Minister’s ‘only idiots die of hunger’ comment sparks outrage

A controversial statement by the Ugandan foreign affairs minister, Henry Oryem, has angered many people in the country. Oryem had called those who have died of hunger in Uganda idiots, saying that they should have worked hard to grow their own food.

He made the remark in an interview with the NTV Uganda television channel, where he claimed that Uganda had a favourable climate and fertile land that could support agriculture. He said that anyone who died of hunger in Uganda was a real idiot who did not make enough effort to till the land, plant the seeds, and maintain the plantation.

His comment was met with strong criticism from legislators, especially from the Karamoja region, which is one of the most affected by hunger and famine. Moses Aleper, a legislator for Chekwii County, told the BBC that Oryem’s views were not right and unfortunate, coming from a minister who should know better. He said that he was from a productive part of Karamoja, where they normally produced food, but sometimes the weather failed them and caused hunger.

He also said that hunger in the region was often caused by other factors beyond human control, such as climate change. Charles Onyango-Obbo, a prominent Ugandan author and journalist, also slammed Oryem, saying that he failed to understand that hunger in Uganda was a distribution and market problem, not a production problem.

Meanwhile, there is no official data on the current food situation in Karamoja, but the region is known to experience hunger during dry seasons due to its semi-arid climatic conditions. In 2022, a report by an official human rights body said that more than 2,200 people died of starvation and related illnesses in north-east Uganda.

This is a sad and shocking story of how a minister insulted and blamed the victims of hunger in his country. We hope that the government will take action to address the root causes of hunger and provide relief to the affected people.

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