Mbale, Uganda | URN | Bugisu region is at the risk of registering a spike in COVID-19 infections because of uncontrolled traditional circumcision (Imbalu) celebrations.
Our reporter can confirm that Imbalu celebrations are taking place across Bugisu districts comprising Bududa, Manafwa and Mbale in disregard of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
In Mbale, Imbalu processions can be seen in many places in Bufumbo, Budwale, Wanale and Mooni among other areas. Early this month, Inzu Ya Masaba, the Bamasaba Cultural Institution issued SOPs in line with Ministry of Health COVID-19 preventive guidelines that are generally ignored.
Key among the SOPs was the ban on Kadodi processions to avoid crowds, restrictions on the number of participants at each circumcision event to not more than people mainly family members to enforce social distancing and that each participant should wear a face mask and sanitize their hands to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Despite the SOPs issued by Inzu Ya Masaba, nothing has changed. Imbalu processions are as big as ever before.
Smearing of candidates with mud and visiting relatives by candidates are still very normal. Our reporter followed a big Imbalu procession accompanied by drums alias Kadodi from Bukigai to Nalufutu-Bunamubi Cultural site in Bududa district on Monday 24th, August 2020 afternoon.
None of the participants wore a face mask nor observed social distance as people danced away to the drums. No law enforcement officer showed up to try and stop the procession, which had hundreds of revellers, some of whom looked drunk.
Ahamada Washaki, the Manafwa Resident District Commissioner told this publication that the withdrawal of Local Defense Units (LDUs) has immensely affected the enforcement of COVID-19 preventive guidelines. He says the community is adamant to implement the SOPs set by the cultural institution.
Moses Kutoi, the Chairperson of Imbalu in Inzu Ya Masaba, says security teams haven’t done enough to stop Kadodi processions and enforce the SOPs. He says the cultural institution has tried to sensitize communities through radio talk shows but the communities have turned a deaf ear.
Rogers Taitika, the Elgon Region Police Spokesperson, says the enforcement of the guidelines requires the collective effort of all stakeholders due to limited police manpower.
Sironko Resident District Commissioner, Isaac Lulaba Wangwe, says unlike other areas, the situation is a little better in his district because of the continuous engagement with the local leaders and residents.
Circumcision is a very important ritual among the Bamasaba as it is part of the passage from childhood to adulthood. Every young Mumasaba boy has to undergo the ritual for special recognition and passage to adulthood.