Rationalisation Of Uganda National Meteorological Authority Is A Wrong Move

  • Government should reconsider its policy for rationalization of some of agencies with unique services and mandates that have global , continental and regional legal and financial ramifications .

By Moses Sserwanga

Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) will lose strategic autonomy to which it is bound by both regional and international obligations when its suppressed into a department following government’s rationalization of agencies .

Globally , meteorological services are under the stewardship of World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Uganda is a signatory to WMO convention, Chicago Convention, African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology AMCOMET and East African Treaty, that provide for detailed legal frameworks and  international , continental and regional obligations that require state parties to set up semi-autonomous National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS’s.)

 There is international consensus which  has become a global trend that National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS’s) transform into semi-autonomous Government Agencies (SAGA).

This is to enable provision of more efficient and effective services for Disaster Risk Reduction and Social Economic Development, Environment Protection as well as building resilience to adverse impacts of climate change.

Uganda being a member of WMO is under obligation to comply with these international legal instruments and that’s what led to the upgrading of the then  department of  meteorology metamorphosed into a semi –autonomous UNMA .  It was established by the UNMA Act of 2012.

Initially , meteorological services were provided under the first EAC until 1977 and thereafter ,the Department of Meteorology (DOM) was placed under seven (7) different ministries, unfortunately, DOM could not fit in the core mandates of those ministries including Water and Environment where its now being  proposed to go.

UNMA,given its uniqueness and the functional nature, serves all sectors of our economy as meteorological service is deemed to be “essential” service as per the sixth schedule of the Uganda Public Service (Negotiating, Consultative and Disputes Settlement Machinery) Act, 2008.

A service is considered to be essential if such  service -is critical to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning and UNMA as a National Meteorological and Hydrological Service (NMHS) is key in all these aspects . 

At the  African continental level ,Uganda is a member to the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) and therefore ,is bound by resolutions of AMCOMET. Strategic pillar number one of AMCOMET is on increasing political support and recognition of National Meteorological and hydrological Services (NMHSs)  among others.

Each member state including Uganda  is required to formulate policies and provide the necessary legislation to ensure that  NMHSs become more semi-autonomous.

The same applies to the East Africa Community (EAC) region where  Uganda is a partner state to the East African Treaty of 1999 which under article 100 provides for meteorological services and inter-alia calls on member states to harmonize policies for the provision of meteorological services. 

It is in line with this obligation and or mandate, that the sectoral council on Transport, Communications and Meteorology (TCM) which is one of the established organs of EAC as provided in article 9(1)(d) implored all NMHSs within member states to become semi- autonomous bodies. Uganda led the way that resulted into the establishment of  UNMA in 2012 .

This was re-echoed during the 18th meeting of TCM which was held in Bujumbura Burundi from 6th to 10th February 2023.  During this meeting ,it was reiterated that the Republics of Burundi, Kenya and South Sudan should expedite their processes to set up semi –autonomous NMHSs.

Currently, Kenya, the 2nd last to set up a semi- autonomous NMHs has recently passed a bill in the national Parliament to the effect  with  Sudan the only remaining EAC member state to set up an independent NMHs. 

UNMA services are largely a public good with indirect,  unquantifiable monetary value.

At this critical time, it would be disastrous to Uganda as a country and our air space if the status quo of UNMA is downgraded.

In socio-economic development UNMA contribution to the regularity, efficiency and safety of air navigation cannot be underestimated nor down graded.

The Aviation Industry in Uganda is wholly dependent on Meteorological Services and UNMA is the only designated meteorological service provider for aviation. The meteorological services are useful for landing and take-off of various aircrafts both local and international.

It should be  noted that the upgrade of DOM to UNMA corresponded to improved service delivery and a higher rating of Uganda Civil  Aviation Authority (UCAA). For that matter, downgrading UNMA is likely going to impact negatively on the service as well as the international rating of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA). 

UNMA is also a key player in ensuring security and air defense sector by providing  efficient meteorological services in Uganda.

The tourism sector also benefits from the UNMA services by constantly monitoring the weather patterns and climate change .

Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy and UNMA is at the center of providing periodic accurate climate information and weather forecasts to ensure increased agricultural production . This ensures food security and creates employment opportunities for millions of Ugandans which ultimately leads to stable , secure and peaceful country .

UNMA is key in monitoring water bodies to determine rainfall, humidity, temperature patterns. 

Countrywide rainfall data, wind speed, direction, solar radiation measurements are a must for the energy potentials and master plan for the country to be realized and this information is only provided by UNMA. 

Similarly infrastructural design, development  and marine safety requires UNMA’s accurate data contribution  which is also used in disaster preparedness and risk reduction .

Therefore, UNMS’s  services and role for early warning are crucial for  many of Uganda’s development sectors that are weather reliant. 

It will  be a disaster if UNMA is downgraded against the international legal obligations that Uganda is signatory . Government should reconsider its policy for rationalization of some of agencies with unique services and mandates that have global , continental and regional legal and financial ramifications .

The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Uganda / Stakeholder Engagements, Media and Communications Consultant



Writer is a media and communications consultant And Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

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