Armed security personnel used kibooko (canes) to chase people out of Kampala’s central business district; hours after President Yoweri Museveni announced a partial closure of markets and a complete ban of public transport.
Most roads and taxi parks in the city are virtually empty; a sign of compliance to the presidential directives, but that did not stop some traders in downtown Kampala to open up for business.
It is mostly these that have tasted the wrath of a combined force of the police, the army and Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel that are forcing people off the streets, and shopping malls to close.
On Wednesday, President Museveni issued an order suspending the use of public transport to short-circuit the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 disease.
Addressing the nation at the State Lodge in Nakasero for the fifth time in less than a week, Museveni said, he had been pushed to this position because of the great danger that public transport poses.
“The remaining danger number one; public transport, people moving in shared vehicles, they don’t know one another they just meet in a minibus, a taxi or bus. Even boda bodas, although they carry fewer people they are close to one another. We have therefore suspended all public vehicles to minimize movement,” Museveni said.
The vehicles suspended include all taxis, all coasters, minibuses, buses, passenger trains, tuku tukus and boda bodas.
“The only vehicles that will be moving are private vehicles but shouldn’t carry more than three people including the driver. Even private vehicles parked with private members shouldn’t be allowed. All functions should wait until we first get out of this danger,” Museveni said.
The only vehicles that will be allowed to move are the trucks delivering cargo and foodstuffs, delivery vans, pickups, other essential commodities and vehicles belonging to security organs like the police and the army, ministry of health vehicles, some of the institutional vehicles doing essential work, vehicles for sanitary services like those of the KCCA taking kasasiro among others.
Museveni, however, allowed the boda bodas to continue moving for as long as they are not carrying passengers.
“The person who went to Kisumu and back to Jinja didn’t walk, he travelled by fast means. That’s why the government has decided to suspend for 14 days all public transport,” Museveni said.
Museveni also ordered that all cars belonging to the district must be parked so that they are used for emergence response to Coronavirus cases across the country.
“When they get information about a case there shouldn’t be a question of there is no vehicle, we are going to struggle to make sure that there is enough fuel for them,” Museveni said.
The other measures that the government has taken to stop the spread of coronavirus include the suspension of all nonfood vendors in the market. This, according to the president is meant to decongest the markets.
“We said, to avoid this problem, we maintain four meters. That’s why for now we wouldn’t like to close the market but to carry out some changes. Therefore, the markets should only be selling foodstuffs matooke, sweet potatoes, cassava, rice, bean, cowpeas, groundnuts etc,” Museveni said.
Museveni also ordered the closure of nonessential government offices. He said each ministry should work out a plan of the essential staff that need to remain on duty and others should stay home.
“Uganda Revenue Authority must remain on duty because our goods are still coming into Uganda; somebody needs to clear those goods. We also need to collect those taxes. They will sit down and see how many people are needed maybe in rotation,” Museveni said.
The new orders came after the Ministry of Health announced a spike in the COVID-19 infections with five new cases including an eight-month-old baby bringing to 14 the number of people with coronavirus in Uganda.
Additional reporting by Sadab Kitatta