Uganda: Govt Declines Calls to Relax Curfew Hours

Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda yesterday declined to grant a request from Members of Parliament to drop the curfew to allow the Muslim community observe their Ramadan prayers.

Dr Rugunda said the country is already experiencing a new wave and has identified new coronavirus variants which are stronger and affecting young people.

"These variants have been identified in a number of tests in Uganda. Some of them are causing more morbidity and mortality. We do not have too many weapons against Covid-19. That is why curfew is still maintained," Dr Rugunda told Parliament.

He added: "The suggestions are welcome. Some of them not quite agreeable to us while others are useful and will be considered. In the coming days, the President will address the nation about curfew and other measures that are necessary to prevent the spread of this pandemic which has been a menace to us and the world."

Dr Rugunda said during a Cabinet meeting on Monday, they agreed to maintain the curfew guidelines unless the scientists advise otherwise.

During the Parliamentary session yesterday, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga asked government to respond to concerns on curfew because it was economically affecting many people.

"I need someone to convince me. We had three months of campaigns in this country, did that bring a spike in infections? All of us here are products of that election. Churches are open. Sometimes you give us reasons that are difficult to justify. Burials are there. What is special about 9pm to 6am? Prime Minister, get better reasons for stopping us from living our lives. infections have come down," Ms Kadaga said.

Many MPs also disagreed with government's decision to maintain the curfew saying it was being applied selectively and some security officers were using it to extort money from the public.

The leader of Opposition, Ms Betty Aol Ocan said: "Curfew is there in theory. Curfew is for soldiers to extort money from the population."

Kawempe Division MP Abdulatif Sengendo Sebaggala asked government to reconsider its position on the curfew hours because they were affecting their Ramadan prayers which started yesterday.

He was seconded by Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa who said more than 200 National Resistance Movement (NRM) party members, especially newly elected MPs from the party, are meeting in Kyankwanzi District, which exceeds the number that was recommended by the national Covid-19 taskforce for any gathering.

"What criteria is used that others meet and others are denied. Given the reality on ground, allow the Muslims to enjoy Ramadan," Mr Basalirwa said.

Kilak South County MP Gilbert Olanya said the government should provide scientific evidence that Covid-19 spreads after 9pm.

Internal Affairs Minister Abubaker Jeje Odongo defended government, saying the Taraweeh prayers conducted during Ramadan from 9pm to 10pm are not compulsory and should not be used to drop Covid-19 measures.

He explained that the earlier communication from police allowing Muslims to pray up to 10pm had been withdrawn and promised to take action on security operatives accused of extorting money from the public.

"The message which was sent to extend curfew beyond 10pm was sent in error. He is not authorized to send out such messages. It has been withdrawn. We have taken note of police taking money at roadblocks. On Thursday this week, I will be chairing the Police Authority and we will be taking action on officers that have already been culpable in this matter," Gen Jeje said.

Measures...SOPs

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, the government set up a number of standard operating procedures to curb its spread including a curfew from 7am to 6am. However this was later changed to begin at 9am.

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