By Alex Muhumuza
Attempts by elements of Kampala’s media late last week to smear Rwanda with claims that “Rwandans are spreading Coronavirus” in Uganda are being further discredited by reports that it is Ugandans themselves importing COVID-19 into the country.
The efforts to turn Rwanda into a scapegoat (once Ugandans infected with COVID-19 started to show up) began with a message from the official Twitter account of Makerere University that claimed a report “had showed bats with Coronavirus were living in close proximity with humans in Rwanda.”
That tweet – which astonished observers with the way Makerere seemed to have lent its name to Ugandan intelligence agencies’ campaigns of misinformation against Rwanda – insinuated that Coronavirus was “rife in Rwanda”. However even the report’s author, one Dr. Julius Nziza of Gorilla Doctors, decried the way it had been manipulated by the university’s Twitter handlers to mislead readers. They did not point out that the research had nothing to do with the strain of COVID-19 that’s caused the current global pandemic; or that the report mentioned nothing about bats transmitting disease to humans.
Nevertheless Kampala media like Chimpreports – known to be under the control of Col. CK Asiimwe, Ugandan Military Intelligence, CMI, Deputy Director in Charge of Antiterrorism – jumped onto the discredited report to amplify its claims with an alarmist article last Thursday titled: “Coronavirus detected in bats in Rwanda’s tourism caves”.
It did not require a rocket scientist to figure out that the article was insinuating, “Rwandans infected by bats” could “easily take the disease to Uganda”! Despite the ongoing attempts to scapegoat Rwandans however, Ugandans are finding out that COVID-19 cases are entering the country through their own airport, by their own people. Most are on flights from Dubai.
What observers are finding interesting is that even some of the very media that have been claiming Rwandans are “carriers of Coronavirus into Uganda”, such as SpyReports – run by one Raymond Wamala who is on the payroll of Deborah Rwabwogo, the officer in charge of “special duties” in Entebbe State House – are changing their tune. They are telling the truth about the situation and blowing the whistle on those that left the airport without getting screened.
Just last Friday the website’s Facebook account proclaimed: “Rwandese woman sent to spread Coronavirus into Uganda by Rwandan Government arrested in Uganda.” The post appeared fictitious. It named the woman, but after the Ugandans claimed they were closing in on her arrest nothing happened.
It wasn’t her, or any other Rwandan “carrying COVID-19 into Uganda” however. It was Ugandans coming in from Dubai.
Recognition of that fact was ironically further confirmed yesterday, Wednesday 24, when SpyReports published a list of 56 Ugandans that had entered through Entebbe, at different dates, but never got tested. A reader laughed that the article – titled “List of Ugandans who Sneaked into the Country from Dubai but Have Refused to go for COVID-19 Testing” – once again proved that where fear of death is concerned everyone will act first to save themselves.
“Even the most dedicated propagandists will cast misinformation aside, to tell the truth.”
SpyReports was mentioning culprits by name, including dignitaries like MPs Kafeero Ssekitoleko, Cissy Namujju, and Sempala Kigozi, feared to be already spreading Coronavirus wherever they are.
According to an analysis of COVID-19 cases in Uganda the majority of them have come from Dubai. Also, Ugandans that work, or travel to the United Arab Emirates outnumber Rwandans by far; a fact that further discredits attempts to smear Rwanda as the cause of Coronavirus in Uganda.
Statistics tell the story more eloquently.
Currently an estimated 400 Ugandan citizens work as laborers in the UAE and, according to official information, Uganda recently has signed a deal to send 800 more to work there. Registered recruitment agencies in the country, sending people mostly to low-level occupations in the UAE, number up to 166.
Rwanda on the other hand exports no laborers to the UAE. Any number of Rwandans working there are a few doing so on personal initiatives, according to official sources in Kigali. “This means exposure to COVID-19 currently from Dubai is on a magnitude far greater in Uganda than Rwanda,” our source said.
Anecdotal evidence, such as comparison of the number of airlines; and flights on the UAE routes into Entebbe, and Kanombe buttresses this observation. There are nine airlines servicing the Entebbe route as opposed to four for Rwanda. The numbers of flights, measured in daily and weekly frequency to Entebbe, outnumber those of Kigali.
The data, coupled with Ugandan authorities’ reported poor handling of screening for COVID-19 in arriving airline passengers, as reported by even by their propaganda media, shows the ordinary Ugandan has seriously been exposed to risk. Ugandans that do not mince words on social media, like social commentator Angelo Izama have been lambasting the country’s authorities for “the gross incompetence” and “shoddy practices” on display.
Reported corrupt practices decried by the public include NRM bigwigs, or senior UPDF officers simply turning up at the airport, picking their relatives, friends or associates, and driving away since no one would dare stop them. Then there are the very many that simply bribe their way out of the airport.
This leaves only those with no “connections”; or those unwilling, or unable to pay bribes to suffer “quarantine” – a misnomer for getting dumped into overcrowded hotels in Entebbe town, and being detained there. Passengers treated this way, as if to add insult to injury, end up having to pay to stay in the squalid hotel conditions.