Former presidential candidate Joseph Kabuleta is one of the leading crusaders against the current 42-day nationwide lockdown. In an interview with David Lumu, he reasons that factual data on the pandemic contradicts the measures put in place by government.
What is your general assessment on the current lockdown?
The lockdown has been a death sentence to so many Ugandans in such a way that many have not been able to access hospitals and health facilities due to the lack of public transportation, while many others who live hand-to-mouth have not had the ability to go back to work. As a direct effect, many are dying of diseases which could have been avoided if they were not hungry and had jobs.
We have received many cases of people who are dying due to lack of employment and I happen to know a few of them personally. What happens in instances of poverty is that even sicknesses that have been latent come out.
A working scenario is people who have HIV/Aids…as long as they have food to eat and are happy, they can even thrive with the disease but when you take away the ability for livelihood, anxiety, fear and worry kick in and finish the patient off. We have lost a lot more people from the lockdown than we shall ever lose from Covid-19 and that is a big travesty.
A study which was done by Stanford University on analyzing the impact of lockdowns in the fight against Covid-19 showed that the first global lockdown did not help in curbing the spread.
They surveyed statistics of numbers of cases per capita and deaths in countries that did not implement lockdowns and they concluded that there were less numbers of Covid-19 cases and related deaths per capita than countries which implemented lockdowns. It was a very ill-advised strategy, especially in a country like Uganda because we do not have the structures to help people who are vulnerable.
You seem to undermine the success of the lockdown as reported by the Health ministry…
Covid-19 is an international sickness, which means we don’t have to rely on Ugandan doctors or Dr Diana Atwine for expert advice when the biggest and the finest brains in the medical profession are also researching and giving expert advice on the matter.
The medicines and vaccines we are using were not manufactured by us; so, if the people on whom we are depending on for the simplest of medical supplies are not giving us these drugs, why then should their opinions be upheld and trusted?
The study done at Stanford on the impact of lockdowns was a scientific study, and it was also peer reviewed by top scientists; so, I don’t have to listen to some Ugandan doctors who are profiteering from Covid-19. What is upsetting, however, is that they feel the need to push the rest of us under the bus so that they can steal money and loans from the World Bank. Covid-19 is an international sickness; you don’t have to be a scientist but someone who is an avid reader.
How better would Covid-19 lockdown have been handled in Uganda?
The first thing is not to implement a lockdown because we cannot glorify Covid-19 deaths above other deaths. Covid-19 is not in the top 10 of killers in Uganda. In one and a half years it has killed 1,000 people, which can be equated to 10 days of death from children who die of malnutrition.
What I detest is the glorification of Covid-19 deaths over all other deaths and yet every life matters. And in the name of saving people from Covid-19, we are exposing them to death from other diseases. If you look at the Uganda Health Demographic Survey done by USAID every five years, malnutrition is the biggest killer in Uganda with three out of 10 Ugandans stunted as a result.
It may not be a pronounced stuntedness but many Ugandans come off slightly shorter than they would have been if they had a nutritionally balanced diet in their childhood.
The glorification of Covid-19 deaths is ultimately stupid, the idea that it is okay to die of other things as long as it is not Covid-19 does not make sense. We are a fragile society and we are not in the position to initiate a lockdown.
But government set up relief measures such as the Shs 100,000 for the most vulnerable…
Some things are best expressed in comedy. How can someone expect that a whole family can live off Shs 100,000 and that is if you’ve got it. It is absolutely laughable.
That money cannot not pay rent for two months even in the deepest slums; when you add expenses on food, medical bills and other supplies, this makes no sense. There is nothing as demeaning to a man who has his hands to work, to lock him down and expect him to depend on government handouts.
These handouts should be given to people who are vulnerable in terms of social security after everyone else has gone back to work. This must continue even after people have been released from this house arrest.
The fact you are a pastor, one can argue you are biased against the lockdown because worship centers are also closed…
As soon as this 42-day lockdown expires, churches should be opened because worship is an essential part of our lives as believers. The lockdown attacks freedom of worship and assembly because one of the last groups to be open was the church. It all attacks freedom of people to have fun, to associate, have a life, this is all part of what builds our immunity.
Imagine in the first lockdown, gyms were shut down but in essence it is where people build immunity. When people adopted jogging, it was also banned yet Covid-19 attacks someone because of low immunity. There is Covid-19 logic which is completely different from common logic.
Given that the rates of infection are still high, there is possibility of a lockdown extension despite your views, what is your take on this?
Ultimately the people have to come out because scientists are big-time beneficiaries from Covid-19 and they are the chief advisors of the president on the matter.
People blame President Museveni but we have many people with a privileged mentality. For instance, most politicians are also unaffected by this lockdown; so, they probably won’t be voicing against the decision. There is something privilege does to people, a certain elitism that makes people stick their middle finger to those suffering from the lockdown.
When people start thinking from their vantage points and not have the scope to see the level of suffering that their little privilege is bringing to millions of people out of their class, then those people don’t qualify to be leaders because a leader can not only think from his vantage point.
Government aims to vaccinate as many people so that by the time of lifting the lockdown, the number of those vaccinated will big enough to avoid a third wave of Covid-19 infections. Yet you seem to go against this process…
I am not against those who choose to vaccinate but when you force one to vaccinate, you take away the rules of medical procedure that obligates everyone to be the custodian of their bodies.
There is no employer who owns the body of their employee and no employment contract can surrender anyone’s body. I have had the opportunity to see the forms people fill before vaccination and it is clearly indicated that it is informed consent; so, nobody can sue after side effects.
This whole vaccine thing is full of inconsistencies and contradictions. For instance, I find it weird that the vaccines used here are labeled ‘strictly for Africa.’ Meanwhile, the ministry of Health says the vaccine efficacy is 85 per cent yet statistics from the same people show that the Covid-19 survival rate is 99 per cent regardless of whether one took a vaccine.
You only need to read between the lines to form an informed view.