— The Erimtan Angle —

At the end of July, AP’s Rodney Muhumuza reported from Kampala that the “deadly Ebola virus has killed 14 people in western Uganda this month, Ugandan health officials said on Saturday [, 28 July], ending weeks of speculation about the cause of a strange disease that had many people fleeing their homes. The officials and a World Health Organization representative told a news conference in Kampala Saturday that there is “an outbreak of Ebola” in Uganda”.[1]

The website Prime Health Channel informs us that the ‘period of incubation for ebola virus hemorrhagic fever is usually 5 to 18 days but may extend from 2 to 21 days depending on the type of virus that one contracts. The Ebola virus symptoms hemorrhagic disease that is generally noticed in individuals contracting the viral disease are high fever, nausea and vomiting, headache, muscular pain, malaise, inflammation of the pharynx, and diarrhea accompanied with bloody discharge, and the development of maculopapular rashes along with bleeding at other body orifices. Besides these, abdominal pain, joint pain, chest pain, coagulopathy, hiccups, low blood pressure, sclerotic arterioles, purpura, petechia are the other symptoms that are particular to the species of Zaire ebola virus and Sudan ebola virus. This kind of reference to these two particular species of virus is due to the fact that the other three species of ebola virus are either non–pathogenic to human beings or have very few cases to facilitate the detection of its symptoms’.[2]  

On Sunday, 5 August, the Ugandan reporter Paul Bushariza explains in some detail that it “is just over 10 years since Uganda suffered its first Ebola outbreak. At the time Uganda troops had just been withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and a huge contingent was camped at Aswa Ranch in northern Uganda. This and the fact that the outbreak was first registered around that area led to the suggestion that some soldiers may have come across the border with the hemorrhagic fever. I am not aware that attempts to find patient zero – the initial patient, were successful. Last week, the Government confirmed that the virus had resurfaced in western Uganda with a high concentration of cases in Kibaale district. The knee jerk reaction was to attribute the outbreak to the huge influx of refugees fleeing fighting in north Kivu province in the DRC, last month. But the largest influx of refugees was in Kisoro, more than 200km south of Kagadi, where at last count all but one of the country’s 25 isolated patients were registered. Suspicion has shifted to the Kibaale forest which has a high concentration of primates and birds, which act as transmitters of the virus. The last outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever was recorded in Bundibugyo in 2007. The disease takes its name from the River Ebola in northern DRC, where the disease’s first recorded outbreak was identified in 1976. I covered the first Ebola outbreak in northern Uganda and have cursorily followed how the country handled the subsequent outbreak in Bundibugyo and the current one, the response time is nothing but laudable”.[3]

Bushariza’s op-ed continues: “Our health system is creaking under the weight of such preventable diseases as diarrhea, respiratory infections and malaria. But now like it or not we share borders with a country with no health system to speak of, but which, with its largely uninhabited jungle, is a petri dish for any number of tropical diseases, some of which, God knows, have not been identified by modern medicine [, meaning the DRC or Democratic Republic of Congo]. It does not help matters that the areas bordering us are in perpetual turmoil necessitating large uncoordinated movements of people, enough of whom find their way across our borders. The truth is the DRC is a security risk to us in more ways than just rebels straining at the bits to get at Kampala. At the beginning of this century, the George W. Bush’s administration commissioned a study on AIDS/HIV among other things it examined the effect of a runway HIV/AIDS epidemic on the US national security. The report has not been publicly released but it prompted the Bush administration to channel billions of dollars at providing ARVs to up to two million AIDS patients in Africa, prevent seven million new infections and provide support to another 10 million sufferers by 2010. Borrowing a leaf, if the worst comes to the worst, it would be in Uganda’s national interest in the not so distant future to start providing health services in eastern Congo, as the alternative barring Congolese from crossing into Uganda or Ugandans into to Congo is impractical”.[4]

The eastern part of the DRC has been the scene of fierce fighting recently. The Rwandan writer Aninta Kikoto opines that “[c]onflict in the mineral-rich region in Eastern Congo has caused thousands of deaths and up to 420,000 people have abandoned their homes. Rwanda alone, has received some 20,000 Congolese – and the number is rising daily. Despite the different reports from the UN, aid agencies and rights groups, the problem still stands. Apart from mentioning how difficult the situation is for the Congolese people especially those in the war-torn areas, what are the tangible solutions to end this war? Are there suggestions and recommendations under way such as more troops – sufficient enough to end the conflict and restore peace in war torn Eastern DRC?  M23 rebel spokesperson, Lt Colonel Jean Mary Vianney Kazarama, said that continued provocation from DRC government soldiers – while the government remains unwilling to negotiate, will only make matters worse”.[5]  In other words, the civil war in Congo is far from over. Kikoto continues that in “a spate of a few days, the previously unknown group which Kinshasa calls “bandits”, have expanded their control over large areas. They are said to be a few kilometers from Goma, the capital of North Kivu. Many now view M23 as well organised, and arguably one reason why fingers have been pointed at Rwanda as supporting the rebel group. It may sound ambitious hearing that M23 would fight and take over bigger towns – later alone Kinshasa, but the rebels are confident they can. “If our demands are not respected we continue fighting – why not to takeover Goma, Kananga or Kinshasa?,” [the M23 rebel spokesperson, Lt Colonel Jean Mary Vianney] Kazarama said. The M23 spokesperson is keen to reaffirm what pushed them to take up arms; “We want the 2009 agreement to be respected. That is ensuring of democracy. Sixty thousand of our family members are refugees in neighboring countries and need to come back home, we want the issue of military ranks and salaries to be addressed as well” . . . Routine followers of the DRC conflict since 1998 say peace talks will end the war. Dr Omar Kharfan, a political science don at the National University of Rwanda explains the situation using two theories, which he says can resolve the conflict. There is the “zero-sum game” and “non-zero-sum game”. The first describes a situation in which a participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant. Here one side is eager to defeat the other and take over. The “non-zero-sum” is where the two parties choose to sit at the table where they share the gains and losses. It describes a situation in which the interacting parties weigh whether the gains and losses are either less or more than zero. It is this approach that Dr Kharfan believes brings more gains”.[6]  So, what will it be . . . a “zero-sum game” or a “non-zero-sum game”???

As for the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, the AP reports that a ‘World Health Organization official said Friday [, 3 August] that the [Ugandan] authorities were halting the spread of the deadly disease. The official, Joaquim Saweka, the W.H.O. representative in Uganda, said everyone known to have had contact with Ebola victims had been isolated. Ugandan health officials have created an “Ebola contact list” with the names of people who had even the slightest contact with those who had contracted Ebola. The list now bears 176 names. Ebola was confirmed in Uganda on July 28, several days after villagers were dying in a remote western corner of the country. Ugandan officials were slow to investigate possible Ebola because the victims did not show the usual symptoms, like coughing blood. At least 16 Ugandans have died of the disease. Delays in confirming Ebola allowed the disease to spread to more villages deep in the western district of Kibale, President Yoweri Museveni said. This is the fourth outbreak of Ebola in Uganda since 2000, when the disease killed 224 people and left hundreds more traumatized in northern Uganda. Mr. Saweka said that organizations like Doctors Without Borders and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were helping Ugandan officials to control the spread of the disease’.[7]


[1] Rodney Muhumuza, “Officials: Ebola breaks out in Uganda” AP (28 July 2012). http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-07-28/officials-ebola-breaks-out-in-uganda.

[2] Akshay, “Signs and Symptoms of Ebola Virus” Prime Health Channel (11 January 2011). http://www.primehealthchannel.com/ebola-virus-symptoms-pictures-structure-facts-and-history.html.

[3] Paul Bushariza, “Ebola exposes Uganda’s precarious position” New Vision (05 August 2012). http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/633774-ebola-exposes-uganda-s-precarious-position.html.

[4] Paul Bushariza, “Ebola exposes Uganda’s precarious position”.

[5] Aninta Kikoto, “Rwanda : Is there any alternative to Eastern Congo’s conflict?”  News Of Rwanda (05 August 2012). http://newsofrwanda.com/irembo/11732/rwanda-alternative-eastern-congos-conflict/.

[6] Aninta Kikoto, “Rwanda : Is there any alternative to Eastern Congo’s conflict?”.

[7] “Uganda: Ebola Outbreak Slows, Health Official Says” AP (03 August 2012). http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/04/world/africa/uganda-ebola-outbreak-slows-health-official-says.html.

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