Court orders KCCA to fix city drainage system

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Maverick city lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde has won a case filed against the government for its failure to keep the capital city clean and safe for its dwellers.

The case, whose ruling was delivered on November 1, 2021, was filed against Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA)and the Attorney General, representing the central government.

Justice Michael Elubu presiding over the court hearing ruled that the city authority was culpable for the death of the market vendor who drowned at Nakawa in May 2020 during a heavy downpour.
Her body was found in February 2001, after 10 months.

“Cissy Namukasa’s right to life was violated as a result of the failure of KCCA to make the city drainage safe for pedestrians,” Justice Elubu ruled.

Through the Legal Brains Trust, Ssemakadde, filed the petition at the Civil Division of the High Court in June last year requiring that KCCA be found liable for Namuksa’s death; compensate her family with sh500m; and make steps to enhance the protection of city dwellers, especially pedestrians, from potential loss of life.

He also listed several other city dwellers who had drowned during floods, including a Barclays Bank Cashier Brenda Katiti in 2011.

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Most of the requests in the petition were granted, save for the compensation, which court ruled Legal Brains Trust did not have the express permission to represent the family.

Court further ruled that KCCA has “a constitutional duty to mitigate any life-threatening outcomes” from adverse weather.

It also found that there is no plan in place to show what mitigation measures KCCA has taken to control the effects of the flooding.

“Instead, the manner of response shows that the respondent (KCCA) has contributed to the danger from the way it manages the drainage, sewers or from the current road design,” the judge ruled.

He observed that the petitioner had proved that there is lack of routine cleaning which would fit the description of maintenance, and that “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,” Justice Elubu noted.

“It is, therefore, the holding of this court that it has been established that the respondents have infringed the right to life; to protection from deprivation of property; and to a safe and clean environment of Kampala City Dwellers,” he ruled.

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The court directed KCCA to report to Parliament, within three months, on the progress it has made to ensure that the dangers posed by unsafe roads, open drainage channels, sewers, manholes, and related infrastructure have been addressed.

The report should include a comprehensive maintenance plan, court-ordered.

The ruling comes of the same day more than 120 heads of state and government are gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, for a two-day summit at the start of the United Nation’s COP26 conference, which organisers say is crucial for charting humanity’s path away from catastrophic global warming.

The now frequent flooding in Kampala is one of the side effects of climate change and environmental degradation. A recent study by the BBC found Kampala to be one of the most littered cities, with plastic bottles and polyethene bags accounts for most of the litter.

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