During the first COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda in March 2020, a COVID-19 case was confirmed in Uganda and the government introduced several restrictions to curb the spread of the contagious virus. The government declared a lockdown that left only a few services that were considered essential to operate. This left many Ugandans who live on a hand to mouth basis stranded on how to earn income to feed themselves and their families. During this time there was also a growing increase in prices of essential commodities and foods as a result of hoarding of goods. The situation left several vulnerable Ugandans stranded over where they would earn some money to feed themselves and their families. Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) therefore instituted a suit in the High Court of the Republic of Uganda against the Attorney General (Miscellaneous Cause No. 75 of 2020) for Government’s failure and omission to issue guidance on the access to and availability of food during the corona virus (COVID 19) pandemic, the failure and omission to regulate the prices of food during the COVID-19 pandemic and guidance on food reserves in the country. CEFROHT also sought to hold the government accountable for its failure to establish national food reserves as required by the constitution.
At the High court, the trial judge; Hon. Justice Esta Nambayo, acknowledged that the right to adequate food is one of the rights that are protected under the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. The judge also sighted several other cases that link the right to adequate food to the right to livelihood that is essential for Ugandans. However, she held that the government had issued adequate guidelines to protect the right to adequate food by giving out food aid in particular areas and leaving the agricultural sector to continue operation. The Attorney General and the Judge acknowledged that the government of Uganda had not established national food reserves, however despite this, it was the judge’s ruling that the government had established a contingency fund and had taken initiatives to improve storage of food in rural places.
CEFROHT has since lodged an appeal (Civil Appeal No. 91 of 2020) in the Court of Appeal against the whole decision of the trial judge. In this appeal, CEFROHT argues that the learned trial judge erred in her decision and contends that Government’s failure and omission of the Government to issue guidance on food access and availability for vulnerable people around the whole country during the COVID-19 pandemic is a violation of the right to adequate food and that the omission of the Government to establish food reserves is a violation of the right to food.
The appeal is yet to be heard and we hope that is heard as a matter of public interest to promote food justice for the people of Uganda.