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HomeLetter to the editorUma of Addis Ababa: Leading the Infantrymen against Novel Coronavirus

Uma of Addis Ababa: Leading the Infantrymen against Novel Coronavirus

Bekanbora Jemberu @(ቆ)Kobo
April 14, 2020

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Face the fear. 

War against the invisible enemy is now everywhere. Fear and death are rife across the world. Rich nations are not free, neither are poor worlds. The healthcare workers have been wrestling with Coronavirus disease betting their life on this deadly fight, the affliction remains there though. It even seems to have not reached its peak yet. No news appeared to have signaled our day with the downward journey of the Covid-19 cases and deaths to hit the lowest point ever since its outbreak. 

Fear does not persist. 

In any case, salute the infantrymen across the globe for their perseverance with heroic fight. As it’s explained in Wikipedia, infantrymen are just soldiers engaged in a battle on foot with a high chance of exposure to casualty and psychological stress compared to other military forces. By the same token, nowadays, healthcare workers, and security forces, volunteers in the frontlines as well are the contemporary infantries. The unprecedented war goes on, but it is not with no end.  

It is pandemic. 

In the first situation report of Novel CoronaVirus by the World Health Organization (hereafter WHO) dated on 21st January of 2019, a total of 282 cases- no death- were reported. ONLY four cases identified outside China. In less than two weeks ever since the WHO was informed about the pneumonia unknown etiology detected in Wuhan City of China on 31 December 2019, this unknown causal agent could have been exported to neighboring countries Thailand, Japan and Republic of Korea.  Bear in mind that some were asymptomatic then. The infection rate showed increment by a factor of 25 until February 29. Blowing leaders’ minds and challenging their leadership, the disease has kept proliferating into the four hemispheres of the world.  This had been a threatening contagion with nearly 91% of contamination exported from the epicenter of the virus to abroad nations. At this epoch 104 deaths declared and 31 healthcare workers infected.  At the writing of this piece, the WHO’s web reads that the death toll surged to 92,798 while total cases skyrocketed to hit 1,521,252 in 212 countries and territories. 

Understand risks.  

The COVID-19 engendered casualties, political, economical as well as social crisis. The infection keeps becoming scourge in Ethiopia too. Political leaders have had a bit underestimated image of the unprecedented damage onset. As the tragedy began rising exponentially more than morphing, leaders have seriously taken the helm of a fight along with healthcare workers, applying different stopgap measures.  

Born to lead

Needless to say, effective leadership is half the battle. It would be a dog’s dinner fight otherwise. In light of this importance, Mayor of Addis Ababa, Eng. Takele Uma Banti, showed up in the frontline. But, he has never escaped from sharp criticism. Damned if he does, damned if he does not! He ventured out of challenges into another; Mr. Mayor is a real battler. Unfortunately, when it rains, it pours for the guy. Some leaders are born, so do contrarians, gloom-mongers. I staked out a position different from hipsters. In fact, I personally learned from our political landscape that intellectuals, politicians and influencers from certain groups are wrongly pictured by others. It reminds me, for no purpose, that Haile Fida and his national party was dubbed “FIDIST” while the present influencers from “that” group are given a derogatory epithet too. It is an old cliché, as the world is in the Cultural Revolution. Hate was/is overtly behind the sobriquet.

Let me bring readers to the point of discussion. I see invisible energy inside Mr. Uma. I think commitment, passion, decision making, integrity are tenets of his leadership. I have gone through his social media platforms to scrutinize his reach of residents of the city at these tough times. SproutSocial software was used to examine his efforts in creating awareness of the infection to the public compared to [pseudo] activists and politicians. His Novel Coronavirus focused posts per day, both on twitter and Facebook pages, between 13 and 27 March 2020 are presented as follows;

  1. Facebook engagement of Mr. Uma

Overall, Mayor Takele Uma has had consistency in his daily Facebook posts. If we take March 22 alone as an example (highlighted above), he made five posts. This was not only higher than daily educators’ on social media, but also overtopped activists whose posting is literally their daily bread. On top of that, his messages had been relevant content wise-in line with contemporary situations. 

Takele Uma _ Twitter

b. @TakeleUma mentions per day

Similarly, Mr. Uma remarkably used his twitter wall for the good. Since the first day, March 13/2020, of case announcement with about 600 retweets and 1.5k likes through March 27/2020, he has quite addressed a wide spectrum of prevention oriented messages to residents. His twitter wall reads that his government put non-pharmaceutical measures in place to stop communication of the disease. School closure, physical/social distancing, downsizing employees in government offices, distribution of sanitizers and hygiene supplies are among others. Equally important, Mr. Uma assumed psychological therapy indeed to treat fear and stress as a result of the contamination. These actions have been substantiated by resource mobilization and awareness raising campaigns. Added to that, Mr. Mayor publicized his administration’s commitment toward the greedy merchant, not to fuel the calamity especially in the economic sphere. 

On March 27/2020, he tweeted thirteen times while another 13 tweets were made in the preceding two days. When we come to his brand’s mentions, @TakeleUma got more than 1000 mentions on twitter network in a single day as it’s indicated in the above figure. This is an indicative for his inclusion in conversations with the public on the network at least. Be reminded that Mr. Mayor has been apparently making day to day physical and mental engagements, not mentioned here, in his leadership before COVID-19 turns Addis into ghost city and sucks life out of there. 

As Arthur Gordon said, nothing is harder than living words said day in day out. Mr. Mayor is a really industrious and charismatic man, though I put my foot in my mouth during his tenure of office in the first few days.  Blessing in disguise! Bennis and Nanus in their book ‘Leaders: Strategies for taking changes’ published in 1985, asserted that charisma is the result of effective leadership, not the other way round. The guy is born a leader. 

Bat myopic away.  

A gloomy side of the mayor’s office has been infiltrated. How one upends the reality of the way things are and has myopic. The Mayor along with his hard-working and social butterflies are begging donors and volunteers to join the city’s effort in containing the transmission of the disease. On the contrary, unspecified associates in the mayor’s office seem to have been awkwardly on different tracks. It, unusually, transpired that support from two multinational organizations based in Addis Ababa was declined by one of departments in the office, mostly likely by public relations or international relations. These benefactors showed up in the mayor’s office to help the city with healthcare protective gear- 50,000 medical masks and goggles, and 5000 full gowns which were set to be imported from abroad. But, Mr. Mayor’s team (members from the mentioned departments) opted letting the benefactors stuck into bureaucracy rather than helping the city get these indispensable supports timely. I fathom out that it has not been known to the mayor.  Guys do not let negativity wear off on you!

The funniest part is that technologically and economically advanced nations are short fall of Personal Protective Equipments (PPE), let alone the marginalized country like Ethiopia. Our country lacks the wherewithal to buy PPE. There is not sufficient supply of PPE globally either amid the widespread of the pandemic. The WHO warned, four days before this writing, that shortage of healthcare personal protective equipment would be another threat in combating the coronavirus. Appreciating the DNA of Mr. Mayor’s team in general, I would advise short-sighted members to make positive affirmations of their mantras to bring the containment of the pandemic to fruition. 



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