Justice Anthony Oyuk Ojok of Fort Portal high court Wednesday June 7, 2017 cancelled a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Kabarole district local government and Ferdsult Engineering Services limited which gave Ferdsult exclusive rights over 20 crater lakes in the district.

The MoU had been reached after the company sought partnership with district authorities to carry out cage fish farming on the lakes.

Some of the communities whose livelihoods depended on the lakes at the Twerwaneho Listeners Club offices

However four human rights defenders working with the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders in Uganda’s western regional focal organization Twerwaneho Listeners Club challenged the development in court.

The HRDs argued that the MoU create a situation that infringed on the rights of the communities who were getting food and water from the lakes.

The National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders in Uganda (NCHRDU) has been facilitating lawyers to represent the HRDs and we are pleased that the MoU which had taken away the rights of communities and threatened those of HRDs in Fort Portal has been reversed.

The judgment

In his judgment, Justice Ojok ruled that the chasing away of people from and denial to use the said crater lakes by Ferdsult contravenes the provisions of Article 237 (2) (b) of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

Court also issued a permanent injunction restraining the said company or its agents from chasing away community members.

Following the Wednesday’s judgment, communities can now freely engage in fishing, fetching of water among other activities they conducted on the lakes before.

Justifying his ruling, Justice Ojok said that the crater lakes are a source of livelihood to the communities and the exclusive use of the said craters contravenes the constitution.

Court found it paramount to order the armed personnel that had been deployed by Fedesult to leave the craters immediately to allow the rule of law to prevail in the circumstances.

TLC welcomes ruling

Gerald Kankya, the NCHRDU western regional focal person was delighted saying the judgement has been made in favor of the communities that have been denied access to water and food.

“For over 9 months, fundamental rights of the citizens have been violated by the irresponsible actions of Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited without being questioned. Ferdsult  should use this opportunity to reflect upon her conduct and put in place policies and systems that promote human rights with her operations,” said Kankya.

Kankya appealed to local leaders to always act with honesty and transparency whenever they are taking sensitive decisions that affect the well being of citizens.