During the Ebola attack in Uganda, Gen. Tumukunde was then the commander of the 4th division. This lethal disease was first reported on October 8th, 2000 in Gulu district where the 4th division is situated. Characterized by fever and hemorrhagic manifestations, Ebola unleashed the first terror on the health workers and the general public of Rwoti-Obillo a village located fourteen kilometers north of Gulu town but later spread to other parts of the country. The country was in shock as this was a strange but killer disease that had attacked us and other African states at that time.
As a mechanism to counter the disease, a number of coordination committees, which included an inter-Ministerial Task Force, District Task Force and the National Task Force, were formed. These Committees mainly performed follow up and supervisory role of the activities that were launched to contain the disease. But behind the curtains were real foot soldiers that performed hands on roles of containing the disease. These were mainly comprised of doctors/ health workers and 4th division UPDF soldiers commanded by the then Brigadier but later Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde. The hands-on teams with the super guidance of their leaders did a distinguished job and confined the disease with in a period of one year.
A paper presented to the International Congress on Infectious Disease indicates that the percentage death toll of the detected cases in Gulu district was the lowest standing at 51.7 per cent compared to Mbarara and Masindi at 80 per cent and 63 per cent respectively. The report further indicates that Gulu registered 393 Ebola cases and 203 deaths, Mbarara registered 5 cases and 4 deaths while Masindi registered 27 cases and 17 deaths. The total Ebola epidemic detected cases were 425 and 224 deaths making the total percentage death toll stand at 52.7 per cent. This clearly shows that the Ebola epidemic was highly managed and contained in Gulu district courtesy of the command and leadership of Henry Tumukunde as compared to other areas that were hit by this deadly disease.
Considering the terrible security situation in Gulu district at that time when the LRA rebellion was at its peak, the disease had the capacity to penetrate and kill a big number of people in the district but the thorough and methodical efforts and dedication of the security and health team headed by Tumukunde was able to tame and contain the strange disease that had attacked most parts of northern Uganda. I want to appreciate the efforts of these teams and in a special way applaud their commander because in most cases success entirely depends on the leadership offered. But also, I want to also continue to mourn and celebrate all those doctors/health workers that lost their lives while at the frontlines of fighting Ebola both in Uganda and the rest of the world. May their beautiful souls continue to rest in eternal peace.
As the world grapples with COVID-19 pandemic commonly known as Coronavirus, it has reminded me of the commanders that battled and defeated Ebola that was equally strange and lethal like the contemporary Coronavirus. One of them is Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde who is currently incarcerated in Luzira Upper prison over charges of treason and illegal possession of firearms but after announcing that he will stand for the presidency in the 2021 general elections. I also want to thank off course the late Dr. Mathew Lukwiya, a dedicated Ugandan Physician who put everything behind to fight Ebola but ended up perishing. Based on the account of how Ebola was handled and defeated in Gulu district under the command and control of Gen Tumukunde, I believe he holds wealthy expertise and experience in handling such kind of cases which fall in the same category like the present-day Coronavirus that has attacked the world and Uganda in particular. It is this Tumukunde’s experience that the country would tap into during this period when the country is engaged in the fight against COVID-19/Coronavirus.
The writer is a Ugandan Concerned Citizen and Researcher.