New Law to Penalise Road Construction Companies over Human Rights Abuse

In 2015, the World Bank suspended funding for a 256 million dollar Kamwenge to Fort Portal Road after reports by the communities about the sexual abuses, while the Tororo-Kamdini Road contract remains suspended.
Uganda Narional Roads Authority doing maintenance works on the Tororo-Soroti-Kamdini Road

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The government has finalized a Bill that aims to protect the communities in areas where government construction projects take place, to prevent their negative effects reported in recent years.

The Social Impact Assessment and Accountability Bill has been drafted, in part as a response to various cases of human rights violations that happened especially in road construction projects as well as hydropower project sites.

The mainstream media as well as social media have been reporting cases of defilement of girls attributed to workers at construction projects, with many of the children being impregnated.

In some cases, the culprits are never known or cannot be traced since the workers are usually not residents of the said areas, while some are even foreigners.

But the reports of sexual abuse have also implicated the male managers of the project, taking advantage of the female and usually, casual workers at the projects. In 2015, the World Bank withdrew funding for a 256 million dollar Kamwenge to Fort Portal Road in mid-western Uganda after sustained reports by the communities in nearby villages, about the sexual abuses.

The then World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, blamed his institution, the government of Uganda and the contractor for doing nothing to protect human and environmental rights adding that the Bank has failed in its supervisory role.

The Tororo-Soroti-Kamdini Road construction project remains suspended to-date, following environmental and human rights safety complaints more than two years ago about the contractor.

The government has been negotiating with the World Bank to have the suspension lifted, but the talks are yet to bear fruit. The minister for ICT and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi says some of the violations are taken lightly and go unreported.

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Now the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has drafted the Bill that aims at preventing these occurrences, but providing for social protection bonds and preparing communities to benefit from the projects.

The line Minister, Betty Amongi says that when the law is passed, it will require the contracted companies to conduct a Social Impact Assessment for approval by the ministry alongside the Environmental Impact Assessment, before the project is approved.

The minister says that apart from construction, the Bill also caters for other projects that touch on human rights and their livelihoods, including evacuation and resettlements from disaster arears, which require compensation.

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The proposed law seeks to enhance the level of community engagement in planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation, as well as accountability in development projects.

The Bill also provides for penalties against contractors who will violate the provisions and contractual obligations, as will be prescribed under the law.

It also provides for Corporate Social Responsibility from the developers as they will be required to consider he affected persons as vital in the development processes and in the surrounding environments.

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Amongi says that she will soon table the Bill before Parliament, and wants the public to as much as possible discuss the Bill before it is passed.


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