KAMPALA - Uganda's Health Minister Dr. Jane Aceng finds herself a subject of controversy these days, after videos of her meeting with supporters without her mask on were made public.
Another video shows the minister, who is seeking a parliament seat in northern Uganda, taking part in a political procession and not practicing distancing.
Minister Aceng has spearheaded the fight against COVID-19 in Uganda, earning her the nickname Mama Corona. Public service announcements of her urging people to wear masks and maintain social distance are aired on local media.
Peter Magelah, a human rights lawyer with local NGO Chapter Four, said the minister should have adhered to her own guidelines given that some Ugandans think the virus is not real and is being used to achieve political gains.
"People have been arrested, people have been shot and killed, for not following guidelines issued and signed by her. And then you have the person who should be champion, is violating the very principles for which other people have been killed," he said.
Local reports say at least 10 people have been killed by security forces for violating guidelines set to control the spread of COVID-19. Uganda currently has more than 1,025 confirmed cases of the disease.
Minister of Information Judith Nabakooba said Ugandans should wear masks in public regardless of the health minister's actions.
"We regret the incident. Because we know very well, the guidelines have been repeatedly announced over and over again and we expected that each and every one should follow these guidelines. However, that should not be an excuse for Ugandans to use doctor as an example to abandon the guidelines put in place," said Nabakooba.
In a statement, Minister Aceng explains that she was not holding a political rally as claimed but was distributing mosquito nets and face masks.
She said supporters rushed forward to meet her, and "were difficult to control" as many wanted to get masks or take pictures with her.
The minister said she is aware of the rules and regulations the government put in place to stop COVID-19 and is urging Ugandans to adhere to them.