Tsama William and Others v. Uganda’s Attorney General and Others
Jurisdiction: High Court of Uganda at Mbale
Side A: Tsama William and Others
Side B: Uganda’s Attorney General and Others
Core objectives: Whether Uganda has failed to fulfil its positive obligations under climate change and disaster management law to manage the risk of landslides in the Bududa district.
On the October 14, 2020, the applicants (victims of recurring landslides in Bududa district, Uganda) filed a suit against the Attorney General (representing the Government), the National Environment Management Authority and the Bududa Local Government Council alleging that the respondents have failed to put in place an effective machinery against landslides in Bududa district, and that the respondents’ acts and/or omissions have led to the violation of applicants’ fundamental rights.
On December 3, 2019, multiple landslides occurred in Bushika sub-county, Bududa district, displacing the applicants from their homes, killing 20 of the applicants’ relatives, and destroying property and the environment. The applicants argue that Bududa district, in the Mt Elgon region in Eastern Uganda, is an area prone to landslides, and according to several government documents set out in supporting affidavits, the respondents are fully knowledgeable of the recurring landslide problem in the area which has been exacerbated by climate change. The applicants argue that the respondents have positive obligations under national and international climate change and disaster management law to put in place an effective machinery for dealing with landslides in Bududa district. Despite their legal obligations, the respondents have failed to do so, thus violating the applicants’ fundamental rights including the right to life, the right to a clean and healthy environment, the right to property, and the right to physical and mental health. The applicants argue that the infringement of the applicants’ fundamental rights could have been avoided if the respondents had discharged their respective obligations under the law. The applicants argue that Bududa district is likely to suffer from more landslides in the future due to factors such as changing rainfall patterns and increasing extreme weather events caused by climate change and environmental degradation. If the affected people are not urgently relocated and resettled, further loss of life, loss of property and infringement of human rights is likely to occur.
The applicants claim several reliefs from court including declarations that their fundamental rights to life, property, physical and mental health, and clean and healthy environment were infringed when the landslides occurred. The applicants further claim for a declaration that the respondents are responsible for the violation and infringement of their fundamental human rights. The applicants further claim a total of UGX 6,800,000,000 (Uganda shillings six billion eight hundred million) in damages and compensation for the loss of life, threats to life, destruction of property and infringement of their other fundamental human rights as well as the costs of resettlement to safer areas.