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Government, KCCA Infringing on Right to Life, Property in Kampala, Court Rules

Legal Brain Trust filed a public interest case last year following the death of 56-year-old Cissy Namukasa, a vendor in Bugoloobi market who drowned in a drainage channel in Nakawa Division on the 2nd May 2020 and her body washed away by storm water only to be recovered more than a month later.
The late Namukasa


High Court in Kampala has ruled that  the Government of Uganda and Kampala Capital City Authority -KCCA have infringed on the right to life, to protection from deprivation of property, and to a safe and clean environment of Kampala city dwellers by failing to construct and and maintain roads and major drainages.

The ruling was made by Justice Michael Ebulu while determining a case in which Legal Brain Trust sued Government and KCCA for failure to protect city dwellers from unsafe and hazardous roads, drainage channels, sewers and related infrastructure.

Legal Brain Trust filed a public interest case last year following the death of 56-year-old Cissy Namukasa, a vendor in Bugoloobi market who drowned in a drainage channel in Nakawa Division on the 2nd May 2020 and her body washed away by storm water only to be recovered more than a month later.  

The Organisation which defines itself as a human rights public watchdog asked court to declare that Namukasa’s right to life was violated as a result of government and KCCA’s failure to make city drainage channels safe for pedestrians, compel them to multiply their efforts to search for and recover the body of Cissy Namukasa and accord her a decent burial and erect a memorial at or near the drainage channel where Namukasa died to express their contrition and commitment towards protecting the life and safety of city dwellers.

They also asked that within six months after determination of the case, government and KCCA report to the court the steps jointly and severally taken to enhance protection of life of city dwellers.  

Other prayers included compensating Namukasa’s family with 500 million shillings, government to make a public apology and declare that the delay, refusal or failure of government to put in place and enforce a clear plan to protect city dwellers especially pedestrians from potential loss of life, limb and property as a result of unsafe and hazardous roads, drainage channels, sewers and related infrastructure especially during extreme weather events like flooding in the city and greater Kampala Metropolitan Area, was in contravention of the core state obligations to respect, protect and fulfil their rights under the Constitution and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural rights under the Constitution. 

Legal Brains Trust Executive Director Isaac Ssemakadde said in his affidavit that the open drainages were deadly proof of abdicated duty from KCCA and the Attorney General. 

“The respondents have hitherto wrongfully commissioned roads, drainage channels, sewers, and related infrastructure with inadequate human safety protections that pose a danger to the urban dwellers and vulnerable groups like children, persons with disabilities and mental health problems,” said Ssemakadde.  

In his judgement, justice Ebulu ruled that government and KCCA have infringed the right to life; to protection from deprivation of property; and to a safe and clean environment of Kampala city dwellers yet one of the functions of the Authority as stated in section 7 of the KCCA Act is to construct and maintain roads and major drains.

 

"As it stands the applicant’s annexures marked IK-3, the pictures of the drainage illustrate filthy, unkempt drainage channels overrun with refuse. A clear indication that there is a lack of routine cleaning which would fit the description of maintenance. Additionally the drainage is exposed. There is hardly any demarcation between the road and the drain. In the event of heavy rain a pedestrian or vehicle can be easily swept into the drain" reads the judgement in part.

Justice Ebulu also ruled that government and KCCA acted in contravention of the core state obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the rights under the Constitution and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural rights under the Constitution. 

He further ruled that there is need for an effective remedy in the matter and that Parliament supervise and monitor such a request because it is the institution that appropriates funding and has a statutory mandate to ensure that KCCA respects and protects fundamental and other human rights and freedoms. 

“For that reason this Court directs the respondents to report to Parliament, within 3 Months from date hereof, on progress it has made to ensure that the dangers posed by unsafe roads, open drainage channels, sewers, manholes and related infrastructure roads has been addressed. The report shall include a comprehensive maintenance plans” reads the judgement in part. 

Ssemakadde says the judgement is timely, coinciding with the commencement of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland. 

KCCA has a 700 billion shillings masterplan that is yet to be funded to expand and improve the drainage system in Kampala.

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