Buganda road court charges pastor with noise pollution

The prosecution accused Pastor Muhawenimana of failing to take appropriate measures to curb the noise pollution contrary to the National Environmental Act

Pastor Edson Muhawenimana in the dock.

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Pastor Edson Muhawenimana from Katallage Ministries Church in Kansanga appeared before Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court on six counts related to noise pollution. Prosecution led by Allan Mucunguzi told the court that from October 2021 to date, Pastor Muhawenimana and others still at large have been engaging in activities including singing, clapping, yelling, and playing music on loudspeakers and microphones resulting in noise pollution.

The prosecution accused Pastor Muhawenimana of failing to take appropriate measures to curb the noise pollution contrary to the National Environmental Act and failure to comply with orders, notices, and environmental easement. The evidence before the court shows that Pastor Muhawenimana recieved several warnings from NEMA to stop the noise from his church but he remained adamant.

The environmental body also noted that the pastor failed to carry out an environment and social impact assessment for his church on the surrounding environment. The prosecution informed the court that investigations into the matter are complete and they are ready to proceed with the prosecution. Pastor Muhawenimana pleaded not guilty to the charges and applied for bail and presented his father Benon Negenisa, Pastors Geoffrey Buteera, Osman Kaweesi, Sumaya Kabuhairwe, and Vincent Zasenga as his sureties.

The Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu granted him cash bail of Shillings 500,000 and asked the sureties to execute a noncash bond of Shillings 10 million. Before releasing Pastor Muhawenimana, Kamasanyu warned him to say away from issues that may result in fresh charges. She also advised pastors to engage NEMA and see how they can live in harmony, saying that she had charged around seven pastors on similar offenses in the past few days.

Speaking to Uganda Radio Network shortly after his release, Pastor Geoffrey Buteera of Heart of Nations Missions International Church and Bishop Ramathan Mukisa of Gospel Mission Luzira Chandran called for a review of the law under which they are charged saying its unfair.

The National Environmental (Noise Standards and Control) Regulations of 2003 defines noise pollution as the release of uncontrolled noise that is likely to cause danger to human beings. The same law requires a permissible level of 60 decibels during the day and 40 decibels at night for places of worship in residential areas.

According to the law, daytime starts from 6 am to 10pm and night hours start from 10 pm to 6am. Recently, a section of pentecostal churches in Entebbe municipality vowed to petition the constitutional court over the noise pollution law, which they say infringes on their right to worship. More than 10 pastors from pentecostal churches have been arrested and charged in courts of law since NEMA embarked on enforcing the noise pollution law about a month ago.

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