Transporters urge presidents Museveni and Kagame to lift the blockade
Nairobi based bus companies that ply the Kampala-Kigali route are counting heavy losses following the month-long lock-down in the two neighbouring countries.
Speaking to The Weekly Vision, bus operators said they had been forced to lay off hundreds of workers due to the loss of business to Covid-19 lock-downs imposed by Uganda and Rwanda. Since last year Kampala has been on and off “total lockdown” after Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni claimed public transport was the “number one super spreader”.
President Museveni recently hosted Kenyan deputy president William Ruto in Kampala, the two men openly shook hands before Museveni proceeded to introduce several government officials to his guest. Nobody was at the event was putting on a face mask as William Ruto hardly puts on any at public functions. There was no social distance either or hand washing. This has caused many Ugandans to wonder whether the “high and mighty” are “immune” to Covid, they lashed out at Museveni for abusing Covid protocols while applying “selective” lock-downs of “caging people like chicken”
Museveni then poured thousands of troops on Kampala streets to enforce the disabling Covid safeguards that have created a living nightmare on most of the low-income Ugandans living from hand to mouth.
At the start of July this year, despite largely low infections in the country compared to Kenya, the Kampala government imposed a 30-day “total lock-down” shutting down the entire public transport network including Boda boda and bicycles operators. Many Ugandans in Kampala who depend on earning wages daily told The Weekly Vision that they face imminent starvation due to the lock-down. At one-time government trucks handed out relief food to low-income earners around Kampala and its suburbs but this soon petered out.
Now the long-distance bus operators in Nairobi who include Dream-line, Marsh Poa, Kampala Coach, Easy Coach, and Modern Coast bus among others, say their passenger and parcel services have ground to a halt. They said the loss of business due to Covid restrictions had forced them to lay off hundreds of workers employed in Nairobi and satellite towns on the routes up to Kampala and Kigali. Kenya’s decision to put the Lake Victoria basin regions under lock-down this July only worsened an already bad situation for bus operators.
The buses have since closed down offices in Uganda, Rwanda and scaled-down operations in Nairobi. They say they will only fully re-open when the lock-down is lifted. The Covid havoc has devastated many trading centres along the international highway costing small traders who sold food and refreshments to passengers during stop-overs huge losses.
Many of the trading centres from Naivasha, Nakuru, Luanda, Kisumu in Kenya, Namayemba and Naluwerere in Uganda have virtually turned into ghost towns as roads remain deserted. Many of the bus operators said they are hopeful Kampala will lift the paralyzing blockade of public transport which expires on July 30 2021 that has confined Ugandans indoors for a whole month.
Western governments and international health researchers have faulted extended lock-downs by some African governments. Some leaders have been accused of applying “random” and “un-scientific” lock-downs that are not economically “prudent” for political gain.
Health researchers have warned that the growing “mutation” of Covid into different strains was being aggravated by the economic backlash arising from lock-downs that have eroded incomes, loss of jobs and a real threat of famine. Scientists argue that “hungry” and “impoverished” masses would be unlikely to be bothered by the restrictions when their immediate need is putting food on the table.
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