Interview: Mugeni on Uganda’s failed health systems, Covid-19 relief; Museveni and UNAA mess


William Mugeni. File photo.

What would stop Uganda from having enough ICU beds if not for corruption? When teargas takes precedence over oxygen, even if people no longer have tears, what would one expect?

Kampala – 25, June 2021: Uganda continues to grapple with Covid-19 infections and deaths. In trying to stop further virus spread, President Museveni last week on Friday announced a revised and new guidelines, including a 42 days of lockdown countrywide.

Today, we bring you a comprehensive e-interview between TND News’ Acting Editorial Director, Milton Emmy Akwam and James William Mugeni.

I am happy to engage you today – concerning the recent development in Uganda: her quest to control Covid-19 infections, latest development at UNAA, among others.

Qn. Tell us who you are, and what inspires you?

I am James William Mugeni, a Ugandan living and working in North America. I am a Clinical Officer and a Certified Public Manager. I have a knack for teamwork and a passion for connecting with people from across a wide spectrum. I am an accomplished sports and athletics coach with a soft spot for helping the youths in their quest to release their pent-up energies and develop their potential for the benefit of humanity. Social justice has been my established values despite suffering injustices myself.

In the quest for justice, I have literally sacrificed and risked my life. My inspirations are in my achievements; I am a reality show from a humble background, exposed through fights. Lost jobs through asking simple questions like why, what, where, when and these are questions that search for the truth.

Qn. As a health expert and a certified public speaker, you have written a lot about Uganda’s government poor response to Covid-19, and lack of care by government. What has changed?

In Uganda, changes from Museveni to Museveni are usually characterized by despondency and a humiliating sense of helplessness where the citizenry has surrendered their lives to the whimsical arbitrariness of one man.

There is nothing that this government has touched that has not turned into scraps. Post Office, railways, schools, hospital, name them all. All government programs accomplish the opposite of what they are designed to achieve.

This is pathetic to say the least. The national fatal flaw of putting all “our eggs” in the basket of one man is a bane Uganda will live to rue for generations to come. I have laid the callous ineptitude of public management by this regime as bare as the behind of a baboon in the way they are responding to the second wave of COVID-19. One would assume that after the lessons learnt from the first outbreak, if at all they were learning anything anyway, then with the Billions raised then, the country would be prepared with a more robust response team and infrastructure to save the countrymen and women.

What would stop Uganda from having enough ICU beds if not for corruption? When teargas takes precedence over oxygen, even if people no longer have tears, what would one expect? You are told of procurement of mere few hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccines, in a country of over 40 million people and you still expect herd immunity to develop in the population? Well, in the minds of those he calls fishermen and women he has assembled to manage (or mismanage) the country that might be possible but that would be bordering on superstition and not science.

One of the enduring legacies of this order (or disorder) was deliberate destruction of the public health system and infrastructure. The prevailing conditions have made the Doctors turn against their ethical values and engage in behaviors inimical and antithetical to their training.

The ordinary Ugandan is now abandoned and dispossessed. Those burgeoning private hospitals which have come out to charge a premium are indeed picking just but a fraction of what government health tourists would be parting with, footed by the taxpayer had the skies been open for them to go for specialized treatment in India, Europe, or America.

At least for the very first time in the post-independence history of Uganda, people have heard about hospital bills in the regions of shs 70 million, shs 80 million, shs 120 million. Oxygen which people took for granted is shs2 million! If that is not the arrival of fundamental change, then what else could it be?

Ugandans are dealing with a pseudo-capitalist corrupt system which succumbed to neoliberal free market forces to deliver social services to the population. Little wonder that in the pell-mell of mad confusion, the transport sector increased the fares by something in the region of 1000% in the wake of the most recent lockdown when they were swamped by millions of impoverished sick children going home, they saw an opportunity to make all the money there is on earth.

Qn. Uganda is in the second wave, country locked down and vulnerable poor are to get relief money. Does this convince you, and must Ugandans be happy?

What would make Ugandans happy are functional infrastructure which delivers equitable health and social services and not handouts from a parasitic State. For Ugandans to find themselves stranded in the free market jungles left to fend for themselves against the vagaries of the free market vultures and you expect them to be free and happy, it means you are taking their tolerance levels to an all-time high.

How many vulnerable people do not have phones through which they will channel the mobile money? And just wait to see how much money will be squandered. However heavy the storm, the leopards’ spots can never be washed away.

I shared with you what America has done yes; they are a first world, this help must come out of established follow-up systems with the love for people need a responsive and responsible government now.

Qn. You have criticized President Museveni for using soldiers to manage the pandemic; some Ugandans and other leaders have commended him for his approach. Why are you ever opposed to him?

Belief in the gun solution to fix all problems including health is a mindset which is taking Uganda nowhere but to Hell direct. You do not build a Public Health infrastructure using guns and LDUs as health workers. It means you have lost the epidemiological battle, and you have become a danger unto humanity.

You have alienated the Health Generals who should do epidemiological footwork, thinking you can play magic using violence? What happens when soldiers start dying from the virus what will you do? Hope there can come a time when soldiers run after the true criminals and these are those who do not buy vaccines, those who do not build hospitals we have had enough money loaned to us and it all goes to drain.

Qn. Do you think Uganda is being transparent and accountable as far as Covid-19 is concerned?

Transparency, honesty, and accountability are concepts which are taken for granted in Western Democracies but in a repulsive Dictatorship such as the one in Uganda their survival depends on lies. There is usually a litany of lies clothed in very impressive statistical figures to be peddled around. These characters are averse to truth and many times they actually get to believe in their own lies. We have global protest by Uganda appealing to the IMF not to fund Uganda as money is just squandered not used for what we ask it for.

Qn. Medical workers (front line health workers) feel dissatisfied with how government is treating them during this period. Government says they will entitle each to a daily allowance of shs5,000. Would you accept it?

My heart bleeds for my comrades in the health sector. They are a punching bag for the system. They have been made to stoop so low, work for so little that some of them have developed coping mechanisms which run counter to their innate and trained values to consider saving life as the primary aim before profit.

They have destroyed the Public health Care system by years of patronage and a one man dictatorship. One may think these issues are distant, but wait the day the system asks you to pay 1.2million to repatriate a body from Mulago Hospital mortuary that is when you get a rude awakening of the extent to which our country has gone.

It is very insulting to pay a health worker UGX 5000 per day, that is less than $2 a day for a frontline worker exposed to this virus, and you pay millions to a presidential advisor in charge of illiterates (Fool Figure).

There is no money worth risking life for but if health workers were treated well in times before epidemics, risk allowances is something that would come last. For an average Ugandan health worker, perhaps a pandemic like this spells an opportunity to earn but not to serve. How do you explain the millions that we are seeing as medical bills?

Qn. Is lockdown healthy? Is it a good option?

What is the purpose of lockdown? 4Ds must be in mind. There is disease, there is disability, there is destitution and there is death. Since I am not in Uganda tell me how Uganda has addressed each D? From my radars it appears they have mismanaged all the Ds.

Treatment which turns out to be more dangerous than the disease is no treatment! That would be another disease altogether. Lockdown could offer a healthy option if and only if certain parameters were in place. We would be talking of mass testing and mass tracking, and mass vaccinations.

There is no known mechanism for distributing food. Ugandans are living from hand to mouth, others are living from mouth to mouth and you thoughtlessly lock them down? Instead of ensuring SOPs you prescribe LDUs as COVID treatment and you still want to convince the world you care?

Qn. Talking politics now, you are a member of UNAA and so much dissatisfied with its management. Can you yourself change UNAA for better?

It is not only me who is dissatisfied with UNAA. It is the majority of Ugandans living in North America united under the umbrella organization called UNAA some of whom I represent in the Council who have issues with the way they ran UNAA. It is not about me, nor any single individual. In fact, I responded to accusations from Secretary General by telling them UNAA is less about individuals and more about all of us.

There are individuals who have personalized the organization throwing all caution and legalities to the wind. For UNAA to change for the common benefit of all it will have to be collective effort and responsibility. Individualization of a formidable organization called UNAA for selfish benefit of a few is not what an illustrious rally of thousands of Ugandans can accept without pointing out.

Qn. For talking against its leadership, they want you booted out. Does this scare you?

For talking they want me booted! That is the mark of any despotic and undemocratic individual. Some characters in the UNAA leadership are very uncomfortable with progressive, constructive criticism. It gives a very good example of a very bad leadership with a failed administration.

Some of them are illegal and ruling outside the realms of the governing constitution, if it were back home in Uganda they would have pushed for amendment. Now this is a free world and they hope to get away with illegalities by booting James William Mugeni from UNAA. A moribund administration waiting to implode into its own selfish and self-limiting trap will do anything to hang on.

A selfless leadership working for the common good of the people would welcome ideas and be receptive to good counsel. They have abandoned debate and the issues at hand and are now against me. I am scared in the sense that they may succeed in alienating me from my fellow countrymen because I pointed out their wrongs. But in the fullness of time, evil carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. So when the people, the true owners of UNAA, learn of the underhanded capriciousness and manipulations of this group, I will be vindicated.

Qn. The Kampala administration is a big funder of UNAA. Someone may say this is irrelevant and waste of taxpayers’ money. You don’t agree?

Kampala fears formations and organizations of empowered Ugandans living in the diaspora like a plague. They will do all it takes to subvert the mandate of the people here so that they can have a compliant team which works for them to cover up evils and atrocities meted out by the regime upon innocent Ugandans. If you are talking about wasting taxpayer’s money, take note it is a game Kampala has perfected over the last 35 years.

In their estimation pouring hundreds of millions into a submissive UNAA administration which will work to promote their agenda in North America and the Diaspora is not a waste of money especially if they are not picking it from the purse of their grandmother.

We are dealing with a system which spends public funds on private whims with no compunction. How else would you explain an administration building a road in a neighboring Country when there are no ICU beds for Citizens dying of COVID? I gather they sent COVID relief to Ugandans living in America, can you imagine?

Qn. As a councilor for Central Plains, what has been your success story and hard time and why must UNAA change?

 I have had success stories in Central Plains and beyond my stories rotate around social justice and my efforts are in:

Advocacy

– Mobilization

– Fundraisings

– Sensitizations

– Ambassadorship for sports and Certified Public Management.

As TND News, you know the Galo Githo Stephen story; we brought it out using this now great online newspaper, and it carries all the sub topics above. I am so happy we gave him an opportunity to tell his story again. This story is what I am. I have stood out for my people at the risks of my own life to see what I am facing in UNAA.

Hard times

– Leadership of UNAA is a nightmare for one to deal with most of them are Ugandans who have only changed location. America is land of opportunities but to whom? UNAA takes on our identity but does not represent our aspirations all success stories here are individual stories.

– Barriers to developments our disunity is a barrier to development we are not even learning lessons to what makes America if not United States. As Ugandans, America would offer us that union since we are in a unique and strange environment.

– Interference from the regime in Kampala is retrogressive the regime should have positioned itself in a way as to attract us home. Looked at us as assets but not people who must not be left to organize.

Qn. Mr John Agaba, the UNAA BoT chairman still charges his duty even when his term of office expired in 2020. Nobody at UNAA, including the president has talked about this. Who is a big fish at UNAA and is the Constitution sat on?

The John Agaba, BoT and others in this question is not something I will like to dwell on. All I will tell you there is an invisible hand, and that hand is in state house Uganda. These are just proxies.

Government of Uganda can pay any cost for public relations that finding who to use in UNAA is not a hard task. UNAA is an organization that must free itself. I wish we could learn from Uganda. Government closed Bank accounts of civil service organizations in Uganda on suspicion of foreign funding for subversive activities one wonders why the mighty America has not suspected this in UNAA! UNAA Constitution is likely suffering from what we saw in Kampala.

Qn. A delegation of over 100 Ugandans are expected in the USA for the September election. Why are these delegations irrelevant to the event?

Kampala delegation always yellow travelling on taxpayer money. I do not think these annual travels have changed Uganda we would not be where we are. As TND pick out anything in Uganda that you will attribute to the many trips that these delegations have brought to Uganda.

– Delegation travels to influence the outcome of events.

– Waste of the Ugandan taxpayers’ money

Qn. Why must UNAA stay independent and free from Kampala influence?

UNAA ought to remain independent especially from the Kampala Establishment which doesn’t want people to develop.

UNAA has the capacity to do a lot for itself and for Uganda. Like a black man in the names of Marcus Garvey who went to America and within a year mobilized Black Americans to contribute and buy the first and only Ocean Liner a Ship called Black Power. What was done by one man in Marcus can surely be done by more than 120,000 black men and women in North America. Kampala is a negative energy and its influence in UNAA is to remotely control it to stifle any forward developments.

Qn. And what would be your general message, words of hope to Ugandans, both at home and in the diaspora?

Message to Ugandans at home:

Take charge of your personal lives. Expect nothing from the system sitting over your heads. Keep your conscious clear, endure what you can, change what you must, and leave the rest to God.

Message to Ugandans in the Diaspora:

Develop a consensus and unity of purpose. Share with your fellow Countrymen and women not only the material wealth you acquire from America but also the positive democratic values you learn from the free world. It is self-defeating to submit to authority by a man and allow to be remotely controlled by a system which made you to leave home in the first place. In the modern struggle for existence, your fate depends on how you behave.

A man who has killed institutions in Uganda cannot be allowed to run remotely an organization in America. The free world has taught you the fundamentals of freedom; you must stand for your rights and for those of your people back at home living under the dictatorship. For God and My Country.

I thank you for talking to TND News—we wish you all the best.

 Thank you.


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