Leaders should emulate the life of archbishop Nkoyoyo

When a person who has lived distinguished and honorable life goes to meet the Lord after along life of dedicated and faithful service, we don’t mourn him. We celebrate his life and as such, we should celebrate the legacy of archbishop Nkoyoyo. Most important we should emulate his legacy. He lived a life of true selfless service to humanity. The present day Uganda Christian University was his idea and I understand he worked hard to see it materialize.

With minimal education, Archbishop Nkoyoyo greatly contributed to a university that has produced great minds and transformed the lives of many. He strongly preached the word of God not only in word but also in deed as evidenced by several orphanages he started and other acts of kindness.

At such a critical moment in our country where the moral chords of society have broken, where greed, selfishness, opportunism and not service to God and his people motivate the actions of leaders, we need people who stand on a high moral ground to challenge the status quo, the rot that has engulfed our country.

Religious leaders that have turned the work of God into a business for personal gain and exploited his people, the legacy of archbishop Nkoyoyo remind you to repent and emulate Jesus. God warns to destroy you in Micah 3:7.  Salvation is not for sale. Jesus died freely for us and for no price and while on earth, he healed the sick, rised the dead, fed the hungry for no pay. He did not also brag or show off for his miracles let alone advertising them on TV. Instead he lived a humble life.

At the political scene, we need morally upright leaders to challenge the status quo and introduce morality in the public square. As the political trajectory gets even more risky  and uncertain for our future, our children and grandchildren, religious and other leaders have a critical role to play in challenging the prevailing corruption, injustice and bad governance. In doing this, emulate the courage that was exhibited by Archbishop Janani Luwum who, like Jesus, challenged the negative forces of the time and died for the truth.  I commend all religious leaders of various religious denominations who firmly spoke the truth and challenged powerful forces when our constitution was being manipulated.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who confronted extreme oppression during the apartheid regime in South Africa, warns us on silence in circumstances of injustice: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice”, he said, “you have chosen the side of the oppressor”.

And for those who occupy higher positions of leadership in the public service, you are reminded by the legacy of Nkoyoyo to serve with integrity and this requires courage.

For our 67 members of parliament who stood for the truth to vote “no” during the manipulation of the constitution, former US president J.F Kennedy reminds you of what political courage entails in parliamentary work in his 1957 book where he profiled 8 senators who took unpopular yet good positions despite the political risk: It involves “the desire to maintain a reputation for integrity that is stronger than the desire to maintain office’’.

May the good Lord rest the soul of archbishop Nkoyoyo in peace and may He help us to raise leaders of compassion, love, peace, truth and justice.

Birungi Denis is a lawyer, social, economic and political commentator,bdeniso4@gmail.com





Where And How Do We Start  As A Nation?

Dear Mr. Kiiza Besigye, Amama Mbabazi, Mugisha Muntu, John Patrick Amuriat, Nobert Mau, Yoweri Museveni, Kirundi Kivenjinja, Moses Ali, Mabirizi, Gerald Karuhanga, Ms Rebbecca Kadaaga and my 18 year old friend John,

As we start a new year and having gone through a tumultuous year with a series of unfortunate events that draws back the national clock, one can’t help but ponder on where the direction we are taking as a nation will lead us. Ugandans are occupied by lingering questions whose answers they cannot find and we would like you as potential candidates in 2021 or 2023 to address us on them:

Once we have come to our senses, received an awakening or encountered the spirit of truth as Paul of the Bible did, where shall we start from to clear the mess that has been created for the last 5o or more years notwithstanding that in the same time a lot has been achieved?

How do you depersonalize the state or separate the state from the ruling party to create a truly functional state, from over 50 years of messy leadership?

How do you create a real functional parliament that can be a check on the executive and the judiciary from the past and status quo where almost no parliament exists as past and the current one have been an extension of the executive arm of government? How do you prevent the judiciary from encroachment?

How do you resize the state to a small but effective government? How do you prune the enlarged tentacles for patronage that have been created over the years? How do you reduce the unnecessary constituencies and Members of Parliament from the current 450 to about 200? How do you tame greed and reduce the exorbitant and unmerited salaries of Member of Parliament and other officials to what is fair and just?

How do you merge the so many sub counties made into districts for patronage over the years to about 80 or less?

How do you subject the armed forces to state control and civilian command when for over 50 years we have hard personalized armies, used to entrench dictatorial rule?  How do you reform the police from a political force that advances the will of the ruler to a disciplined and patriotic force that protects people and their property?

How do you unite a divided country? A country systematically divided along lines of tribe! How do you achieve regional balance to ensure that every Ugandan no matter his tribe is equally involved in state affairs and that every region receives a fair share of the national cake? How do you address grievances of regions that have been marginalized for long and left out in the development agenda?

How do you stamp out corruption in a country where corruption has been an accepted norm and most times used as a tool of patronage?

How do you form a durable, respected national constitution with safeguards to prevent further abuse of power and one that works as a chain to limit excessive power and protect the nation against tyranny; one that will not be manipulated from the current one which is a personal notebook where sentences can be deleted at the whim of the ruler?

How do you bring moral sanity and revival in leadership from a trend of a series of governments that are characterized by greed, selfishness, nepotism, lies, impunity, some elements of buffoonery and myopia?  How do you restore people’s trust in government? How do you forge a government that puts people first;  a government that works for all as opposed to one that works for certain sects?

How do you cleanse pails of failed social and economic policy? How do you create jobs to millions of unemployed Ugandans? How do you create a practical education that meets the demands of the modern age? How do modernize our agriculture?  What plans do you have to industrialize our country?

How do you forge political consensus to address all these questions in a country that has no traces of inclusive governance?

Lastly, how do you build a strong foundation for democracy and sustainable national progress that propels values of peace, compassion, truth, honesty, justice, equality, fairness, unity, love, inclusiveness and real patriotism to future generations?

Birungi Denis is a lawyer and socio, economic and political commentator, bdeniso4@gmail.com



On the question of representation, article 1 (3) of our constitution provides: All power and authority of Government and its organs derive from this Constitution, which in turn derives its authority from the people who consent to be governed in accordance with this Constitution. Clause 4 of the same article provides: The people shall express their will and consent on who shall govern them and how they should be governed, through regular, free and fair elections of their representatives or through referenda.

In the recent constitutional amendment act of 2017 (awaiting presidential assent to become a constitutional amendment), members of parliament have among others extended their term of office from five to seven years. This provision benefits the current parliament as well and as such elections for parliamentary representatives will not be held in 2021 but in 2023.

Such a move is not only immoral but also illegal and unconstitutional. First, pursuant to article 1, people are to be governed by their consent and they express their will and consent on who shall govern them through regular, free and fair elections. In 2016, the citizens of Uganda from each constituency voted their respective members of parliament and as such consented to be governed for only 5 years. Like a contract of employment, this five year mandate can only be extended by voters who have the authority to do so.

Secondly, while the parliament has the power to amend the constitution and extend the term of office for which MPs serve, the purported extension of this mandate from five to seven years cannot and should not benefit the current parliament but subsequent parliaments because doing so implies that the extra two years are an imposition since they are not sanctioned by the people and as such contradicts article 1. It implies that it is no longer the people who have power to consent, but that those in power can, as and when they deem fit, consent/choose themselves to be leaders without the need to seek the consent/votes of the governed. This undermines the whole essence of the social contract theory upon which constitutional rule is premised. It goes against the whole essence of a democracy and it is a clear act of distortion of a constitutional order.

Third, the decision will open the floodgates. If this parliament can choose to extend their term in office for two more years, what will prevent the next parliament from extending for more five years and avoid the expenses of campaigning or put differently, “eat at once and go”

Fourth it undermines the essence of regular elections as a tool for citizens to hold their leaders accountable by either voting them out if they are not satisfied by their performance or by renewing their mandated if they have performed to their expectations.

If the impugned provision goes unchallenged, it means people have been disempowered and disenfranchised. It tantamounts to an act of power grab by the rulers from the governed. It means that for the extra two years, people will be ruled against their will and that the ruler, not the people or the constitution is supreme.

To restore this distortion, Article 137 of the constitution mandates every citizen to petition the constitutional court whenever any act, law, custom or omission contravenes the provisions of the constitution. I have no doubt that patriotic Ugandans will not wait to petition the constitutional court and that our courts will not waver to declare this illegality unconstitutional. Even where this finally succeeds by presidential assent as a constitutional amendment, it is still challengeable as one provision of the constitution being inconsistent with the other and the principle of harmonization will be invoked to correct this anomaly.

Birungi Denis, is a lawyer, social and political commentator, bdeniso4@gmail.com


Kenya has finally opened the floodgates for polygamy by signing the Marriage Bill into law. The law allows a man to have as many wives as he can without seeking approval from the wife/wives. While signing the bill into law, President Uhuru Kenyatta remarked: “Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman, whether in a monogamous or polygamous union”. This statement leaves lingering questions. How about if the first women is uncomfortable with subsequent marriages? Would it still be voluntary for her or after the subsequent marriages, it becomes constructive compulsion to remain in a relationship she is not happy with?

A similar situation exists in Uganda with the provisions of the Customary Marriages registration Act Cap 251. The law allows men who marry customarily to be polygamous, but it does not allow women married customarily the same right to marry as many husbands as they can, let alone seeking their consent before involving them in multiple sexual relationships which come with several dangers including exposure to STDs, hatreds, emotional and psychological harm that is common in such relationships.

This is discriminatory and hence unconstitutional. Discrimination simply put is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.  If the law give men the right and freedom to marry as many wives as they can, it should give the same freedom to women to marry as many husbands as they can if we truly subscribe to the principle of equality of everyone before the law as enshrined in our constitution.

We have continued to justify inequality and discrimination using a cultural defence: that it is African culture for men to be polygamous and that it is an abomination for women to do the same. When we advance such justifications, simply we are saying men are superior to women. While we justify discrimination with this cultural defence, we should be mindful that article 2 of our constitution provides that: “If any other law or any custom is inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Constitution, the Constitution shall prevail, and that other law or custom shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void”

If cultures and practices that give men advantage over  women on such issues as property rights, political or other civil rights have been considered discriminatory and unconstitutional, why then not look at polygamous marriages the same way? In the case of FIDA (U) and 5 others vs Attorney General Constitutional Petition No. 2 of 2003, for instance, the constitutional court declared unconstitutional several provisions of the Divorce Act that gave a husband an unfair advantage over a wife during a petition for divorce. Similarly, in the case of Law Advocacy for Women in Uganda v Attorney General – Constitutional Petitions Nos. 13 /of 2005 provisions of the Succession Act that favoured men over women were declared discriminatory and hence unconstitutional.

In most of the western world, polygamous marriages are illegal. Even some African countries such as Benin, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritriea, Seychelles and Tunisia no longer recognise polygamous marriages. The rest of Africa should pick a lesson. If they cannot prohibit polygamy, at least there should be an opportunity for women to consent to such relationships or have the freedom to walk away if they feel uncomfortable being part of a polygamous marriage.

The truth is that polygamy is gender discrimination and is utterly inconsistent with the constitution. Why it has persisted is because those who are dominant and have power to outlaw it are the sole beneficiaries.

Progressive civilisation requires that we deny and relinquish even the most entrenched of our cultures that are unfair and unjust in the modern world. Our laws and institutions should reflect this progressive vision that guarantees equality, freedom and justice to all, not that which reflects the views of the dominant forces.

Birungi Denis is a lawyer, a social and political commentator. bdeniso4@gmail.com


As the fight against AIDS continues both on the national and international platform it should be emphasized that the most effective approach is one which is strategically collective and broad based. Government and other actors should on top of providing HIV/AIDS related services, address the root causes as well. The individual should also take a more active role because he or she is the end target.

A comprehensive approach requires a conceited effort on the part of all actors. On an individual level, pregnant mothers should embrace antenatal care and have deliveries in the hospital; for those not yet infected, to abstain or use condom and remain safe; for those infected, to seek treatment and not to deliberately spread the disease to others. At institutional level: to provide leadership, strategic regulatory and policy measures. The enactment of the HIV and AIDs and prevention and control Act of 2014 is a step forward. Section 24 describes broadly state obligations in the fight against HIV including adequate funding for HIV programs and development of a national health plan and strategy for HIV. If effectively implemented, the law will achieve great progress.

The campaign against AIDs has achieved tangible and commendable progress and we should, while celebrating this development, intensify our effort, evaluate our approach and fill the remaining gaps to achieve an AIDs free generation. First we should insure that everyone has the relevant knowledge and skills for HIV prevention and mitigation. Myths and misconceptions continue to mislead many especially the youth and these can only be corrected by provision of scientifically relevant and correct information. Schools offer a ready audience for information delivery especially to youths. Government and NGOs should utilise this platform by implementing a nationwide HIV ABCDE (Abstinence where possible, Being  faithful, Condom use, Drugs to properly treat infections and Educating oneself with full and true facts about the disease) awareness programs covering all schools. This should also entail a package for youth friendly services where both in and out of school youth can obtain information and access free condoms. While there are free condoms at most government hospitals, most young people feel shy to access them.

The contribution of poverty to HIV transmission may not be easy to quantify but it is significant. In most rural parts of the country, young girls remain vulnerable and at high risk due to lack of means of support. Coupled with misleading information from peers internet and social media, they often fall pray and give in to unprotected sex, exposing themselves to the HIV virus. Effective and strategic fight against HIV should address some of these root causes. Economic empowerment for girls and women is key in shielding them from early sexual encounter and exploitation. A hungry school girl with no hope for the next meal will most likely give in to sexual demands with expectations of financial support. Of course empowerment also includes efforts to keep girls in school. While government has provided free primary and secondary education, only 61.6% and 36.2% (According to Ministry of Education Annual performance report for F/Y 2015/2016) complete primary and lower secondary levels respectively. Even those that manage to complete these levels most often get stuck with no means for further education let alone the hope of finding a job.

More investment in technical schools that equip youths with practical skills is another strategy to address unemployment and idleness- both factors that expose youths to early sexual behaviour. Unemployed and idle youth are more likely to indulge in not only early sexual activity but also drug abuse- a major factor in the spread of HIV. Creation of employment opportunities is thus an essential component in the fight against HIV.

As we celebrate the successes achieved, let us also evaluate our strategies to close the existing gaps, address the root causes and realise the dream of an AIDS free generation. A holistic approach is not an easy project to undertake but with commitment, consistency and the political will, we can get there someday.


Birungi Denis is a lawyer and board member Peer Education Kabarole, a school-based youth sexual reproductive health program.




The recent events in Zimbabwe that culminated into a military coup, and ended 37 years of Mugabe’s dictatorial rule may be received with a sigh of relief by the citizens but it is not yet time for celebration. The military coup (we are told it wasn’t a coup, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck) that happened should not be a surprise but was a foreseeable consequence of personalization of state power, an enemy that has hijacked, and hindered the growth of democracy in most African states.

Africa’s progress has continued to zigzag in a cycle of political instability because revolutionary leaders personalize state power and expose the state to a fragile situation, often resulting in a state of political instability when the leader’s grip comes to an end. Because state power is personalised, institutional rule weakens leaving a vacuum for the military to intervene whenever interests of the so-called founders are threatened.

Many in the world miss a point by focusing on Robert Mugabe and his attempt to entrench his family’s grip on power as the main problem. The main problem is the entire ZANU-PF establishment, its revolutionary ideology and sense of entitlement by “those that fought”.

The ZANU-PF revolution is not and has never been for the benefit of the Zimbabwean people but a project for a few to perpetuate state privileges and resources for themselves. Most founding revolutionary or liberation movements in Africa have created in the mind of the founder and founding comrades a false belief that they are indispensable and that only them, their relatives or comrades have a right to access state power regardless of their performance in terms of the conditions of citizens and general development of the country.

In South Africa for instance, while the level of cronyism and democratic failure is not like that in Zimbabawe, President Jacob Zuma has managed to perpetuate economic state capture through the Gupta Family. Like Mugabe, he also favours his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to succeed him as president. While the two countries are different in terms of governance, the ANC historical role is related to ZANU-PF and the actions of Mr Zuma seem to be informed by the notion of ANC indispensability and a sense of “importance” it creates.

In most of these countries, the state is not viewed in the sense of the traditional social contract idea, but as a personal or class project to be managed for the benefit of that particular class and according to the whims of the founding leader and the revolutionary class. Even where the leader is willing to peacefully transfer power or to allow the democratic progress to take place, often family members and veteran comrades will push him or her to cling on so as to safeguard their interests.

For the case of Zimbabwe, it is important to understand that power was never in the hands of Robert Mugabe alone, but in the entire ZANU-PF establishment and the military as a class. For as long as their interests were catered for and positions of power and privileges were in the hands of the founding revolutionaries, Mugabe continued to be the leader, regardless of the fate of the majority citizens. So the downfall of Mugabe should be celebrated with a pinch of salt because the entire establishment and its ideology remain intact.

The speculated possible successor to Mr Mugabe, former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is and remains part of the old revolutionary dogma and therefore an accomplice to the bad rule that has condemned the people of Zimbabwe to poverty and oppression. While Robert Mugabe may seem gone, the oppressive system he presided over for 37 years remains and will haunt Zimbabwe for some years to come.

True change will only happen when there is transition of power from ZANU-PF revolutionaries and the military to the people through institutional rule and that is only possible when the democratic process is allowed to thrive. Because of the long history of dictatorial and military rule, this true change will not come easily.

Birungi Denis is a lawyer, bdeniso4@gmail.com


When images of senior four UNEB exams were trending on social media, it was hard to believe until the leaks were confirmed by UNEB officials in the main stream media.

Exam malpractice and the corresponding breakdown of the integrity of our academic systems are largely, I think, the symptom of a moral crisis that has affected the whole of our society. It is common knowledge that starting from primary school, pupils are helped to pass their Primary Leaving Exams (PLE). A couple of secondary schools in the country are also known for the same vice. At some Universities, it is not abnormal for students to obtain degrees not through hard work but through cheating and shortcuts. The costs of this leak in our society’s integrity may not be easy to realise, but it is enormous.

A country is as strong as the character and competence of its people. While competence is acquired through high quality training by academic institutions, character is built day by day, from childhood and throughout one’s life by continuous training and role modelling to the young. All of society has a responsibility to be models by upholding certain basic values upon which society depends. Sadly, academic institutions often concentrate more on competence and less on character.

Character is also misunderstood sometimes as having wealth or fame.  These can come from the pillars of character which include hard work, honesty, integrity, faithfulness and respect for rules.

A society that deviates from this moral thread breaks its foundation of orderly progress and limits the growth of its people. Whether public or private sector, societal progress is only possible when there is an element of trust and integrity both in institutions and individuals. For example, contracts are entered on the premise that the other party will honour their obligations and investors will invest if they are assured of transparent and functional institutions such as courts to enforce their rights. They can only be dependable and credible if there are persons of integrity behind the desk. Sadly, our institutions cannot produce cheats and then we expect a society of men and women of integrity.

The loss of integrity and moral compass for the young generation will mean a path worse than that of their predecessors. It’s not hard to see that someone who thinks it is okay to cheat at school will also think it’s okay to cheat in their job or profession.

A doctor who steals his or her way through medical school poses a danger to many. Similarly a driver who, because of bribery obtains a licence without training (as is the norm in Uganda) poses a danger to other road users. It is no wonder that citizens of neighbouring countries such as Kenya find it easier to be employed in some sectors of our economy than our own citizens.

Reversing this trend will not be an easy task. Institutions will not be enough; we already have enough of them including some of the best laws but the problem grows bigger and bigger. What is required are comprehensive, bold, robust and swift measures by leaders who lead by moral strength.  Leaders whose decisions and actions are guided by, in the words of former US president Barack Obama, “the question to ask is whether it is right and not whether it is profitable” and by “profitable”, he meant more than material gain but also political and social profit.

Birungi Denis, lawyer, bdeniso4@gmail.com



There is no challenging time to be an NRM MP like now. I feel a lot of sympathy for NRM MPs. On one side you are being pressed to the corner with intimidation and threats by the party president to do what he wants no matter the cost .On the other side you feel strongly that it is wrong to blindly and cowardly obey your chairman as doing so will plunge the country in a dark future for which you will be blamed and on the other side the people who sent you are telling you not to dare touch it (Togikwatako)


So what should an MP do amidst this intricate situation? Side with the chairman and betray his or her conscience but also face the wrath of his or her voters? Go against the people and his or her conscience so that he continues to get acceptance by the party?


What to do

Taking the right decision under such circumstances requires strength of character and practical wisdom. It is better to loose a person’s approval or favors or be persecuted than sell your conscience and betray your country. The pain of being bold to with stand these huge forces of state might be much but it is for short time. The joy of betraying the country, your conscience and your people however is short lived. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and was happy for a few moments but guilt and shame did not allow him enjoy the 30 coins of silver. He finally committed another murder by committing suicide.

Catalonia’s independence and the principle of self-determination


The attempts by Catalonia’s leaders to secede from Spain by a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on the basis of the disputed referendum results are unsustainable in light of the long established practice and principles that underpin the principle of self-determination.

While self-determination is an established and cherished principle of international law, its scope and application is narrowly defined. The narrow definition is important given the historical decolonisation force, as reason detre behind its evolution.

The inclusion of the principle in most international treaties followed the quest by the colonised to determine their destiny unhampered by their colonisers. This included independence and amalgamation if they deem fit. However, this freedom was capped by another doctrine, uti possidetis which emphasises stability of boundaries. Under this principle, former colonies are not to alter their territories and should let them as defined by the colonial masters.

Given its historical rationale, it is now established by state practice that the right of peoples to self-determination is to be exercised within the framework of existing states, including their legal regimes. This is premised on the idea that there should be constraints to the exercise of the right to self-determination because of the need to prevent threats to existing territorial integrity and to maintain international stability.

The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on Quebec’s succession offers better insights on how Catalonia’s secession attempt might end. The Canadian Supreme Court, after emphasising that secession can only happen through the existing state framework, went ahead to state that: “A state whose government represents the whole of the people or peoples resident within its territory, on a basis of equality and without discrimination, and respects the principles of self-determination in its own internal arrangements, is entitled to the protection under international law of its territorial integrity”.

The position of the Canadian Supreme court is that first separation is possible in accordance with the law of the mother state and secondly, justifiable reasons should exist before a territory can separate from an existing state. It reflects state practice on how questions of separation have been addressed and sets good practice for present and future reference.

Territories that have advanced cultural diversity or economic clout as sole grounds, their separation attempts have ended in a legal and political limbo. From Quebec, to Katanga in the DRC, to Biafra in Nigeria, all attempts to secede have failed to materialise.  For those that advance cultural differences, diversity of culture alone should never justify disintegration of territorial boundaries of sovereign states, as doing so would open the floodgates in multicultural/multi-ethnic states causing instability in existing sovereign states because of demands for separation.

For territories that seceded successfully in modern history, the grounds were more than cultural differences or stronger economic strength. In South Sudan for instance, besides cultural, racial and religious differences, there was prevalence of historical oppression, subjugation and exploitation of the southerners by the Arab-dominated north. In Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe), the UDI succeeded because it was a decolonisation struggle backed by strong international pressure on colonial masters to grant self-rule.

Only such justifiable reasons as historical oppression and decolonisation may earn a territory international support and subsequent recognition upon successful secession. For independent states, separation is only possible through the constitutional framework of the mother state. Usually, a mutually agreed position to hold a referendum within the applicable legal framework is reached between intending separatists and the mother state. In the event of a vote to leave, the Vienna Conventions on Succession of States govern the terms of the divorce.

This approach was followed by Sudan where the referendum for the independence of the Southern territory was successful in 2011 and the United Kingdom on the unsuccessful Scottish independence referendum. In the event of a “no” referendum result, usually the mother state grants greater autonomy to the territory or more political inclusion is pursued to minimise tensions. This was the approach reached by Canada on Quebec which is suitable and most likely for Catalania, if both parties soften their stance and agree to an amicable settlement which should culminate into a referendum so that the Catalans can choose their destiny.

Birungi Denis, lawyer, post-graduate student at the Law Development Centre and fellow at the African Policy Centre think tank.



When Donald Trump decided to withdraw America from the Paris Accord and threatened to cut federal funding for climate change initiatives, little did he know that Hurricane Harvey would devastate Texas and Louisiana with such horror. His reason for cutting funding for climate change interventions is that they have “killed America jobs” and that climate change is a myth.

As greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures increase, the impact from climate change are projected to become widespread and to intensify.  The type, frequency and intensity of extreme weather – such as storms, hurricanes, typhoons, floods and droughts are projected to increase. From the United States to the Phillipines to Naple, to India to Freetown and most recently to the Caribbean, the devastation by hurricanes and floods is horrifying. Scientists agree that the cause is global warming and man-made factors are responsible.

The hostility of the planet due to effects of climate change calls for tougher decisions and swift action on the side of policy makers both at national and global stage to ensure a safer world. This should be through swift comprehensive and robust defensive and reformative measures, including a gradual change from polluting to cleaner economies.  Arguments that climate change interventions kill jobs and that they conflict with objectives of growth and development are untenable. The obligation to save the planet and the objective of growth and development are inextricably linked.

These obligations cannot be postponed, they are needed now.  An increasingly hostile planet will make growth and development more difficult; will cause more natural disasters leading to loss of human and other capital, pushing many to poverty. The choice is not to ignore the monster that threatens us but to confront it before it extinguishes our existence (sadly it has already reached our door steps), which is why countries entered the iconic Paris Agreement whose main approach is to hold the increase in the global average temperature below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Luckily, efforts have been intensified at the global stage to ensure that climate change interventions and the objectives of growth and development are mutually supportive. These include legal and institutional mechanisms. There is closer cooperation between international organizations such as United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ensure that objectives of development and the fight against climate change are complementary.

At WTO (a multi- lateral trading system created to champion free trade), rules are being re-interpreted and measures developed to allow member countries mitigate the effects of climate change. A committee on trade and environment, created under its framework is undertaking negotiations on trade and environment as part of the Doha Development Agenda. The negotiations aim to ensure that trade and environment policies are mutually supportive.

The Judicial branch of the WTO, the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) has since developed a more liberal and open minded approach in interpreting measures aimed at environmental protection which may conflict with WTO rules (such as the Most Favoured nation principle and the principle of national treatment). By purposefully applying the general exceptions under article XX of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), the DSB allows such measures as environmental subsidies and carbon taxes as long as they meet the test of the chapeau of that article. Under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) WTO- inconsistent barriers/regulations aimed at environmental protection are permissible as long as they are necessary and based on available scientific information. The promotion of green goods is also promising to the future of cleaner and sustainable economies.

Progressive governments have already put in place policies to prepare for the future. Britain and France have set targets to have only electric cars on their roads by 2040, while India’s target is 2030. Such policies will propel Research and Development (R&D) in new channels of investment, opening new markets and creating alternative, sustainable economies.  With these trends, future growth and development will not be in coal mines or oil industry but in electric cars, solar energy and other clean energy innovations.

Birungi Denis, lawyer and fellow at the Africa Policy Centre, a think tank at Uganda Christian University