Ugandan court okays Standard Gauge Railway

The Ugandan High Court has ruled that a contract agreement the Government signed with China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) regarding the Eastern and Northern Standard Gauge Railway Network Project should proceed.  

Justice Stephen Musota made the ruling on Monday as he struck out from the court record an application for judicial review in which three Members of Parliament had sought to cancel the contract with the Chinese company.

The MPs, Theodore Ssekikubo, Barnabas Tinkasimire and Joseph Gonzaga Sewungu, had asked the court to declare that the Uganda Government’s decision to sign the contract with the Chinese construction company was illegal as it was contrary to Public Policy and Transparency.

According to an affidavit sworn by Ssekikubo in support of the application for cancellation of the agreement, the contract price is a colossal sum of $3,290,149,218 excluding local taxes.

Musota agreed with Senior State Attorney Elisha Bafiirawala, who argued the application on behalf of the State, that the applicants had no proper ground on which to sue the Government, using judicial review procedure. He ordered the MPs pay costs of the application to the state.

Musota further agreed with attorney Bafiirawala that the applicants did not show any personal interest in the matter; adding that the rights involved were public in nature.

However, the MPs, who were represented by their fellow MP Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), notified the court that they would appeal against the ruling. Of the three legislators, only Ssekikubo attended the court.

The applicants had argued that the contract was contrary to national interest, public interest, common good governance and democratic practice.

They had further argued that the contract agreement and the process leading to its execution defied logic, defeated common sense and violated procurement laws, principles and best practice. It was signed contrary in contempt of Parliamentary processes and in total disregard of principles of good governance and; should be cancelled out.

However, Bafiirawala opposed the application arguing if the court decided to cancel the contract agreement, the government would be compelled to pay very colossal amount of money which would cripple its operations. 

The attorney also submitted that the contract agreement followed the summit of the heads of state of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda held in 2013.

The Standard Gauge Railway Network is part of the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) an initiative established among others, to ease transportation of cargo from the Port of Mombasa in Kenya to the nearby countries, including Rwanda.