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Mabirizi to Petition High Court over Ruparelia - Lake Victoria Abuse Case

Mabirizi said he initiated private prosecution proceedings against Rajiv Ruparelia as a responsible citizen precisely because the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA and police would most likely not arrest or charge him for dumping soil in the lake.
soil dumped at the site

Audio 4



Lawyer Male Mabirizi says he will petition the High Court over the move by the Director of Public Prosecutions-DPP to take over Rajiv Ruparelia's case on dumping soil in Lake Victoria waters and shoreline.

In a handwritten note dated April 13, Mabirizi says he is dissatisfied with the way the Grade One Magistrate Elizabeth Kabugho has so far handled the matter.

Mabirizi wrote the note after Kabugho told him on Wednesday, April 13 that the DPP took over the case file on February 21.  

State Attorney Timothy Amerit said Kabugho ruled that the DPP has powers to take over the case file.

Amerit then prayed for an adjournment, saying inquiries are still going on.

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However, Mabirizi protested, saying the ruling is null and void because it was delivered in his absence.

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But Amerit responded saying the court was not informed about Mabirizi's absence and that the state also did not know about Mabirizi's whereabouts on February 21. This was the time Mabirizi was in hiding after the High Court convicted him to 18 months in jail for contempt of court. Mabirizi was later arrested and jailed.

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Mabirizi however insisted that the ruling is illegal because it was delivered in his absence since he was a private prosecutor and also a complainant.

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Kabugho however said that Mabirizi would be given a copy of her ruling and that he should be able to process it by the time the case is brought up for mention on May 20.

But Mabirizi says he will now "challenge that ruling at the High Court and East African Court of Justice".

Meanwhile, Rajiv Ruparelia did not appear in court even though he was summoned to take a plea on April 13. This is the fourth time he has not appeared in court. He was however represented by his lawyer Nelson Walusimbi.

The case against Rajiv was first brought to court by Mabirizi, who instituted private prosecution proceedings against Ruparelia last December. Rajiv Ruparelia is accused of dumping soil in the water and on the shores of Lake Victoria at Kitubulu, Katabi Town Council.

However on January 20, when Rajiv was expected to take plea,  Amerit presented a letter dated January 6th, 2022 stating that the DPP has an interest in taking over Rajiv's case file.

Amerit cited Article 120 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution which provides powers to the DPP to take over proceedings initiated by individuals or other authorities at any stage.

However, Mabirizi protested the move to take over the case, saying the DPP wants to ‘kill’ the case. He added that it is unconstitutional to hear the case in Rajiv’s absence.

As a result, Amerit and Mabirizi asked the judicial officer to issue criminal summons against Rajiv.

Kabugho however did not pronounce herself on either issue. She instead adjourned the case to February 21.

On February 21, Rajiv Ruparelia was expected to take plea. The magistrate Kabugho was also expected to deliver her ruling on whether or not the DPP has powers to take over the case file.

However, Rajiv, Mabirizi and State Attorney Timothy Amerit were absent. Rajiv's lawyer Walusimbi told court that his client could not attend court because he was indisposed.

Kabugho noted that State Attorney Amerit had communicated that he was undertaking a week-long training and would therefore not attend court. Mabirizi did not communicate his absence.

Magistrate Kabugho then adjourned the case to March 9 to enable the accused person, the private prosecutor or his representative and the state attorney to attend court.

On March 9, the case was adjourned to April 13.

Mabirizi said he initiated private prosecution proceedings against Rajiv Ruparelia as a responsible citizen precisely because the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA and police would most likely not arrest or charge him for dumping soil in the lake.

He accuses Rajiv Ruparelia, the Managing Director of Speke Hotel of undertaking activities in the protected zones along riverbanks, lakeshores, and natural beaches contrary to Section 53 of the National Environment Act, 2019. On conviction, a culprit may pay a fine not exceeding shillings 600 million or serve not more than 12 years in jail or both.

In December, NEMA ordered Speke Hotel to remove all the soil it had dumped on the fringes of Lake Victoria shorelines before it can be allowed to resume construction works in Kitubulu, Katabi town council.

NEMA made the directive after Maria Assumpta Nakamya, a resident of Entebbe, complained about soil being dumped into the lake. The authority and police officers visited the site and then met Ruparelia Group which owns Speke Hotel over their activities in Kitubulu.

The authority noted that there were concerns of lakeshore degradation from soil siltation into Lake Victoria, contrary to conditions of approval in the Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Certificate issued to the developer in 2020.

According to NEMA, Speke Hotel acquired a permit to build a hotel where Ssese Gateway Beach was previously located with the condition of maintaining the buffer zone of 100metres as provided for in the riverbanks and lakeshore use regulations, 2020.