Kampala, Uganda — Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng has lately come under fire over what critics have termed as “insufficient precautionary measures” to curb the spread of coronavirus in Uganda.
The minister has been accused of not observing the social distancing as one of the measures introduced and advocated for by her ministry. The accusation, however, surfaced at the time when the minister was eying the Lira District woman MP seat in the 2021 polls.
Trouble started on Friday when Dr Aceng launched the distribution of face masks in Aromo Sub County in Lira District.
“When I went to the venue where she (Dr Aceng) was launching the distribution of face masks, people were crowded and it was only the minister wearing face mask,” Ms Joy Atim Ongom, the incumbent Lira District Woman Member of Parliament, told journalists in Lira Town on Saturday.
“What the minister did is contrary to measures she has been advocating for to contain the spread of coronavirus which includes regular hand washing, social distancing and wearing of face mask in public,” she added.
The legislator also accused the Ministry of Health of using the National Resistance Movement (NRM) cadres during the launch of the face masks instead of health workers.
Ms Ongom also acknowledged that she shared the videos and pictures currently making rounds on social media to tell the world how the minister is making a U-turn in Covid-19 response.
However, the ruling NRM party has fired back; saying the allegations against Dr Aceng are politically motivated. The NRM party spokesman in Lira, Mr Jacob Ocen, dismissed the allegations as baseless.
“Joy Ongom was chased away by security when she invaded the venue where the minister was launching the distribution of face mask, yet she was not invited,” he said.
Mr Ocen also clarified that the minister does not need to seek for permission to carryout government activities as claimed by Ms Ongom.
“What I know is that Joy Ongom is very scared of losing her woman MP seat to Dr Aceng, that’s why she is panicking all the time whenever she hears that minister is carrying out any government activity in Lira,” he added.
Mr Ocen, who said he was speaking on behalf of Dr Aceng, told Daily Monitor on Sunday that there was no cause for alarm if indeed the minister used NRM cadres during the Friday’s event.
“UPC where Joy Ongom belongs does not have party manifesto that is why their president does not contest for Uganda presidency. But for us as NRM, it is the role of the cadres to monitor the implementation of our party manifesto,” the NRM spokesman in Lira said.
Dr Aceng clarifies
The minister has also clarified on the allegations saying: “My attention is drawn to social media posts of pictures of me meeting crowds with no social distancing and no masks and even alleging that I was holding a political rally,” she said.
“I would like to reiterate that I was not holding a political rally. I was launching the distribution of face masks in Aromo Sub County and training people on how to properly use the masks on Friday July 10, 2020. However, at the same time, Village Health Teams and other youth were also being oriented on the processes for distribution of the long lasting [insecticide treated] mosquito net distribution nearby.”
The minister clarified that the locals got so excited when they heard about face masks, and specifically the minister for Health whom they call ‘mama corona’ and rushed to see her.
“They were difficult to control as seen in the picture as many wanted to take pictures and also get masks from me,” the minister clarified.
Ms Ongom has, however, vowed that she cannot allow Dr Aceng to easily uproot her from her seat in the forthcoming polls.
“She has been pretending to be close to me yet she was courting my husband (Lira), but I will never allow her to grab my husband,” Ms Ongom told journalists on Friday.
Dr Aceng has declared her intention to contest for Lira District woman MP under NRM party ticket. But this announcement has since not gone down well with the incumbent MP, who is accusing the minister of using the popularity she gained in the fight against Covid-19 to venture into politics.
Ms Ongom has served two terms in Parliament under the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party.