HOW MAAIF’S ADEMUN CAUSED GEN TUMWINE-SEKIKUBO WAR
By Mulengera Reporters
Despite not being known by many people outside her workplace and the agricultural sector at large, MAAIF’s Dr. Anna Ademun Okurut is a very powerful person at the agricultural Ministry where she serves as the Commissioner Animal Health & Chief Veterinary Officer for Uganda. In her mid -50s, Dr. Ademun marries NEMA’s thick-skinned Executive Director Dr. Tom Okurut, a thing that only makes her a more powerful technocrat. Knowledgeable insiders say that at MAAIF, whatever she demands senior Minister Vincent Sempijja just caves in and give way. She is so powerful that quite often Sempijja will tremble and even fail to execute cabinet directives once powerful Ademun puts her foot on the ground on an issue. She actually has the last words on all matters relating to the livestock sub sector-and quite often-her word is final.
She is the woman empowered by law to declare cattle quarantine restricting cattle movement from one part of the country to another. Theoretically there is a team of scientists at MAAIF who ought to do surveillance and scientifically guide on which place deserves to be declared a quarantine but in the end, practically Ademun’s word will prevail. For instance, in cantankerous MP Theodore Sekikubo’s Rwemiyaga County, Ademun unjustifiably declared a quarantine four years ago and not even threats by affected cattle farmers to petition the Speaker of Parliament has moved her even by an inch. Cabinet has had the occasion to talk over the same and guided that such quarantines that citizens consider to be arbitrary be lifted but even then, not much progress was made because Ademun has insisted on acting as she wishes being the chief vet for government fully protected by the law. She is one lady who knows the law and its what she always bases on to tell off mafias trying to intimidate her. She for instance, is fully aware there isn’t much poor Sempijja can do to her as long as her tenure as commissioner still runs and the law continues to protect civil servants against any sanctioning as it does.
Ademun, in whose Teso ancestry place cattle keepers lost their large herds in the early Museveni years, is understood to have extreme contempt for cattle keepers in the Runyakitara-speaking parts of Uganda and those working under her are always very indifferent towards livestock farmers from Western Uganda. She believes her Itesot co-ethnics are equally entitled to own large herds of cattle just like farmers from any part of the country and those things of ‘order from above’ don’t move her and have no place in her operational vocabulary.
In the Rwemiyaga case, Ademun (who ISO sources say has totally nothing to do with powerful Security Minister Elly Tumwine) has maintained the quarantine will remain in force no matter how much hapless Sekikubo mobilizes his electors to riot. Ademun casually says she went to school, studied her vet stuff and she knows what she is doing and can’t be guided by emotions. In imposing the quarantine, some speculate that, the MAAIF bosses are actually politically punishing Sekikubo and other elected NRM leaders that are continuing to be perceived by their electors as powerless and good for nothing. At MAAIF, calling this a matter of public interest, top management has called many meetings to discuss the Rwemiyaga quarantine against which many scientists have argued only to be neutralized by powerful Ademun who is fond of overwhelming them with her well researched scientific arguments. Our major submission in this story is that, whereas Sekikubo continues to accuse Tumwine calling him the invisible hand behind the Rwemiyaga quarantine that has condemned many farmers to poverty and destitution because of inability to access cattle markets, the real person holding the key to everything is none other than powerful Animal Health Commissioner Anna Ademun Okurut who resents being politically intimidated.
The other aspect on which Ademun showed extreme power at MAAIF was when she considered it was time to falsely expose and kick out Mzee Xavier Kitaka’s MTK Uganda Ltd from the sector after supplying foot & mouth disease vaccines whose procurement turned out to be very controversial. Using this controversy as justification, MAAIF (basically Ademun & a few other subordinates) moved to handle all the subsequent importation of the same themselves. Subsequently, Col Edith Nakalema moved in and arrested MTK officials who even got prosecuted allegedly for supplying MAAIF with vaccines that didn’t work. However, a subsequent report, basing on scientific analysis and inquiry conducted by scientific researchers at UK’s Pirbright Institute (a high class referral facility which is also one of the world’s best at studying infectious diseases among livestock), exonerated MTK by disclosing that the 190,000 doses of the FMD vaccines the otherwise reputable private entity had supplied were genuine and not defective as had previously been alleged. This corroborated earlier revelations by regulator NDA’s Peter Nuwamanya on whose authentification report the vaccines had been stored at MAAIF’s Wandegeya-based warehousing facility.
In a missive addressed to powerful Ademun (the original whistle blower on whose information Nakalema acted), Pirbright Institute’s Vesicular Diseases Reference Laboratories head Dr. Donald King unequivocally indicated that their analysis on the samples drawn from the impugned vaccines confirmed the same as genuine and not fake. Elaborating on the Pirbright Institute’s report days later, FAO livestock officer Dr. Edward Okori expounded on the possible reasons why a vaccine could be genuine but yet it still doesn’t deliver to the expected efficacy levels among farmers on whose animals it was applied. Okori says it could be that the genuine vaccine is applied against a wrong FMD serotype different from the one the manufacturer designed it to mitigate. Ideally MAAIF should first have tested to determine the FMD serotype before placing their order with MTK whose role was to supply the exact vaccine as ordered by MAAIF. Defective storage (in case the cold chain is broken or interfered with) could also constrain the effectiveness of the vaccine, according to Dr. Okori. Exposure to chemicals and antibiotics among the cattle on which the vaccine is subsequently administered can also diminish the vaccines’ effectiveness. Possibility that the animals that were vaccinated were already infected with FMD, prior to the vaccination exercise, too can cause the otherwise genuine vaccine not to effectively work. Unfortunately for MTK all these exonerating scientific revelations came rather too late, long after a lot of reputational damage had already been occasioned with Ademun urging the President to endorse the idea of MAAIF beginning to handle the lucrative procurement and importation of the same FMD vaccines in the country. And as MTK continues nursing it’s anomalously-bruised reputation, the responsibility to procure and bring such vaccines into the country has since fallen back to MAAIF with Ademun, closely working with her on and off ally PS Pius Wakabi Kasadha, having the last word regarding the quality and quantity of livestock vaccines that come into the country under the GoU-controlled processes. However, there are fears the two (Ademun and PS) might soon irretrievably fallout over what quality and quantity of livestock vaccines should be imported into the country using billions drawn from the taxpayers money. Before acquiring her current powerful position at MAAIF and getting herself potent connections in the corridors of power, the iron-willed Ademun used to serve as Assistant Commissioner and had the privilege of professionally growing under the prudent mentorship of Commissioner Chris Rutabereka, her predecessor, who retired sometime back. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).