Speech delivered amid soaring COVID-19 cases and insecurity fears after Gen. Katumba shooting
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | The preparation for the State of the Nation Address started off on a wrong note the previous day- mass vaccination against covid19 at Kololo Independence Grounds was halted to prepare for the event. Some characterised it as pausing a lifesaving event for a super spreader event. The criticism also came from within.
“You see not many people in leadership in Uganda think creatively,” said government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo, in response to someone querying the decision.
In his address, President Yoweri Museveni cited COVID-19, floods, and locusts as problems the country faced in 2020.
The speech happened under the cloud of a second covid19 wave with daily cases hitting 1000 and the terror wrought by the shooting of former Works and Transport Minister Gen. Katumba Wamala in Kisaasi on the morning of June 01.
Opposition legislators and members of the public who were hang over Museveni’s speeches from the past had their sentiments validated when he delved into the usual rhetoric; rants on corruption, low levels of exports from Uganda, advocating for better pay of scientists and comparison of Uganda’s economy to more established ones in Europe and Asia.
However Museveni also sought to project optimism amid a negative news reel in the country.
“I salute our scientists who have developed the COVID-19 diagnostics, have been working on the therapeutics and also the vaccine. Two of our diagnostics are ready for manufacturing,” he announced.
“We were delayed with the notion that Africa is not supposed to manufacture the vaccines. We were moving very fast otherwise.”
He told the audience that by November 2021, Uganda will have produced its own vaccine. He also wondered why Uganda has not been able to produce other vaccines.
“Ebola is our disease. If it is my disease, I should benefit from it. How does somebody come and develop a vaccine for us. What are we doing?”
Museveni also touched on another pet subject- clamour for better pay among scientists.
“Paying our scientists well is not a favour to them but to the country. The lowest salary a scientist should take home is Sh4m per month. Professors should earn sh15m.”
Away from the virus, Museveni focused a lot on the economy lamenting about low quality products, high electricity tariffs, plans of building the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and other economic initiatives.
The President touted the latest big government venture- the Parish development model. “Implementation of the Parish Development Model will help the Government of Uganda to know how many people are in the village and how they can be supported.”
He told the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Ouanyah, that he did not have a legislative agenda because he had not appointed a Prime Minister.
The President took swipes at the Ministry of Finance as the cradle of corruption. “Corruption starts at the ministry of Finance. They design a project and fill it with so many things,” he said.
Museveni revealed that he had discovered the layers of corruption in other ministries, the office of the Auditor General, and the Committees of parliament.
He said he is working with a new lot of young cadres whom he hopes will root out corruption. “I appointed one of them to head the Uganda Communication Commission; Irene Kaggwa and she is doing good things from what I hear.”
On insecurity, Museveni said the First and Third divisions of the army are being bolstered and added that security is on top of the situation.
“The criminality around Kampala is being defeated” he said. He sharply criticised the police basing on the recent shooting.
“The Gen. Katumba shooting showed the poor organisation of the police,” he said and lambasted the force on their handling of surveillance the cameras.
“The cameras did the work. Why didn’t the camera centre update the police patrol cars after the crime had been committed?”
He also directed Police to stop using mobile phones and resort to radio calls which make communication easy.
Declaring Uganda secure, Museveni said the attackers of Gen. Katumba will be caught.