The security sector has a number of critical duties during a pandemic, most importantly to assist the implementation of public health policies. As has been the case during COVID-19, the police, army and other security agencies may be needed to support public compliance with laws or regulations regarding physical distancing, closing of businesses, bans on mass gatherings, lockdowns and stay-at-home measures or quarantines.
Other aspects of pandemic response are also natural responsibilities of the security sector, such as restrictions on international travel by border forces, immigration and port authorities.
However, in some parts of Mukono District, the police did the opposite when they reached to the extent of hindering health workers to give out Covid-19 services such as vaccination to the residents of Buzira Njovu Village in Nakisunga Sub-county.
In a security meeting held at the sub-county headquarters, the LC111 chairperson, Mr Mubarak Ssekikubo, said that police stopped the health workers and the district officials from accessing the place to carry out government services in the community. Mr Ssekikubo said the police were working on the commands of the investor known as Jonathan White, who bought the whole village’s land.
In this meeting, several leaders and head of security were present including the area Divisional Police Commander, SP Anabella Nyiramahoro. Mr Ssekikubo cited some previous government programs which were hindered by police to reach the residents, for example mosquito nets distribution.
Residents noted that after being left out in this Covid-19 mass exercise, they are in great fear for this virus which might kill them. They pleaded to the government to intervene because the investor does not allow any person to move from one village to another. Residents went ahead and pinned the investor for stopping them from carrying out any activity in this area.
“The police, under the command of the investor, closed the road not allowing any person to access the village. We have missed a lot of beneficial government programs because of the investor who claims to be the owner of this village,” the residents said.
Mr Yafesi Kiyaga, the Nakisunga Sub-county health officer, said that the health workers who were assigned to go to that area to conduct the immunization exercise of covid19 were blocked by police and that the village was left not immunized.
“No one in this village was immunized, including the village chairperson. This may lead our community to be severely affected by the third wave. In the second wave, the sub-county Covid-19 taskforce recorded only two Covid-19 patients,” Mr Kiyaga said.
He added that they do not only hinder the Covid-19 health workers but they have also hindered veterinary doctors from treating animals on orders of the investor. Mr Kiyaga appealed to higher authorities in the government to intervene in this matter.
Mr Ssekikubo asked the DPC to talk to her juniors to stop blocking the road and allow government workers to take services to the community. If not done, he promised to escalate the matter to higher authorities.
In her response, DPC Nyiramahoro, promised the residents and the sub-county governing body that she will visit the site and talk to her juniors to have the road opened for access.
The security sector does not operate in a vacuum and when it comes to responding to Covid-19, its role should support and enhance a civilian-led and inter-agency response that puts people’s health and safety first.