Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government has announced that it will by Monday, May 18th conclude on the process to allow Ugandans stranded abroad to return home as it moves to ease the COVID-19 lockdown.
Although President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni announced a lockdown of the airport with exceptions of Cargo flights, Ugandans were shocked to learn that three family members from the USA would be landing in Entebbe International Airport through Addis Ababa aboard Ethiopian Airlines on May 18th.
The three; Barbra Kavuya, Blanche Kibaju and Isaiah Tiba Byabashaija are family members of City tycoon Ben Kavuya of Legacy Group. Kavuya is not an ordinary man in the business community in Uganda and also highly connected in government and has for several years been a money lender to Members of Parliament and high ranking government officers. He is also a real estate mogul with several estates and apartments in the country.
Although government is yet to come out clearly on Ugandans abroad and their fate, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kuteesa has written a letter to Ethiopian Airways clearing the family of Kavuya to come to Entebbe from Ethiopia. The Ministry of Health Director General Henry Mwebesa also cleared Kavuya to quarantine his family in Bugolobi.
This has raised controversy with many Ugandans questioning how a family is allowed in at the expense of Ugandans stranded abroad. Uganda Radio Network (URN) has learnt that more Ugandans will be cleared to return home provided they meet the costs of quarantine, transport fair.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is in light of the request by Parliament and Ugandans that Ugandans abroad be facilitated and supported to return and that 13 people have been granted permission to return gradually and in a controlled process also undergoing quarantine at their costs .
In addition to the three, ten other people will return. They include; Bernard Mugisha, Leens a UN officer, Samuel Walusansa, an official with IGAD, Dr Andrew Obuku Ekii of Uganda Virus Research Institute, Ernest Ojakol, Denis Wodulo, Makerere University Professor Oswald Ndoleriire and others Hassifa Kagoya, Susan Namuli and Vivienne Naiga.
It is not yet clear what process and method government is following to select the Ugandans but both sources in cabinet and Ministry of health confirm the need to allow Ugandans return.
URN has established that although government led by President Museveni is due to make a major announcement on Monday on the return of Ugandans from abroad including evacuation, this decision has not yet been taken.
According to Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, the decision was meant to be made this week but government did not conclude it. But a final position will me made when cabinet sits.
Asked if the Ministry of Health was aware of the three people coming in, Atwine says indeed she was aware there was an ongoing process although this process had not been concluded.
“Government is seriously considering this and i believe next week government will make a clear position,” said Atwine.
A Minister of State who spoke to this reporter off the record said that government will allow Ugandans who can return in by themselves first and can also meet their self quarantine costs before a decision is to be made on the proposal to have people evacuated.
“Government will first allow those who can afford to return and also quarantine themselves because we have been discussing this and we think it is unfair to keep someone away from their country yet they can return. For example some people are just in Tanzania and Kenya here, why wouldn’t we let them in,” said the Minister.
He however added that Foreign affairs needs to clarify on the letter seen by the public saying he also just saw it today.
In a press statement, government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo says the clearance of the people was in regards to initial requests made by Ugandans and Parliament. He says the Ugandans traveling in are only coming in following an opportunity which presented its self of a flight aboard Ethiopian Airlines coming to Uganda.
He confirmed that government will come up with a policy position were more Ugandans will be helped to return home.