In Uganda, for the first time since 2013, more than three people can legally meet without needing to inform the police. Last week, parts of the Public Order Management Act, a law used to gag political opponents, was declared unconstitutional. But most Ugandans are staying away from crowds and keeping at home to control the spread of coronavirus.
The government moved quickly to close schools and universities. Measures became more and more stringent – closing borders, compulsory quarantine, banning public transport and the sale of non-food items at open markets.
While even the toughest critics of the president, Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 34 years, agree that these measures – and even more stringent ones – are necessary, they fear that the government may use coronavirus as an opportunity to clamp down on political freedoms once and for all.
The rest of the world is having a taste of what it feels like to live with human rights limitations. Traditional violators such as Uganda can claim to feel vindicated when they hear that democracies such as the UK have postponed local elections. The world is realising what many African leaders have known all along, they can argue: human rights are overrated and may stand in the way of “efficiency”.