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Henry Okello Oryem: Uganda minister says people dying of hunger are ‘idiots’

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A Ugandan government minister is facing criticism after calling those who have died of hunger in his country "idiots".

Ugandan Minister Faces Backlash for Insensitive Remark on Hunger Victims

In a startling revelation, Henry Okello Oryem, a Ugandan government minister, is under intense scrutiny and criticism for referring to those who died of hunger in his country as “idiots.” The remarks made by the state minister for foreign affairs have been widely condemned as tone-deaf and insensitive.

Official figures from a report by the Uganda Human Rights Commission revealed that in 2022, more than 2,200 people succumbed to starvation and related illnesses in the north-eastern region of Uganda. The dire situation also left nearly half a million people in a state of “acute hunger,” according to the report.

Mr. Oryem’s controversial comments, aired on NTV Uganda television, sparked outrage as he argued that, given Uganda’s favorable climate and fertile land, individuals should be able to grow food for themselves. The minister’s statement, labeling those who died of hunger as “idiots,” has drawn sharp criticism for its lack of empathy and understanding of the complex factors contributing to food scarcity.

“If you work hard, there is land in Uganda. The climate is right in spite [of] climate change. If you make a double effort to make sure that you go out in the morning, you till your land, you plant the seeds, you maintain your plantation, surely, how do you fail then to get food?” Mr. Oryem asserted during the interview.

Moses Aleper, a legislator for Chekwii county in the affected Karamoja region, expressed dismay at the minister’s comments, stating they were “not right” and “unfortunate coming from a minister who knows what goes on in this country.” Aleper highlighted the impact of unpredictable weather patterns, asserting that hunger often results from factors beyond human control.

Prominent Ugandan author and journalist, Charles Onyango-Obbo, echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing that hunger in Uganda is a complex issue tied to distribution and market challenges rather than individual effort.

While official data on the current food situation in Karamoja is unavailable, the region typically experiences hunger during dry seasons due to its semi-arid climatic conditions. CMPnews will continue to monitor developments and responses to this controversy, shedding light on the ongoing challenges faced by those affected by food scarcity in Uganda.

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