COVID-19: Police disperse mourners in Mitooma

Police dispersed mourners at the funeral of Geoffrey Ndyabandahi, a prominent businessman in Mitooma town council.

Police moved in to disperse the mourners on Wednesday for flouting the standard operating procedures (SOPs). While announcing the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in March this year, President Yoweri Museveni restricted funerals to only 10 close family members. 

He also directed mourners to strictly wash hands, wear face masks and observe physical distancing to reduce the risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19.

However, more than 200 mourners attended the funeral in Mitooma in violation of the SOPs and failed to maintain the 2-metre physical distancing and wearing of face masks.

Samuel Olumu, the Mitooma district police commander, says they were forced to take action because they had earlier on warned the organisers of the burial against contravening presidential directives on funerals.  

“The president directed not more than 10 people to carry out funeral rites, we told them but they refused. There were more than 200 people so we had to take action,” he said.  

Olumu says they also arrested Robert Mbiine, an aspirant for the Ruhinda County parliamentary seat who was found addressing the mourners and have since charged him with committing a negligent act likely to spread an infectious disease.  

He says politicians have hijacked funerals and turned them into political rallies in disregard of ministry of Health guidelines. According to Olumu, people have forgotten that coronavirus is still in the country and still deadly. Uganda has so far lost 11 people to coronavirus and over 1300 people infected with the virus. 
Mbiine wondered why he was singled out by the police yet there were more than 15 political aspirants at the funeral.

“I was seated with other political aspirants and I was not addressing people. I wonder why police picked me out of all the people who came for the burial," he said.     

Mbiine’s rivals include minister Gen Kahinda Otafiire and Mathias Bagwa Nuwagaba. The incumbent area MP, Capt Dononzio Kahonda who will contest in the newly created Ruhinda South constituency.  

Justus Karugaba, Mitooma 11 LC I chairperson criticised police for picking on Mbiine yet many politicians including district councillors and other candidates were in attendance.  

"Why did police have to arrest Mbiine, over 30 candidates contesting on different levels have been here but police has not arrested them,” he said.
© 2016 Observer Media Ltd