Following the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Mubende area last month, President Yoweri Museveni has addressed three press conferences. The aim of the addresses is to ready Ugandans to fight back against the raging killer which is known to be more virulent than Covid-19. Nature is not so kind, so as we fight to see the last of Covid-19, Ebola shows face. If nature is not resting, why should we as humans put down the gauntlet?
What we must learn at human beings susceptible to danger from many angles is to be alert or the time and to quickly mobolise whenever there is a threat, like now.
Who, in Uganda, other than President Museveni to lead that charge? As the Chief Government communicator, it’s incumbent on the President to use every means at his disposal to keep the country aware on things that matter. Preserving life and the security of person and property is the President’s sworn duty. In fact, it’s an inborn trait in the Museveni I have come to know.
So, when it was announced that the President was to address the nation for a third time, twice in one week, there were voices wondering how that could be. A known critic of the President, Mr. Kakwenza Rukira, now in self-imposed exile took to Twitter to say (in unprintable language) that the President should instead use YouTube and not disrupt normal programming on national TV. Mr. Kakwenza has issues with the President and Government at large but that is his fort, from which he has made a name and continues to ride on in his activism.
The issue for me is his idea that the President should not use public media channels to communicate. I was waiting for human rights advocates to say something about this but I am not sure they will pick it up. Rarely do they intervene when the rights of public officials are under attack but are ever so quick to show up at the mere suggestion or allegation that a non-Government actor may have been offended in whichever way.
As stated, H.E the President is the Chief Government Communicator, and even Chief Minister. Ministers play delegated roles, otherwise the President, if he was superhuman, would be the “Minister in Everything.” He would sit in every docket and be involved in its day-to-day running. But that is impractical, and as a result, each docket is run by a Minister as a Presidential appointee. The “Appointing Authority” only comes in as need be depending on the matter at hand.
For now, the urgency is Ebola, with the response being coordinated by the Ministry of Health. And because the onslaught of the viral disease is of national (and international) concern, President Museveni steps in to lead the response. Ebola is not a simple epidemic, judging from its mortality and morbidity rates. It can very easily wipe our entire communities if not dealt with firmly.
President Museveni has been extremely useful to Uganda in many respects but when it comes to leading the charge against killer diseases he is in a league of his own-from ridding Uganda of the six killer diseases, suppressing HIV/AIDS to internationally acclaimed record levels to beating off Covid-19. With Ebola, Museveni’s Uganda is celebrated internationally for our effectiveness in defeating previous outbreaks and helping other African countries beat off their own outbreaks.
With that country profile in hand, President Museveni is the most suitable of all to be listened to when we are fighting a new outbreak. It doesn’t matter how many times he has to address the nation; for as long as he has something to communicate in order to keep Ugandans secure and safe, that he will do. It’s the task he accepted when he offered himself to attain the people’s mandate to lead them.
In so doing, the President will use channels that readily reach every Ugandan or the absolute majority since the problem at hand is a national emergency.
In Uganda, TV and radio are the channels that most people access. They are effective at getting public messages to the end user. There is no way the President wouldn’t utilise them in rallying the public on vigilance and how to keep safe from Ebola. More to that, it’s his right to use those channels. How many Ugandans are on YouTube or digital media networks. Very few!
Even then, using YouTube or social media channels doesn’t mean not using TV and radio. Every forum counts! Unless we have people out there aiming at failing the Ebola response, why should anyone one feel insecure that the President is reaching out to all Ugandans? In some of these issues that concern the wellbeing of all citizens, politics and personal disquiet should always be placed on the side. Yes, you may dislike the President or disagree with him politically but when he guides on how to stay safe, he doesn’t not discriminate or specify only a certain kind of people for his message.