While addressing the World Health Summit in June this year, President Yoweri Museveni confidently told the international community that Uganda was on the road to produce her own COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021.
It has now emerged that the President has been fed on misleading and potentially embarrassing information by his trusted team of scientists led by the Minister of Science Technology and Innovations Dr. Monica Musenero.
Findings by this newspaper indicate that there is no evidence of a concerted effort by Ugandan researchers or laboratory establishment to lead one to believe that a human vaccine against a disease as dangerous as COVID, let alone a mild infection, can be realistically expected from Uganda this year or even in the near future.
This conclusion is based on a number of facts including interviews with the country’s leading scientists, the country’s lack of infrastructure, the sophisticated process of vaccine development and chaotic nature of handling of COVID-related research presided over by the Minister.
Dr. Musenero told the media this week that Uganda is pursuing four vaccines and has reached stage seven ( Have completed animal trials) while on the second vaccine, she said they have recorded 50%, progress but are held up by delays in importation of equipment.
But the lack of transparency surrounding the alleged vaccine development exercise has deepened suspicion in the scientific community leading many to conclude that the process is a mere imagination in the mind of the minister.
In the first place the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) the only body that is authorized to approve such sensitive research says it is not sure what stage of the development of the research has reached.
Its Acting Executive Director Dr. Martin Ongol told The Sunrise that they issued approvals for clinical trials early this year, but is not aware how far they have reached.
Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, the Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in Entebbe, which is the most advanced virus handling facility in the country, distanced himself from any claims about a study being carried out.
When asked by this newspaper whether he is aware of any research work happening in his institution, Prof. Kaleebu, simply said; “No. You should ask Musenero.”
Another scientist who preferred anonymity, said the purported COVID Vaccine research is non-existent, but only a shadowy project to swindle public funds.
“If Makerere University or UVRI laboratories are not involved in such a research, where would it be happening? Secondly, there is no research study that does not have a principle investigator. No body has stepped out since this rumour started to say I am the principle investigator of this vaccine initiative,” the source adds.
The scientist argues further that Uganda, let alone the entire African continent does not have the level of sophisticated infrastructure and safety requirements for production of human vaccines.
Adding credence to the fears that Dr. Musenero is operating a futile exercise that will cost tax payers billions, Ntungamo Municipality Member of Parliament Yona Musinguzi, a qualified epidemiologist himself, this week told Parliament that he had been to PRESIDE, offices in Ntinda to find out the truth about the Vaccine exercise but didn’t find a single scientist or scientific equipment to suggest anything was being done there.
Musinguzi told Parliament that: “Yesterday I was at their head office in Ntinda, where the so-called [Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics] PRESIDE is. I have not found there any test tube in that office, there is no laboratory, I have not found there any scientist because I found there her cousin who is a security guard, guarding only chairs in the office. But Madam Speaker let this Parliament not be used for rubber stumping of masqueraders to come and withdraw money, siphon and take, we remain here clapping that we are passing a budget yet we are passing it in peoples’ pockets.”
“Money has been siphoned by people who have marketed themselves and go to the President lie to him that they can produce vaccines. They even chased away right doctors who would have done wonders in the ministry of science. These people even went ahead and convinced the president to abolish the whole Ministry all in the name of siphoning the country,”
Deputy Speaker Anita Among asked Dr. Musinguzi to document his claims so that the House can debate the matter. Deputy Speaker Among promised to give Minister Musenero a chance to defend herself against the accusations on Tuesday November 9, 2021.
Another group of scientists, who declined to identify themselves, but whom The Sunrise has interacted with, Petitioned the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and made numerous claims that Dr. Musenero’s conduct not only causes embarrassment to the President but has also abused office, and caused loss to tax payers worth over UGX50 billion under the pretext that the country was trying to develop a vaccine and drugs, and yet there is nothing to show.
This week Minister Musenero took a team of scientists and businessmen, including Uganda’s distinguished medic Prof. Francis Omaswa and Capt. Mike Mukula to State House where, President Museveni presided over the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the so-called Serum Africa Medical Research Institute to make a COVID-19 Vaccine.
But Musenero’s critics argue the MoU is mostly likely an escape route as the truth about the lies increasingly become clear.
It is not clear for now if the so-called Serum Africa Medical Research Institute has any links with the reputable Serum Institute in India, but an internet search about this so called Serum Africa Medical Research Institute, does not show any connection with the Indian Entity.
Critics say it is most likely to be just a locally registered entity with a similar name to confuse the unsuspecting public.
This Newspaper sent inquiries to the Indian body on the alleged link between the two bodies but is yet to get feedback.
Efforts to get a comment from Minister Musenero were futile as her phone was repeatedly switched off.
Below are two versions of the four-page petition
The First is a downloadable PDF format of the letter titled: Dr Musenero Fleeces Govt of 59 billions in fake COVID solution ( Petition to IGG)(1) and
The Second a Picture format of the scanned Letter