PEOPLE FIXING UGANDA IN THIS CORONA PERIOD
By Mulengera Reporters
As Health Minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng (52) has won plenty of public acclaim for the solid leadership she has offered the country during this difficult COVID-19 period. But like she personally admits, Dr. Aceng can’t pull it off doing all this alone. It has to be a well-collaborated effort involving colleague ministers from other dockets on which she continues to rely for complimentary support. Truth is that behind the scenes, there are many other Ugandans rolling their sleeves and getting their hands dirty while burning the mid-night candle to get the job (basically securing Uganda) done.
In news feature listing, which we don’t claim to be exhaustive in anyway, we profilingly focus on some of those Ugandans (the unsung heroes) working extremely hard in ways many can’t comprehend at the moment to continue fixing Uganda in this crisis period.
Speaker Kadaga; She is giving courageous leadership to the legislature to play its very important role during this period. By continuing to convene Parliamentary sessions, with MPs being very apprehensive, Kadaga is making it possible for the necessary expenditure approvals to be obtained to ensure the logistical requirements of the anti-COVID operations continue to be available. For instance, the MPs’ approval is condition-precedent for the Shs300bn supplementary budget (required to strengthen our collective COVID response) to be passed.
The COVID crisis is coinciding with FY220/2021 budgeting process into which the legislature must input ahead of the final budget’s unveiling in June. By giving platform for the MPs, the people’s representatives to authoritatively ask the hard questions to ensure the emergency isn’t abused by the executive to the detriment of the populace, Kadaga is playing a very critical role to ensure Uganda continues running properly.
PSST Keith Muhakanizi; Hate him or love him, the thick-skinned technocrat from Rukungiri is very critical to what is happening. And his understanding in the current period, as the man with the last word on our treasury, has manifested in many ways including being the key technocrat in the ongoing supplementary budgeting process. But most importantly, he has ensured that Aceng’s teams at MoH have the finances they require to do the job. He has so far availed Shs157bn in the COVID response period. This includes $15m (or Shs53bn) that would ordinarily have been available to the Wandegeya-based Ministry even without the COVID crisis (was wired three weeks ago as contingency response), Shs5bn to manage the initial days of the very frightening COVID crisis and another Shs99bn that the accounting officer Dr. Diana Atwine is optimistic will come before end of this very week. Muhakanizi is actually pondering availing more because the leadership will require more purchases of sample material removers and test kits for COVID-19.
There will also be many other payments to be made including for the hotels hosting those under institutional quarantine or those to come after them depending on how long it will take for Uganda to be declared COVID-free.
Moses Kamabare; The NMS General Manager understands authority and is always loyally very supportive to his boss ladies running the show at the Wandegeya-based Ministry. This COVID period has naturally not been an exception. Kamabare’s efficiently-run National Medical Stores (NMS) continues to be charged with making all the necessary logistics procurements relating to the COVID response besides their usual mandate of ensuring all health facilities are adequately supplied with medicines for the rest of the medical conditions requiring citizens to visit hospitals. It’s for instance Kamabare that the HE will ring in case he gets reports that there is scarcity or total absence of basics like Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at any of the COVID-19 treatment centers.
It’s through NMS that the mother Ministry of Health has delivered all the masks, gloves, boots, thermometers, IV fluids, sanitizers, oxygen cylinders, soap, alcohol-based hand rub, waste segregation bins, face shields, surgical N95 respirators, protective goggles, aprons, ventilators, medicines and other medical consumables at all GoU COVID-19 treatment centers which are actually being scaled up to deepen decentralization of the COVID response as was articulated by Minister Jane Aceng at UBC this Thursday morning. NMS doesn’t only handle the centralized procurement for all these things but also ensures safe transportation until delivery is 100% done to all the relevant facilities.
Everything you see health workers and surveillance team members putting on wherever you are, in relation to COVID-19 has been provided by NMS whose key staffers have had to have sleepless nights to ensure timely delivery of all the required logistics. Yet that isn’t all. The confidence with which UVRI Director Prof Pontiano Kaleebu was talking on TV this Thursday morning assuring everybody not to worry about the possibility of COVID test kits running out was because he is certain NMS (charged with ensuring the stocks are regularly replenished) can’t let the country down. Indeed, Kamabare’s NMS has ensured the country has enough test kits to run us for the next 166 days at a rate of carrying out 150 COVID tests a day. And even by that time, new stocks will have arrived in the country to replenish current stocks (notwithstanding the importation complications involved).
Premier Rugunda; He heads the cabinet COVID taskforce on which many other Ministers seat to bring out the multi-sectoral character of the COVID response. The members include Evelyn Anite, Jane Aceng, Esther Mbayo for the RDCs, Moses Ali, David Bahati, Chris Baryomunsi and others. They sit as often as necessary without following a particular routine. It’s through this committee that all the relevant feedback is collected, processed, summarized and passed on to the President to ratify the relevant decision-making.
On a daily basis, a team of Cabinet Secretariat staff, led by a one Patricia, generate a brief which Rugunda fine-tunes and delivers to the President who determines if there is need to discuss with only Rugunda or the entire taskforce membership. It’s through this forum that even the Aceng-supervised scientists get their expert views and opinions to the President for his consideration and action. Yet there is much more Rugunda is charged with regarding COVID. He must be in parliament to defend government’s COVID-related decisions, actions and resource deployments. He must actually market whatever ideas the scientists are having before fellow Cabinet Ministers who must approve everything including the ongoing recruitment of 220 health workers to fill manpower gaps to consolidate the COVID response. He is simply the man through whom protocol-fascinated Aceng communicates everything to the President. Rugunda will also shoulder the responsibility to supervise the prudent expenditure of the Shs300bn that has been availed as supplementary funding for COVID-related activities. All this means Rugunda must be available at least on phone 24/7 in case the HE needs verification on something.
Robert Kabushenga; This was one God gave to our country as a gift. He is very versatile and has lent his shoulder for Diana Atwine and Aceng to lean on when things get tough; he is one pragmatist they will call and find he has an idea or some way forward on virtually everything. Over the years Kabushenga has built a vast fundraising network within government and private sector.
He is articulate and knowledgeable-and most importantly delivers whenever assigned to do anything. He is, for instance, the man who gave leadership to galvanize the private sector efforts by reaching out to fellow CEOs at the banks and telecoms like MTN and Airtel. Even when he personally has many good ideas, Kabushenga is very consultative and likes using platforms like UMOA and NAB to generate consensus among fellow media owners and controllers.
It was through his efforts that the likes of MTN, Airtel, NITA-Uganda and others stepped forward to offer the necessary logistics, personnel and technologies to boost the MoH’s COVID call center whose strength has since grown from mere 20 to 345 call center agents it currently has. Kabushenga’s efforts resulted into the quality of work and responses improving at the call center and this is the reason extremely frustrated Ugandans from across the country are no longer ringing our newsrooms and feedback lines to report and complain about the ineptness of the MoH’s call center staff.
The other key Kabushenga selfless contribution relates to the readiness with which he availed his entire Vision Group media infrastructure to the ladies at health to communicate everything they needed to. To their credit, the Vision Group editors have also been very prompt when it comes to countering and neutralizing fake news and false alarms originated by malicious social media users.
Kabushenga is also a credible excellent mobilizer whose involvement in any charity cause instantly inspires confidence in potential contributors. He has also continued giving very useful ideas during the high-level meetings regarding Uganda’s COVID response. Closely related is Daily Monitor’s Daniel Kalinaki whose publication has excelled at deliberately publishing very educative content regarding COVID truths and myths.
Chris Baryomunsi; He has excelled collecting information concerning border-related incidents through which Uganda’s COVID vulnerability would have been escalated. He represents Kanungu which is one of the many border points through which COVID cases could easily be imported or smuggled into Uganda by some of our malicious neighbors. It’s actually the reason Museveni crafted him onto the cabinet taskforce; just to ensure he keeps sharing experiences of the border communities because he represents one such community in Parliament.
His colleague David Bahati has equally been very useful deploying his eloquence skills to move the MPs getting them vote for the badly-needed supplementary funding.
Dr. Diana Atwine; By virtue of her position being the PS at health, the technocrat from Kazo has no doubt played a very big role ensuring her boss Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng instantly gets all the emotional, technical, co-ordinational and logistical support she requires to keep leading the fight. Atwine (47) also sits in the Cabinet taskforce even when she isn’t a minister herself.
She has also been to parliament backing up Bahati countless times. She has also boosted the communication efforts leveraging on her vastly-followed social media platforms which remain majority Ugandans’ source of the accurate COVID latest developments besides those of her boss Aceng. She is a relentless communicator who has been to many radios including CBS to ensure all COVID-related distortions are obliterated.
She has also remained easily available to brief any journalist and she is one that won’t mind taking calls as late as 11pm or even midnight as long as its work-related (including on Sundays). In the same vein, Senior Public Relations Officer Emmanuel Ainebyona deserves mention because he has deepened media interactions between his boss ladies and the media. He is quick to prudently advise them to be available as often as possible to field media interviews and he continues to ensure serious media outlets get all the exclusives they require from any of his bosses-Robina Nabanja, Aceng, Atwine and Joyce Morichu.
Commissioner Health Services Education Richard Kabanda has repeatedly been at hand to technically boost his boss DG Henry Mwebesa, the wealthy Ugandan doctor who continues to behind the scenes coordinate technical teams and work. Besides always being available to back up Mwebesa at those non-ministerial media briefings, Dr. Kabanda (renowned to many scribes for being thick-skinned) has been the man through whom Atwine and Aceng supervise performance of the call center.
Kabanda has just accepted the responsibility to head the Ministry’s Risk Communication Sensitization Campaign that will be charged with deepening COVID messages in the population to ensure the necessary behavioral changes are realized to make Ugandans safer. His fellow scientists like Prof Rhoda Wanyenze (52) and Pauline Byakyika are equally involved as members of the scientists committee that has been put in place to galvanize opinions and technically advise Aceng. There is Dr. Monica Musenero whose newspaper articles have provided the public with lots of quality CORONA-related public education prompting the President to designate her his advisor on COVID. UVRI Director Pontiano Kaleebu (60) has equally been key in fixing Uganda during this period besides Dr. Julius Lutwama who ably deputizes him.
Others are Prof Wilson Muhwezi (53), Dr. Mesach Wayengera, Prof Denis Byarugaba, Dr. Henry Kajumbula, Mulago NRH’s Dr. Jane Nakibuka, Prof Noah Kiwanuka, Dr. Betty Kivumbi, Prof Noeline Nakasujja, Mak’s Dr. William Worodria, Mak’s Dr. Ethel Nakakawa, Mulago NRH’s Dr. Arnold Kiwereza, Dr. James Elima, Mulago ED Dr. Byarugaba Baterana, Gulu RRH’s Dr. James Elima, Entebbe Grade B Hospital’s Dr. Moses Muwanga, Mak’s Prof Fredrick Sengoba, CPHL Director Dr. Susan Ndidde Nabadda, Brig Gen Dr. Stephen Kasasira and Lt Col Dr. Henry Kyobe Bbosa (both from UPDF Medical Services) who the President, as CiC, has seconded to Dr. Aceng to boost her teams. As COVID Incident Commander, Dr. Kyobe is the one overseeing all the enforcement-related aspects quarantining operations involving those already in and those still elusively on the run. He is the one coordinating with RDCs and DHOs to ensure those who eluded quarantine and went into hiding on return from high-risk countries are hunted down and forcefully dragged back to the quarantine. The two officers are also helping liaise with Maj Gen Sam Kawagga to ensure LDUs, for whom he is overall commander, humanely treat Ugandans as they enforce the President’s COVID mitigation directives and measures.
We also have MPs (Commissioners) Francis Mwijukye and Arinaitwe Rwakajara who the Speaker tasked to head the legislature’s taskforce that interfaces with Aceng, Rugunda and other stakeholders and then report back to the House for the necessary interventions to be made. They are also coordinating to ensure that the frontline officers like RDCs and DHOs harmoniously work with MPs without any of them feeling undermined or excluded to advantage their respective opponents. The Mwijukye team is also out to ensure they coordinate with all stakeholders especially the enforcement agencies to ensure MPs get adequately recognized as opposed to being brutalized by LDUs.
Esther Mbayo; As Presidency Minister, this Luuka County MP is doing a lot to fix Uganda out of the COVID crisis. She is the one responsible with supervising all the RDCs in Uganda and its them helping the MoH to effect decentralization of the COVID response in upcountry districts where they wield enormous influence as the President’s representatives. From the day Museveni announced them taking center stage, Mbayo got down with her RDCs’ Secretariat head Maj Martha Asiimwe and started working out a schedule. She immediately facilitated and prompted the RDCs to commence emergency security committee meetings from which ideas emerged to inform Mbayo’s action points.
She coordinated them to form district taskforces through which all the relevant information is collected and passed onto the secretariat which writes briefs for the HE. She is the one to whom MPs, uncomfortable with RDCs’ conduct, report for remedial action to be immediately taken. Her day every morning begins with online and telephone engagements with RDCs whose areas are considered high risk, gets feedback from them which she subsequently shares at the Rugunda taskforce meetings.
Sometimes Mbayo carries along some of the troublesome RDCs so that Rugunda gets the opportunity to rebuke them directly urging them never to commit similar breaches again. Mbayo, who on Thursday returned from Acholi-land where she had meetings with the leadership of the Rwot Cultural Institution and also appeared on Mega FM to re-energize the President’s COVID directives, has also been assertive when it comes to defending RDCs against corruption and bribe-solicitation allegations. While in Gulu, Mbayo also met with the clergy leaders and secured their concurrence to use their network to propagate the President’s message of prevention as the only sure way Uganda will prevail against COVID. In executing all these Presidential errands, Mbayo is always in the company of his loyal protege Maj Martha Asiimwe who heads the RDCs Affairs desk in State House. With her secretariat, Maj Asiimwe does much of the donkey work to ensure that her boss Mbayo shines and most importantly that the people of Uganda get the protection and RDCs-based leadership and guidance they deserve especially during this COVID-stricken period.
Mbayo’s colleague Evelyn Anite continues to coordinate the President’s interventions aimed at enabling private sector players, especially manufacturers, to increase the production of the supplies that are essential to the country’s comprehensive COVID response. Museveni has actually expressed satisfaction that Anite’s mobilization efforts among investors especially manufacturers have paid off enabling Uganda to locally manufacture most of the essential supplies required for anti-COVID operations without having to import. Museveni, who has always publicly bragged about this enhanced local manufacturing capability, has already unleashed Dr. Mwanje and other scientists to closely work with UMA Chairperson Barbara Mulwana and Mitul of Nyanza Textiles to ensure the protective masks the duo are to begin producing meet all the medical requirements. Meant for both local and export market, these industrial products are to be customized “made in Uganda,” something Museveni anticipates to derive plenty of pride from. To be continued. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at email@example.com).