Although President Museveni has swung in action to crack down on those taking advantage of Covid-19 to hoard essential items like salt, sugar, food, etc., in order to fetch premium prices, more remains to be done!
Two weeks ago, a packet of salt sold for Shs 2,500, up from Shs 600 in Gayaza. A colleague shared that in Lira town, salt sold for Shs 7,000, whereas another colleague from Soroti could not even find salt at whatever price he was willing to pay.
Authorities in power ought to know that any attack on common people’s very bare means of livelihood can be very effective in triggering regime change. In short, hoarders, buyers in bulk and price speculators can be very effective agents of regime change.
The 1972/3 global food crisis was triggered by hoarding grain and price speculation by multinational companies and retailers in order to fetch premium prices.
At the 1974 Global Food Summit, all the powers that mattered spoke one voice: ‘expanding and entrenching tight corporate control of the world’s food reserves’, the very problem that plunged the world into a crisis!
Coronavirus: Don’t disregard human rights
The president has progressively issued new directives to the public on the fight against coronavirus. I have been part of those challenging the legality of the directives in the absence of the statutory instrument by the minister of Health.
We kept pushing until the statutory instrument was issued on March 24. But will this instrument act retrospectively? What was the basis for the arrest of those people before the issuance of the statutory instrument?
Isn’t this an infringement of rights and a rape of the rule of law, especially Article 23 of our Constitution that bars any arrest of individuals in absence of any law?
Secondly, I have seen security agencies beat up people in Mityana, Busia and other parts of the country in the name of enforcing the directives. This is illegal and a violation of human rights as there is no law subjecting “offenders” to corporal punishment.
Then again, the security agencies cannot also be the arresting officers, prosecutors and judges at the same time!
I know it is a tough time that needs tough measures but we cannot disregard the rule of law and human rights in the name of Covid-19. I implore every citizen to adhere to the safety precautions issued and the rules set up by the minister to avoid contact and spread of the Covid-19 but also call upon the security agencies to exercise their duty in accordance with the law.
Otherwise, they may face legal implications for violating the rights of individuals especially under the Enforcement of Human Rights Act and their common orders from above will not be a defence.
Help low-income earners
The COVID-19 outbreak in Uganda has put a spotlight on economic inequalities and a fragile social safety net that leaves vulnerable communities to bear the economic brunt of the crisis.
Policymakers need to consider these underlying inequalities in responding urgently to the mounting challenges of the pandemic. While the virus infects people regardless of wealth, the poor will be most affected due to longstanding segregation by income and race, reduced economic mobility, and the high cost of medical care.
Low-income communities are more likely to be exposed to the virus, have higher mortality rates, and suffer economically. The government of Uganda should target the low-income communities that will be hit first and hardest, and ensure adequate standard of living for all.
Low-income jobs in fields like retail, hospitality, childcare, and the gig economy cannot be performed remotely, and in Uganda the majority do not offer paid sick leave or health insurance.
Most of the people living in poverty in Uganda have no savings to weather lack of income, and even stocking up on food can represent an impossible financial hurdle.
Due to the lack of resources to prepare and protect against the coronavirus, the poor face a higher risk of contracting and subsequently spreading the virus.
Under international human rights law, the government has an obligation to protect people’s right to an adequate standard of living, which includes ensuring adequate food and nutrition, the highest attainable standard of health, and social security.
While immediate income support is important, long-term and targeted support will be needed because if the crisis prevails for several months, one-time income support will not prevent families from facing foreclosure or eviction.
Facing Covid-19 head-on
The world is changing in front of our very eyes, and this is a reality we have to embrace with a positive attitude. Over the years, we have had a quick glance at the evolvement of how work and operations in different businesses and industries including the banking sector will be conducted.
I believe, for many, it still seemed like it is a whole lifetime away. With the disruption caused by and acceleration of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic globally, we are now in that future whether we realize it or not.
The government has halted public transport and further limited the use of private means of transport for a country where majority of families have more than three members.
Sadly, for work or business, not many are prepared for it, let alone have a grasp on the quick simple things to do to manage in this time. This is not a question for just employers, boards and shareholders; in fact, the bigger question is for the individual, the employee.
At a time like this, each and everyone must now urgently reconstruct their capability to fit into this now present future, while asking questions like: what skillsets, contributions, are truly core and valuable to the current industry, business, employer especially in relation to the position I hold?
We have witnessed several questions being asked across different social media platforms on how to do certain things, video and audio conferencing calls; how to share internet bundles; how to solve basic computer issues with the IT admin away.
Some have got answers while others are still stuck in the nightmare. This disruption could not spare me from asking myself the following questions which I now pose to us all.
How is our customer evolving? What exactly should we be telling them now? What is the new customer journey and experience, and how can we support them attain the best experience amidst this evolution? What are their pertinent needs and how best do we ensure they are serviced to their expectations?
What value are you going to provide them in this new future that they are willing to pay for? How are budget priorities changing? More importantly, who is the new customer?
And finally, how am I as an individual in business, or as a staff ready to deliver in this time?
There are more questions than answers at this point. That is why during this time of #StayHome#StaySafe, it is imperative to seek out and discover possible insights and pathways into the new world as you grow in capabilities so that you are able to stand out during and when the storm is over.