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THE UNTOLD STORY; HOW JOY KABATSI-NDA BATTLES PUT M7 BETWEEN ROCK & HARD PLACE

By Otim Nape

The National Drug Authority (NDA) under the newly revamped leadership of the vastly experienced Dr. David Nahamya, has deeply studied the origin of the resistance to drugs by ticks, technically known as acaricide (drug) resistance, which is a serious worry to livestock farmers and should also be to you, that’s if you consume any form of fresh animal products e.g. meat and milk.

According to NDA, which works under the appropriate tag line “Safe Drugs Save Lives” and envisages “a Uganda with safe effective quality medicines and healthcare products,” the problem essentially came down to three major factors: (a) heavy and irrational use of acaricides (tick drugs) by farmers or prolonged use of the same type of acaricides, (b) use of poor farm implements to spray and dip cattle and © failure by livestock farmers to follow the direction given by acaricide/drug manufacturers on the use of the acaricides.

The tick resistance problem attracted huge public outcry and became intense in 2012, especially in the cattle corridor districts of Central and Western Uganda when almost all the twenty-six (26) acaricides on the Ugandan market were rendered impotent in these two regions just like a bull which has failed to make a cow conceive.

However, strangely the same drugs were producing spectacular results and killing ticks as fast as the speed of lightning in cattle rearing districts of Northern and Eastern Uganda. So where was the real problem?

In a detailed dossier authored by experts in the Drug Authority whose contents have since been corroborated by many in the academia (comprising of pharmacists and veterinarians), which Mulengera News has obtained, ticks had developed resistance to Pyrethriods (the main class of acaricides) by 2012 because this class of acaricide had been used for a prolonged period of time and farmers were changing/mixing different brands within a class, which according to experts at the National Drug Authority is not only a bad but also a dangerous practice and harmful practice. The same dossier has since found its way among some key legislators who are beginning to realize the President and other political leaders had been shielded from the scientific truth.

NDA, through its highly efficient pharmaco-vigilance, was the first government institution to detect the tick acaricide resistance problem in 2012 and therefore dismissed widespread allegations in the media that the Ugandan animal drugs market was flooded with ‘fake’ or counterfeit drugs.

And the problem even became clearer when NDA led and funded a top team of scientists who investigated tick acaricide resistance in many farms in the most affected districts of Central and Western Uganda. These included the two farms of President Yoweri Museveni in his rural home of Rwakitura in Kiruhura districts and the Kisozi Farm in Gomba District.

And the findings were quite illuminating and informative to guide decision-making so that government does not act like someone groping in the dark. Indeed, the NDA-generated solution to acaricide resistance was implemented in President Museveni’s farm and because the President had seen the NDA solution “work live in his farm,” as is popularly used in current lingo, he being the passionate farmer he is, led a campaign to popularize the NDA-generated messages on the rational or balanced and rotational use of acaricides.

Many farmers took the President’s message and adopted the rational or balanced and rotational use of acaricides and for five years (2012-2017), there was little or no outcry that ticks were a thorn in the flesh of cattle directly or indirectly to the livestock farmers.

However, in 2017, President Museveni appointed Joy Kafura Kabasti, his former Assistant in charge of Legal Affairs and Sembabule strongwoman/political fighter (renowned for prolonged political battles with Anifa Kawooya) as a new State Minister for Animal Industry.

Kabatsi replaced retired Colonel Bright Kanyantole Rwamirama, who the president moved to the newly created position at the time, as State Minister for Defence in charge of Veteran Affairs.

Now, whereas Hon. Rwamirama believed that experts should be allowed to do their work and take responsibility, Hon. Kabatsi came with a different approach to fighting the problem of tick/acaricide resistance. And this seemed to have reversed the gains made then in the fight. Kabatsi acted in good faith but had one problem of not listening enough to experts. “She rightly believed many people in public office don’t act in good faith anymore in Uganda and that led her into having a hostile approach and in the process her sense of judgment became impaired. Otherwise a lot of progress would have been made if the President didn’t post a Minister who was paranoid thinking everyone was a thief and yet the same Minister was too desperate for results to reap political dividend,” says an influential vet academic who is familiar with the acaricides politics.

In the next series of these articles, we shall tell you why Minister Kabatsi’s approach was counterproductive, how President Museveni intervened and what subsequently happened.

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