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Coronavirus fake news: Uganda president purportedly suspends rents

Coronavirus fake news: Uganda president purportedly suspends rents


As governments across the continent rally to keep out the coronavirus to work at containment, information flow has become important now more than ever.

The World Health Organization, WHO, early on in the outbreak warned against what it called an infodemic i.e. spread of unverified, untrue information about the disease.

With a steady spread of the disease across Africa, government have rolled out a range of mesures bothering on sensitization, social restrictions, closure of borders and banning of certain category of passengers.

Ugandan president is however gaining traction in a section of social media over his purported directives aimed at landlords and landladies. We fact checked this claim and reviewed the rent laws, we concluded that the claim is FALSE

Claim: Uganda suspends rent for 90 days

A March 18 statement widely shared on Ghana and Kenya social media spheres read in part:

“We regrettably wish to inform you all that due to the coronavirus pandemic that has affected the daily routine all over the country, we kindly urge you not to collect rent money from your tenants for the next 90 days (3 months).

“NB: Failure to comply to this, the government will take over your apartment (s) or you will be sentenced to jail for 7 years or both actions will be taken,” it concluded. Another variation of the rent suspension letter could be found here.

Uganda landlords not to collect rent for the next 3 months because of the #COVID19,. Kenya we need this law now StateHouseKenya WilliamsRuto pic.twitter.com/AinFuCPjJU

— Rafiki_ke ?? (@fidel_Ke) March 20, 2020

Fact check

President Yoweri Museveni has commented on the coronavirus three times since late February. On February 29, the president in a Twitter thread to citizens and people in Uganda largely cautioned citizens to take necessary precautions over the disease.

“Coronavirus is becoming a global threat. This means that we must rely heavily on our personal behavior first, while the ministry of health guides us on other measures. I am therefore appealing to every one of you, let us prevent this disease even at a personal level by precautionary behavior.

“Now as the ministry of health guides us, let us take a personal decision not to shake hands unnecessarily or expose ourselves to conditions that will facilitate the spread of Coronavirus,” he said at the time.

On March 10, he shared guidelines that had been published by the Ministry of Health with respect to mass gatherings in the country. He implored the poulace to take note and cooperate accordingly.

The Ministry of Health has issued guidelines for all mass gatherings in the country. Please take note and cooperate accordingly. We have no suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus and we still can avoid it. https://t.co/N1oK86pWTq

— Yoweri K Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni) March 10, 2020

March 18 was when he delivered a COVID-19 national address that was widely carried on all media across the country. It addressed a wide range of issues amongst them:

  • The closure of schools across the board
  • Closure of places of worship
  • Quarantine measures for citizens and foreigners alike
  • Restrictions and regulations on travel
  • Suspension of monthly markets for 32-days
  • Regulations on Uganda-style weddings
  • Directives on funerals and burials
  • Ban on places of social interaction – bars, cinemas, concerts, discos etc.

The government’s official handle for public communication, Uganda Media Center, has no record of the said directive. No major portal in the country has a report on it either.

Peek into Uganda’s current Landlord – Tenant law

In late January 2019, the Ugandan parliament passed the landlord-tenant bill into law. It is the current law that regulates the relationship between the two parties – be they commercial or residential transactions. Some of its key provisions include:

  • Landlords and tenants must sign tenancy agreements for rent transactions of over Shillings 500,000 ($130) with clear terms and conditions. All rent shall be settled and recorded in Shillings.
  • Tenancy disputes shall be handled in local council court and other courts of law. It also states the landlords can only evict tenants after securing court orders to do so.
  • Unlawful evictions attract a penalty of Shillings 5 million or jail term of one year or both upon conviction.
  • Landlords must give tenants an eviction notice of six months.
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