SOROTI – When Desert Locusts invaded Uganda in 2020, Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Minister, Vincent Bamulanzeki Ssempijja, became busier than ever before – trying to ensure that Uganda got rid of the destructive insects.
And indeed the insects were ‘defeated’ through a well coordinated approach – which the Ugandan Army – UPDF spearheaded. But Ssempijja’s political career was ‘injured’ in the process; and the rest is history.
“Can you imagine that fellow Mps ‘baptized’ me ‘Nzige’ – In the corridors of parliament – they would address me as such? And even the religious leaders picked the same talk – because they believed the pests’ invasion was own creation to swindle government funds?,” narrated Ssempijja passionately at Soroti Flying School on Friday at a function where FAO and other development partners handed over items, worth $11m.
The items – including three vehicles, 22 motorcycles, Mobile Storage Units – MSUs; surveillance kits; personal protective equipment -PPE; Spray pumps and chemical are meant for efforts to control desert locust – especially in the areas bordering Kenya – where a second wave is anticipated.
More than twice, Minister Ssempijja nearly said that should the pests strike again – as anticipated – they should be left to cause havoc – as it happened in 1942 – when the swarms invaded Uganda – causing untold suffering for nine years.
“But, even in class, not all students will understand at the same level; some will pick very fast while take time…the only advantage is that the auditor general cleared that ‘talk’ and declared that no single coin was swindled…..and what amuses is that the Desert Locusts’ invasion is the only situation in Uganda where an audit was carried out as the execution was ongoing,” said Ssempijja as he rolled his eyes.
Ssempijja, like many other minister from the Buganda region, lost his parliamentary seat – Kalungu County East in a wave that is attributed to a number factors.
Earlier at the same function, Ssempijja’s junior – Aggrey Bagiire, too echoed that the 2020 destructive insects’ attack could have been averted but his boss had been affected.
The Friday function, were at least 22 districts from Teso, Karamoja, Lango, Acholi and Elgon sub-regions were listed to be on high alert, comes after what experts described as change in weather pattern.
Evariste Magara, an expert in desert locusts control revealed that the swarms were likely to invade Uganda from the Elgon Greenbelt or Ssesse Island, owing to the fact that Kenya had become a breeding ground; while Tanzania – which had taken more 70 years without any attacks was invaded in January and February this year.
FAO representative in Uganda, H.E Antonio Querido promised continue support towards Uganda – pledging the heavy trucks’ donations promised earlier would be delivered before the of March.
He also noted that families sub-region of Karamoja, Teso, Lango, Acholi and Elgon would be provided with high quality seeds and later selected families given financial support.