Five Kenyans take Kampala to court over ‘excess water’ on Lake Victoria

Sunday May 31 2020

lake

Fishermen conduct their business at the shores of Lake Victoria in Siaya County, western Kenya, on May 12, 2020. The rise of water levels in Lake Victoria has destroyed several roads, hotels, and houses constructed near the shores. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By The EastAfrican

Five Kenyans have sued the Ugandan government for allegedly failing to control floods around the shores of Lake Victoria, resulting in displacement of people and damage to their property.

Former president of the Law Society of Kenya, Isaac Okero, and four others are accusing Uganda of violating their fundamental human rights by breaching the EAC Treaty and the Nile Basin Comprehensive Framework Agreement on how much water Kampala is supposed to release from Lake Victoria.

They have enjoined the East African Community (EAC) and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission in the suit, while Kenya and Tanzania governments are named as interested parties.

“As citizens of Kenya, who reside in Kisumu and are owners of real property located within the vicinity of the shores of the Lake, we have been greatly inconvenienced by the decision by Uganda,” says Mr Okero in the court filings. “As applicants we plead for the prayers and orders that Uganda is responsible for the compensation of loss and/or damage suffered by the applicants.

Order that loss and/or damage suffered by the applicants assessed by the court are paid by Uganda.” The five say that Uganda’s breach has caused flooding that has damaged property and displaced more than 50,000 people around the Lake. They accuse Eskom Uganda Ltd, the biggest hydro electricity generating company in the country, of increasing or reducing the volumes of water flowing from the lake based on how much is needed to meet Uganda’s electricity demand. They say the Owen Falls dam, now known as Nalubaale Dam, was built in 1954 as part of a hydropower station in Jinja after Uganda and Egypt signed agreements that the East African country would not do anything to interfere with the flow of the Nile, the world’s longest river.

The water flow arrangements were expressed in a series of agreements entered into in 1949 and 1953 between Britain and Egypt and in 1991 between Uganda and Egypt, from which emerged a policy to release water at particular rates to allow for natural flow out of the Lake. “This policy became commonly known as “The Agreed Curve” which was incorporated into the release policy governing the management of the outflow of Lake Victoria waters into the River Nile at Jinja by Uganda as provided for in the agreements,” they say.

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ACTIONS OF ESKOM

According to the applicants, whenever more water is needed to meet growing power demands, Eskom allows more water to flow out of Lake Victoria, which in turn leads to lower levels in the lake.

But whenever rain falls heavily, Nalubaale has sufficient water, which implies less water is released, in turn raising levels in Lake Victoria.

They argue that the Nalubaale Dam operators have not been adhering to the Agreed Curve for operations.

Mr Okero, and lawyers Geoffrey Yogo, Raymond Olendo, Jared Sala and Moses Omondi, claim to have suffered “disruption of life, damage to properties, and economic loss.”

They charge that Uganda is greatly impacting the lake by releasing more water than is allowed by a legal agreement between Kampala and Egypt.

Uganda’s Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, and the EAC secretary General, Liberat Mfumukeko, have been named as the first and second respondents respectively. They are yet to file a response in court.

Uganda’s Commissioner for International and trans-boundary Water Affairs at the Ministry of Water and Environment, Mr Jackson Twinomujuni in a response to The EastAfrican said Kampala is yet to be served with the suit papers.

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