By Dr. Ben Mukasa
Last week I was shocked by an online story published by my former lecturer, Prof. Anthony Mbonye.
In the article, with all due respect, Prof. Mbonye sounds too emotional as he concentrates on making personal attacks on some key players disguising this as his professional assessment of the blunders made during Uganda’s response to COVID-19.
Mbonye begins by bashing the composition of the COVID_19 National Task Force and the Scientific Committee insinuating that both committees did not have eminent people with experience in infectious diseases.
On this he refers to historical and seasoned doctors, most of them retired, like Kenya Mugisha, Zaramba, Okware and Amandua who worked their way through various terms while mentoring junior officers and colleagues. Today, a number of these now senior officers, are the ones on these committees that he seeks to undermine.
I believe, as a mentor that he thinks he is, Mbonye would be proud to see these new talents exceling.
This is a satisfactory transition from one generation to another which Prof. Mbonye should embrace, just like his other colleagues and seniors did.
Mbonye also mentions his name as one of the key players left out in this COVID response. This is common of him; the too much ‘self-importance and feeling of being better than anybody else.’
This has made him fall out with colleagues in Makerere, at the Ministry where he was in acting capacity of the position of Director General, and in Uganda Christian University in Mukono.
He goes ahead to attack the Minister of Health and the Permanent Secretary for taking part in health communication activities against COVID_19 instead of leaving this to junior officers.
I think on this he should instead embrace the team for being hands on. At such a time of crisis, a message from leaders in the fight like the Minister of Health, herself, on wearing masks comes with more authority and catches more attention than any random recording on the same.
In behavior change communication, it is well known that leaders are change agents. We all remember the impact of the Minister’s taking her own child for measles/rubella vaccination during the 2019 mass campaign, on the many that had feared the exercise.
Mbonye also attacks the Ugandan scientists that are researching on diagnostic testing, treatment and vaccination on COVID-19.This is so heartbreaking to hear from a person of his caliber.
Uganda is reknown for her strides in research and development especially in HIV management and public health emergencies and some of this success came with his input.
Why is he too negative against the same efforts towards COVID-19? Is it because he does not appear in the picture?
I think it is okay to benchmark the foreign solutions but we should also support our own efforts as a country in areas of science and technology. We need to appreciate and support the brains of our well-learned and intellectual Ugandans.
We just need to build more capacity the way we did when the President directed that we stop importation of all PPEs like medical and not medical masks, coveralls, sanitizers etc and push for local manufacturing.
We are implementing ‘BUBU’, supporting local talent, using local products and generating revenue at a time when the world thought we would be on our knees, economically.
Finally, Prof. Mbonye talks about mismanagement and corruption at the Ministry that started the moment he left. This is very interesting because we hear it was the same reason for his immediate resignation from the Ministry of Health.
We hear it was steered by a corruption scandal that was being unearthed, of announcing a fake epidemic in some part of Uganda and using the health emergency to divert huge sums of money.
Okay let’s ignore that for now but as a responsible and connected citizen, when you get such details, write formally to the office of the IGG or the Anti-corruption unit or any other institutions responsible for fighting corruption.
If this is not just malicious talk, why just mention it in an online article without giving any details of the corruption, the players and timelines, for follow up.
While you may have all the qualifications on paper, it is important to put your brain and intellect to good use as well. I think Mbonye should have stopped at the self-embarrassing book he wrote attacking colleagues in the sector he had just left in 2019 otherwise he is beginning to embarrass himself as a petty cry baby in a Professors skin.
Over to you sympathizers, advisors and friends.
I close this by applauding all colleagues at the frontline from the top command to the last man on the ground. Only God can and will pay you for the sacrifices made, known and unknown.
Let us continue ignoring the ignorance of those that try to downpour our efforts in this struggle. Together we can.