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WHO IS TO BLAME? PART 2: A look at how Jinja missed the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital

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In this second part of the Who Is to Blame series, we take a look at how the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital came to be constructed in Naguru and not in Jinja where it was earlier planned for. Was it really meant for Jinja? Was there sabotage? Was it lack of land on which to have it constructed? Was it projected to be disastrous to the area? I ventured on in search for answers.

“The hospital (China-Uganda Friendship Hospital) was for Jinja,” offers Ambassador Mohammed Kezaala Baswari. Ambassador Kezaala was the then-mayor when talk of this hospital came up. I pick his mind on the events at the time.

“I learned that there was a grant from the Government of the People’s Republic of China to construct a state-of-the-art hospital in Uganda, preferably in Jinja. I reached out to the Chinese Ambassador then who later visited my office at Jinja Town Hall in 2007 from where we held further discussions on the subject,” he said.

Knowing the bureaucracies that follow such opportunities, Ambassador Kezaala reached out to and briefed Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga and Daudi Migereko who both pledged to support efforts to have the project actualized. At the time, Rt. Hon. Kadaga was the Parliament of Uganda Deputy Speaker and also Member of Parliament representing Women of Kamuli District whereas Daudi Migereko was the Minister of Energy and Minerals and also Member of Parliament representing Butembe County.

In the first part of these series, I documented how the University of Eastern Uganda, now Busitema University, failed to take off in Jinja because of a land question. The same ghost was back to haunt the hospital opportunity as Jinja did not have uninhibited land where the hospital could be set up.

“On their part, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) donated a 5-acre site on Naguru Hill, Nakawa Division…”

In his wisdom and social capital coffers, Ambassador Kezaala reached out to Madhvani Group’s Mayur Madhvani who has land and properties around Jinja. “I approached (Mr.) Mayur Madhvani about the land question. We had a lengthy deliberation and at the end of it all, he accepted to swap his 12-acre Ambercourt Estate opposite the Kimaka airstrip with 35 acres of industrial land in Walukuba-Masese Division, offered by Jinja Municipal Council,” adds Ambassador Kezaala.

Mayur Madhvani receives Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga at the launch of the Kakira Sugar Busoga Foundation Scholarship in October 2018. (Photo Courtesy: www.edge.ug)

Looking at the 12-acre land offered by Mayur Madhvani compared with the 35-acre industrial land in Walukuba-Masese, it is with no doubt that it was a fair deal. Whereas the Kimaka land was less in acreage, it had structures on it yet the Walukuba-Masese land did not have any structures and also had squatters who had to be compensated.

Shortly after these updates were communicated, the Government of the People’s Republic of China sent a technical team to do a site survey. The team inspected the Kimaka land, measured wind, took soil samples, did a market survey of construction materials, prices, labor, looked into sources of suppliers et al and concluded that the land in Kimaka passed the test and that the hospital should be built there.

This was a good going until a few weeks later when the project turned political; think of a calm before the storm. According to Ambassador Kezaala, this political interference and sabotage were instigated by the-then Kagoma County Member of Parliament, Fredrick Mbagadhi Nkayi, the-then LC5 Chairman of Jinja District, Lieutenant Hannington Basakana, and the-then Vice Chairman of Jinja District, Moses Batwala.

“These three all argued that the hospital should be constructed in Kagoma and not Jinja Municipality. They supported their stand saying Jinja municipality has many hospitals, including the Jinja Regional Referral Hospital. They also had the argument that with the hospital built in the municipality, Democratic Party’s Mohammed Kezaala Baswari would take the credit to the detriment of the National Resistance Movement cadres,” intimated a bitter Kezaala.

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Fredrick Mbagadhi Nkayi (M) arrives at the Jinja High Court in October 2015. (Photo Courtesy: www.sunrise.ug)

To get their versions of events then, I sought out Fredrick Mbagadhi Nkayi and Hannington Basakana. I was only able to reach Mr. Mbagadhi since Mr. Basakana’s known phone number went unanswered the three times I called.

“My contention was about the location of the hospital,” responds Mr. Mbagadhi in a phone chat. “The JMC leadership wanted it in town and I argued that it be constructed in Kagoma next to the proposed Jinja District Headquarter,” he adds.

In the same year, a Jinja District council resolution was reached to shift the District Headquarter from Busoga Square in Jinja Municipality to Kagoma. Mr. Mbagadhi’s school of thought seems to have been informed by this resolution.

“In any case, with or without the Chinese support, we needed a hospital in Kagoma. The President bought my argument and directed for one to be constructed,” adds a content Mr. Mbagadhi seeing that Kagoma later got a General Hospital.

The where-should-the-hospital-be-built debated raged on and sucked in all Members of Parliament in Busoga and other leaders, all arguing that the hospital goes to Kagoma. The debate soon went to the public domain and person accounts have it on record that the public was for the hospital being constructed in the municipality.

“I gave the pro-Kagoma group reasons why it was not feasible to build the hospital in Kagoma,” adds Ambassador Kezaala. “1) There is nothing like free lunch! Any donor will need mileage from any project at the end of the day. No donor, from experience, could take such a magnificent facility to a rural area where there wouldn’t be maximum visibility. 2) The Chinese medics who were working in the Jinja Regional Referral Hospital for the last 20 years were supposed to be the same doctors to work in the new facility. Besides their work, they would need leisure, easy access to markets, guaranteed security, easy access to their workplace which would be the new facility et al and these could only be answered if the facility was built in the municipality,” he adds.

Dr. Ren Gang (R) making an Otic checkup at Jinja Regional Referral Hospital in December 2015. (Photo Courtesy: www.xinhuanet.com)

With this gridlock, the Chinese technical team was called back, taken to Kagoma County, shown the proposed land, driven back to the proposed Ambercourt site, and finally driven to the Jinja District offices for final deliberations.

In the district meeting, I am reliably informed that the Chinese team submitted that after having visited both sites, they still settled for the Kimaka site to accommodate the hospital. At this point, the pro-Kagoma team petitioned the President.

On January 14th 2008, all Members of Parliament in Busoga were summoned to Rwakitura, the personal country home of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and also the site of selected official meetings with Ugandan and foreign visitors. The Rwakitura meeting which was attended by even opposition parties Members of Parliament was to reach a decision on where the hospital should be built.

“With the exception of Daudi Migereko, all Members of Parliament agreed that if the hospital cannot be built in Kagoma, then it rather goes to Kampala than be built in the municipality. That is how we lost the China-Uganda friendship hospital and accordingly, the State Minister for Health, Dr. Richard Nduhura gave the direction to have the hospital built in Naguru,” said Ambassador Kezaala in a resigned and regretful tone.

Uganda Tourism Board Chairman Daudi Migereko.

The China-Uganda Friendship Hospital Naguru (CUFH-N), donated by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, was completed and handed over to the Government of Uganda on 6th January 2012. The Chinese government, designed and built the hospital between 2009 and 2012 as a gift to the people of Uganda, at a cost of US$8m.

On their part, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) donated a 5-acres site on Naguru Hill, Nakawa Division, where the hospital was built and the government of Uganda contributed an estimated US$2m in tax waivers on construction materials used to build the hospital, landscaping, road access, and licensing fees.

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Ian Kiryowa

Born and bred in Jinja, Ian is a full-time content creator at Skizar. When not held up at Skizar, Ian is a creative with interests in graphics and web design.

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