In the latter part of this reporting period, the Uganda Law Society has noted with concern the increased stiffling of certain individuals’ freedom of movement. Article 29 (2)(a) of our Constitution is categorical on the freedom of movement. It provides that ‘every Ugandan shall have the right to move freely throughout Uganda and to reside and settle in any part of Uganda. While on the campaign trail a number of presidential candiidates have had law enforcement blocking their passage through certain areas, under the guise of sticking to the agreed camapaign calenders of the individual candidates. Certain incidents have been reported of candidates being blocked from accessing accomodation in certain districts. Of recent, the Kampala Deputy RCC in charge of Kawempe division, Hood Hussein made public pronouncements to the effect that he was not to allow opposition candidates Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu & Patrick Oboi Amuriat in Kawaka Division.12 ULS is of the opinion that if such pronouncements go unchecked, the nation will degenerate into a place of restrictive movement.
• The Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment
The ULS is concerned about government’s plan to use a section of Bugoma forest for sugarcane growing. It was reported that the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) had issued a certificate of approval on August 14, 2020, for the Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report permitting Hoima Sugar Limited to use 21 square meters out of the
22 square meters that the company had leased from Bunyoro Kitara kingdom at UGX 3 Billion against the will of NEMA. 13 The intended purpose of the agreement was to plant sugarcane
12 Arafaz Kizito, “Kawempe RCC Takes Stand against NUP, FDC Presidential Campaigns,” Chimps Reports
13 Steven Turyarugayo, “EU want Bugoma forest sugarcane project halted,” New Vision, October 28, 2020. Page 7
covering 9.24 square meters, establish an urban centre and build an eco-tourism centre as well as restore the forest among other economic activities.14
It is important to note that this specific forest is home to over 600 chimpanzees and bird species as well as a hub for tourism in the country.15 It is also a migratory corridor for large mammals such as chimpanzees and elephants connecting Budongo and Murchison falls National Park from Queen Elizabeth National Park.16 For purposes of preserving the environment, the ULS is of the view that this forest should not be cleared in favour of sugarcane growing. Although the ULS takes note of Article 26(2) (a) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda which gives powers to government to take possession or acquisition of property necessary for public use or in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health, this specific provision is limited by Article 39 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda which provides for the right for every Ugandan to live in a clean and healthy environment.
Objective XXVII (i) of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in our Constitution mandates the State to take all possible measures to prevent or minimize damage and destruction to land, air and water resources resulting from pollution or other causes. In that regard, the ULS in the strongest terms condemns and objects the destruction of Bugoma forest. On a positive note, the ULS commends the bold strides taken by the European Union delegation headed by Ambassador Attilio Pacifici and some Civil Society Organizations to strongly condemn the destruction of the forest amidst resistance.17
Legal Observation arising:
• Whether there is a clear balancing act between the right to a clean environment as per the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, and conversely the public interest and policy in allowing Hoima Sugar Limited to take over the forest for Sugar cane growing.
I.The matter should be thoroughly investigated to its logical conclusion to establish the circumstances under which NEMA based its decision to issue a certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Limited. Furthermore, the Environmental Impact Assessment Report should be availed to the public for proper scrutiny of the matter as a mode of ensuring social accountability.
II. NEMA should hold a public hearing regarding the giveaway of some parts of the forest for sugarcane growing since it is a matter of public interest and concern.
III. Government, the Judiciary, Civil Society Organizations and agencies including the National Forestry Authority should all combine efforts in order to expedite matters in courts of law regarding the Bugoma forest and further come up with a combined report on the matter.