The Kawempe North MP opened a small hospital during the second wave of covid19 and has donated food and other items to support constituents beaten by the 42-day lockdown
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | “You don’t have to be rich to give. Giving comes from the heart.” Mohammed Ssegirinya, the Kawempe North MP says in a TV appearance when asked about the source of his funds. Anyone would be right to ask about the source of Ssegirinya’s funds because whereas ordinary MPs contribute averagely Shs100,000 for burials, construction sites and a string of projects, the new MP has started a hospital filed with medical equipment. He donates lorries of matooke, bags of charcoal, ambulances and actively helps businesses in his community.
The list of his donations is endless gong by his active Twitter page. A chunk of his donations has been going to Kawempe North Hospital located in Kyebando, a residential suburb in the heart of the Kawempe North constituency where the 33-year-old grew up.
The hospital, which is the size of a two-bedroomed house is where most of the medical equipment Segirinya donates goes, and through his network of donors, keeps receiving various equipment like oxygen cylinders, incubators, anesthetic machines, wheel chairs, orthopedic mattresses.
Ssegirinya said he planned to build the hospital as early as five years ago when he was elected as a KCCA Lord Councillor for Kawempe North. The hospital opened early July and it has been a hive of activity fitting it with various equipment.
“I have four nurses, 1 doctor, 1 clinical officer and one lab technician,” says Ssegirinya who loves to call himself Mr. Update.
He says he used to travel a lot in countries like Sweden, Netherlands in his earlier term as a councilor and while lobbying for medical equipment, his prospective donors advised him to start a hospital. “They wanted somewhere where the equipment would go,” he says. He also says most of his Shs30 million salary as an MP goes to meeting the needs of those who elected him.
As other MPs jubilate over the Shs200 million wired to their accounts to splurge on new cars, Ssegirinya has gone on record saying he will donate the money to his constituents as he maintains use of his Toyota Raum which goes for about Shs24m.
Ssegirinya, a member of the National Unity Platform (NUP) led by opposition king Bobi Wine also has a saving scheme which comes with a cash handout in a ‘Seg Box’, a metallic piggy bank. He says he gives capital starting from Shs100,000 to Shs200, 000 depending on the working capital of one’s small business.
The MP is disdainful of those who say he is doing what is not the role of an MP- feeding into an age old debate of what Ugandan MPs ought to do and not to do. His constituents who are part of the urban poor in Kampala and are a key component of Bobi Wine’s base however are full of praise for Ssegirinya. They say he is filling the void of what the government has failed to do. It is not typical for MPs representing areas in Kampala folding their sleeves in the so called service to the people but Ssegirinya has made it his trademark. He was at it even before he took the oath as MP in May.
His approach to work as an MP has elicited a lot of commentary. Mohammed Katamba, a parliament staff wrote that Ssegirinya’s acts of kindness are a “nightmare” to a public affairs officer. “Ssegirinya’s acts of kindness, though noble, put his colleagues who are doing different in bad light, since they will be judged using the wrong parameters,” he wrote. “Explaining and changing the impression created by these actions to the public will remain PR nightmare!”
However Kakwenza Rukirabasaija, a critic of Ssegirinya’s acts and other MPs who may want to follow his acts says these acts are patronising and not different from President Museveni who offers state largesse with his eyes at the next election. “These members of parliament whether opposition or National Resistance Movement that are giving out food relief and other items to the poor in this pandemic, it is not that they do it wholeheartedly as they want us to believe, it is rather another way to co-opt or patronize electorates for the next election,” He wrote in The Observer.
After the government announced a 42 lockdown in June to reduce the spread of covid19, the Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja said there will be a cash donation of Shs100, 000 to 500, 000 households as a way of sustaining themselves in the lockdown. There were complaints that the money was not enough and should have been raised to about Shs250, 000.
Three weeks ago, the ministry of gender announced a total of Shs29billion had been disbursed to the vulnerable. Ssegirinya did not think highly of Nabbanja’s initiative saying donating food was better than sending money because of how easily money can get misused.