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Uganda Uses Archaic Law to Manage COVID-19- Rights Activists

Sarah Bireete, the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) notes that while the government would have quickly enacted a guiding law like was done in other countries, they resorted to presidential decrees where the president illegally turned himself into a lawmaker.

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The continued closure of places of worship and schools is being done illegally, Human Rights Activists have said noting that the legal framework that Uganda adopted to manage the COVID-19 pandemic was archaic.

They say that the president used the Public Health Act 1935, yet an act of parliament cannot be used to suspend constitutional provisions like fundamental rights.

Sarah Bireete, the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) notes that while the government would have quickly enacted a guiding law like was done in other countries, they resorted to presidential decrees where the president illegally turned himself into a lawmaker.

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According to Bireete, the World Bank has already pointed out flaws in Uganda’s approach when they noted in their 2020 report that for every life that Uganda saved from contracting COVID-19, another five lives were lost through draconian enforcement mechanisms. This includes unborn babies, people brutalized by enforcers of Standard Operating Procedures and patients who couldn’t access care.

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She says Uganda should have picked lessons from Kenya that moved ahead and enacted a specific COVID-19 restriction law which guided on how they were to handle the pandemic with its uniqueness.

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Primah Kwagala, a Human Rights Lawyer notes that the country experienced the worst violations in the initial lockdown first instituted in March 2020 where the government didn’t put in place any exceptions for key people including pregnant women who failed to make it to the hospital for either delivery or routine antenatal care.

As a result of this, Kawempe National Referral Hospital that records  an average of up to 24,000 deliveries annually and ranks as  the leading hospital to conduct deliveries on the continent had its figures reduce to as low as 21,000.

Dr Nehemia Katusiime told journalists that away from the reduction in hospital deliveries, they now see a lot of young mothers presenting with complications that arise from conceiving too soon.

This too comes up because a lot of children who after suspension of school got pregnant something that Kwagala refers to as a kind of systematic violence. She says the government ought to have put women keen on women rights on the COVID-19 task force such that such issues like these would have been speedily handled.

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