Interview with Ugandan Environmental Lawyers Aryampa Brighton and Kato Tumusiime
10 juli 2024

Interview with Ugandan Environmental Lawyers Aryampa Brighton and Kato Tumusiime


Illustration: Joost Hölscher

Aryampa Brighton is a Ugandan environmental lawyer and founder of the organization Youth for Green Communities. Kato Tumusiime is a lawyer at Youth for Green Communities and in  private practice, specializing in public interest litigation, environmental issues, and human rights in Uganda and East Africa. He defends youth peacefully protesting harmful development projects. 

Youth for Green Communities (YGC) is a youth-led non-profit focused on influencing environmental governance and supporting marginalized communities. They work to ensure equitable and sustainable resource use through partnerships with educational institutions, communities, and government. YGC connects university students with communities facing development and environmental challenges to raise awareness and find solutions. YGC also advocates for community rights and constitutional freedoms, alongside the legal work on environmental and public education issues. 

Mr. Tumusiime and Mr. Brighton describe the difficulties they face in the pursuit of their work. 

The two lawyers report that accessing information, particularly from big companies like those involved in the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, is difficult and time-consuming. It can take up to a few months despite ongoing court cases, and no clear reasons for the delay are provided. Moreover, many communities affected by the EACOP project are highly isolated and lack internet access. Consequently, the only way to gather information about their issues is by visiting them, which can be hazardous for lawyers due to potential aggression and threats from the involved companies. 

Mr. Tumusiime and Mr. Brighton note that companies involved in development projects frequently challenge environmental activists and lawyers, often resorting to issuing threatening letters.  

On April 17, 2024, Mr. Tumusiime was attacked and beaten by three men while on his way to court to represent student activists from the “StopEACOP” campaign. These students were arrested in 2023 while delivering a petition to the Speaker of Parliament concerning ongoing human rights and environmental abuses in oil-producing communities affected by the EACOP project. Two days prior to the attack, on April 15, Mr. Tumusiime had participated in a peaceful community demonstration at the Hoima High Court. The demonstration aimed to urge the court to review cases of community land disputes involving families facing eviction for the expansion of oil infrastructure by TotalEnergies. As legal counsel for these landowners, Mr. Tumusiime also addressed the media, highlighting the unconstitutional nature of the government’s forced land acquisitions.   

During the attack, Mr. Tumusiime’s court files, laptop, and phone were stolen, which contained confidential case information. Mr. Tumusiime and Mr. Brighton are concerned that the perpetrators could exploit this information to undermine the case. Despite the police categorizing the incident as a robbery, both Mr. Tumusiime and Mr. Brighton suspect a connection between the attack and Mr. Tumusiime’s defense of the protestors, given the events leading up to it and the nature of the stolen documents.  

Lawyers for Lawyers has been researching the various forms of harassment and obstacles that lawyers working on environmental issues face worldwide. Physical attacks on lawyers, which hinder their ability to fulfill their roles—such as the attack on Mr. Kato Tumusiime—are not isolated to Uganda but constitute a global trend demanding increased international attention and action. 

Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) expresses deep concern about the attack on Ugandan environmental and human rights lawyer Kato Tumusiime which occurred on April 17, 2024, and its implications for environmental lawyers’ ability to carry out their work free from unjust intervention. 

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