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Was Museveni, Ruto duped on Covid-19 vaccine project?

A Covid-19 vaccine project championed in Kampala by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and Kenya Deputy President William Ruto appears to have fallen flat.

This is after media reports in Uganda indicated that Museveni and, to an extent Ruto, were given false hopes on the capacity and capabilities of Ugandan scientists to produce Covid-19 vaccines.

Uganda’s former Science, Technology and Innovation minister Elioda Tumwesigye, while appearing before a parliamentary committee also said that the project had caused ‘anxiety’ amongst Ugandans.

The committee is aimed at inquiring into the utilizations of funds meant for the vaccine project was also informed that UGX 31 billion (about Sh1 billion had been allocated for research.

“By the way, we’re still far away at least in manufacturing vaccines, the country needs to build capacity. Taking too long wouldn’t be unexpected, and what so far is being put in place is good…because the next time we get a new disease, we know how to handle it. Now our people know, the procedure, we need to get technology for some of this work,” said Tumwesigye as quoted by the Observer.

“I think what was not fair was giving inadequate information to our head of state (read Museveni) and then he would go to the press and address the nation and promise that maybe in the next few months, next month or weeks we shall have this.

Ruto, who is now gunning to succeed his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of the August 2022 polls, travelled to Uganda to specifically launch the project alongside Museveni in July 2021.

He later praised the project on his return home, and claimed he’d facilitated Equity Bank, a Kenyan lender, to advance a Sh15 billion loan towards the project.

“The investor of that factory came to this office and sat on the same seat where you are seated two years ago and asked if I could connect them with Equity Bank,” the DP said, during an interview at his official residence in Nairobi.

“I picked the phone, called Equity and told them that ‘there is an investor in my office and because you have a branch in Uganda; can you help him set up the business he wants? So when the individual succeeded and got Sh15 billion loan and proceeded to put up the company, where is the problem if I am invited for the launch?”

Equity Bank though denied advancing the said loan.

“We have not extended a facility of Sh15 billion to any pharmaceutical company in Uganda. We want records to reflect that,” Equity Group director for legal services Christine Browne told a parliamentary committee in Kenya.