Week in focus: Musenero undettered by media attacks, Museveni reaches compromise with striking medics, Uganda’s oil pipeline complete, Uganda, Kenya downplay new Covid variant

After weeks of taking accusations of having squandered money meant to develop a locally made vaccine, senior Epidemologist, Dr Monica Musenero has come out to issue a statement saying she is being tormented by enemies of Uganda’s progress. Dr Musenero is the Minister for Science and Technology and as President Museveni’s ‘blue-eyed girl’, she oversees his pet project, developing a local vaccine to tame the spread of the global Covid-29 pandemic.

The media has been awash with accusations that Dr Musenero is failing to account for Shs31 billion, which was appropriated to her as the Presidential Advisor on Epidemics, and the in-charge of the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics-PRESIDE, a brainchild of President Yoweri Museveni on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine. A Select Committee of Parliament was recently appointed by Deputy Speaker Anita Among to look into the progress of development of the vaccine. The Committee has spent the first weeks of its appointment seeking accountability for the Shs31 billion with the Committee chairperson insisting that the public deserves to know how the funds were utilized.

Dr Musenero in her defence says that the perpetrators of the media frenzy against her are not seeking accountability but rather doing everything possible to tarnish her name. She says, while taking on the assignment as Science Minister, she stepped on many toes. “With my recent assignment, I entered a no-go area – driving the science agenda for my country and that has aroused the demons from all corners of hell. As you all know, I love my country and my continent. I have been prepared for the task.  I have served and will continue to serve with utmost integrity and dedication. I am the same Dr. Monica Musenero you have known and have never and will never change,” she states in a statement issued Monday morning. “Please be assured that NONE of those allegations in the ongoing orchestrated smear campaign are true. THEY ARE ALL LIES aimed at damaging my reputation and may be hoping they will discourage me. They think they will break me and destroy what we have started,” she adds.

Meanwhile medical workers in the country last week met President Yoweri Museveni and aired their grievances, claiming poor pay and lack of supplies in medical facilities across the country. The President pledged to enhance the salaries of intern doctors and instructed the Health Minister to table her budget to ensure supply of all required health supplies and personal protective gear for health workers. The medical workers went on a tools-down strike on November 21 seeking the attention of government on the issues that have been raised for years.

Last week, President Museveni assured the country and the region that works on the Uganda-Tanzania oil pipeline are complete. This was during a press conference held on arrival in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam last Saturday, where the President was for a state visit. Uganda and Tanzania last year launched the East African Crude Oil Project, signing a Memorandum of Understanding to construct an oil pipeline to transport Uganda’s crude oil to the international market via Tanga port on the Indian Ocean in Tanzania. Uganda could earn $3 billion from exporting 60,000 barrels of oil per day according to projections from the World Bank. This is expected to grow the country’s economy by 12%.

Kenya and Uganda have stated that they will not rush into issuing restrictions especially on international flights following the discovery of Omicron, a new variant of the Covid-19 virus. Kenya’s Health Principal Secretary (PS) Susan Mochache told media last week that instead the government has stepped up surveillance in all entry points across the country to monitor the spread of the new Omicron variant. The PS noted that the country’s economy should be kept running during this Covid-19 pandemic. She urged Kenyans not to panic.

Uganda’s State Minister for Primary Healthcare, Margaret Muhanga, also stated early this week that the government is not considering imposing a travel ban on Southern African countries, where the new variant was first discovered. Countries in the European Union and the US last week issued travel bans because of the variant. However, there are accusations that the countries are acting in disregard of universal health considerations.

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