact that the country is still grappling with the second wave of COVID-19, noting that it is better to open up and implement Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) instead of waiting for the third wave.
This was revealed in a statement issued by the FDC spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kiira Municipality Member of Parliament, who said that congregating in such places per say is not the main reason Corona spreads among people.
Ssemujju’s statement reads in part thus;
“We welcome the re-opening of the country after a 42 day lockdown to stop the spread of Corona virus and the resultant Covid 19 disease. We however demand that more sectors of society be immediately opened up.
What the recent 42 day lockdown has taught us is that congregating per say is not the main reason Corona spread. That is why; it has not wiped out people who operate in markets around Kampala and Wakiso whose observance of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) remain minimal. The markets remained opened and heavily congested but they didn’t register alarming numbers of infections, hospitalizations and death.
Markets must therefore become the new area of research. Markets like Owino, Nakasero, Kalerwe, Nateete and Ndeeba remained heavily congested and the interaction between vendors, buyers and traders didn’t reduce. We must now study how many infections and deaths were registered in each of these markets.
If they were minimal or the same as they were elsewhere in country, then the country should use this market miracle to open up further.
Using the markets as a case study, there should be no reason why Namirembe cathedral, Lubaga, Kibuli or Old Kampala that are organized and admit fewer people, should remain closed. Places of worship must fully re-open as long as they observe the Covid 19 measures. We can even limit them to half their usual congregations.
Places of worship are not just for prayers; they are traditionally relief coordination centres. Since the population trusts religious institutions more than they trust government, they (religious institutions) should be asked to play a more prominent role in relief mobilization for the section of society that cannot feed itself during lockdowns. Religious leaders should immediately be incorporated into Covid 19 taskforces from village to the national level. Religious institutions should be asked and where necessary facilitated to offer counselling to people affected by the pandemic.
The FDC thinks religious institutions cannot be the target of prolonged closures each time we are hit with a new wave. We must exploit their elaborate infrastructure network for relief and counselling purposes.
It appears, Covid is turning out to be seasonal. When it is time for the first or second wave, it will hit you whether you are in a total, semi or no lockdown. It is also possible that Covid subsides on its own accord. This is not to belittle our interventions to stop or minimize the spread.
Covid seems to generate its own momentum and that is why different variants are now being reported. Scientists must study this and advise the country appropriately. We have also asked our health secretary to consult medical personnel within and outside the party over this matter. We will share our findings with the country in our subsequent briefings.
The FDC even as it demands and carries out further scientific analysis on the seasonality of Covid, proposes the reopening of the schools before the country is hit by a third or another wave. The syllabus must be condensed and taught quickly before another wave hits us.
Instead of a three months’ term, we can reduce it to maximum one month. Studies that require physical interaction with teachers should be carried out during this one month and learners sent back home for revisions with enough materials. The first week of every one month term should be for exams and the remaining three weeks for studies.
We are a poor country that is also grossly mismanaged. We must create our own conditions for survival. The proposal to reopen schools after vaccinating children is day dreaming. How can a country that has failed to vaccinate vulnerable people estimated at 4 million even think of vaccinating 15 million children?
And for universities, courses that require research and personal reading mainly arts can be taught on a long distance learning basis. Students are issued with enough reading materials and report strictly for only one week for exams. During this one week, they should also be given all necessary instructions that require physical interaction with teachers. The science students who do practical can then use the facilities that are decongested for maximum two months per semester or term.
The FDC feels very strongly that with creativity, we can fully reopen and put emphasis on observance of Covid 19 regulations. If schools do not open up during this time when the second wave is subsiding, we risk causing another stampede opening them very close to a third wave. Children such as senior one and five that had been earlier taught should report to schools next week for promotional exams.
DECONGEST CITIES, MUNICIPALITIES
Goods sold in Kikuubo and all arcades in Kampala are not manufactured there. These places as well as markets must be decongested. There is no reason, why a trader in Arua, Mbarara, Masaka should come to Kikuubo for Mukwano’s oil or Kakira’s sugar. Instead distribution centres must be set up in all urban centers.
This can be achieved with tax measures. Kalerwe, Nateete and Owino cannot continue being the only main distribution centres for onions and tomatoes. Temporary markets should be set up in all urban areas for purposes of distributing agricultural good.
We need to improve the organization of public transport. Taxis should pick and drop people along the highways and roads, we must not operate permanent loading places such as tax parks
Police and other security agencies should be patrolling to enforce Covid measures as opposed to brutalizing the population who are struggling to earn a living.
ACCOUNTABILITY FOR COVID MONEY
The FDC demands full accountability of all the money released from the consolidated fund for purposes of fighting against Covid 19.
All donations received must also be accounted for. There are several reports ranging from the Auditor General, whistle blowers and other Ugandan pointing to abuse and misuse of covid money. Senior government officials have turned the fight against Covid into an enterprise.
They are awarding themselves lucrative deals to supply various items. This caused delays in some cases, under supply and all no supply. We demand that these individuals be brought to book and the money that they have abused must be immediately recovered.
A case in point is the purchase of pickups that have taken forever to be delivered. Where these pickups one of the most urgent items? How can a country lack oxygen to prioritize pickups. There are reports that UNICEF donated 500 oxygen cylinders but only 100 are being accounted for. Food items such as eggs, milk rice are reported to have disappeared without trace, those who eat them must be made to vomit them.
Money for vulnerable people distributed by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja did not reach all the intended beneficiaries. A full list of beneficiaries must be immediately published
RESTARTING THE ECONOMY
The FDC supports a transparent stimulus package for businesses that have been affected by the lockdown and are in dire need of capital to re-start. Instead of issuing free money through emyoga, businesses that have been affected by the lockdown in particular and Covid generally must be registered and published. The village, sub-county, municipal, district, city Covid taskforces on which religious leaders serve, can then be used to verify these businesses before they are issued with interest free revolving loans.
FDC MOBILIZATION PROGRAM
We would like to instruct all the FDC leaders to re-open our offices Countrywide. We further instruct all FDC leaders to resume our party mobilization activities and meetings. The FDC has fully reopened. We will be holding our suspended regional and sub-regional meetings soon. Detail program will be issued in our subsequent media briefings. We instruct all of you to follow SOPs.”
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