Press release: 26 May 2021
Landslide victims in court against the Ugandan Government
Today, the Ugandan High Court at Mbale will hear a case brought by 48 landslide victims against the Ugandan Government. The lawsuit alleges that the Government failed to uphold its human rights obligations to protect the victims from landslide risks.
The Ugandan Government has known about the risk of landslides for years. Government documents acknowledge more than 400 landslides in the Mount Elgon region of the country from 2008 to 2018, which have caused hundreds of deaths and displaced thousands of people.
In 2019, a major landslide in the Bududa District of Mount Elgon devastated the local community and resulted in over 30 deaths. Now the High Court will hear a case brought on behalf of 48 people who were directly impacted or who lost family members in this disaster.
The claimants allege that, by failing to act on the known landslide risks, the Ugandan Government has violated their rights to life, property and the right to a clean and healthy environment.
According to court documents, the Ugandan Government has systematically failed to address the threat of landslides affecting Bududa residents.
In response to one of the country’s worst landslide disasters in Bududa in 2010, the Government developed a resettlement plan for at-risk communities. It committed to relocate all those who might be impacted by landslides within ten years. But, more than ten years later, only a limited number of people have been relocated.
The Mount Elgon region is particularly vulnerable to landslide risks, which may become worse due to climate change. There is evidence that rainfall has increased over the past few decades, and that precipitation patterns in Uganda are changing. The Government has acknowledged in its National Climate Change Policy that severe weather events and landslides are increasing in frequency and intensity.
The Ugandan Government has made national and international commitments to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This includes through its National Climate Change Policy and its ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.
April Williamson, a lawyer from environmental law charity ClientEarth, which is supporting the case, said:
“Climate change is unquestionably a human rights issue, which threatens the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable communities around the world.
“Governments need to live up to their climate change commitments. This includes taking immediate action to help their populations adapt to the impacts of climate change and to manage any associated natural disaster risks.
“The Ugandan Government has an opportunity to reverse its current course of inaction and instead fulfil its legal obligations to protect the human rights of its citizens.”
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.