The Legal Implications About Mainstreaming Uganda National Meteorological Authority

The national Parliament of Uganda has  passed a bill to mainstream Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) into the Ministry of Water and Environment, the going against the international instruments signed prior to this decision .

The parliament’s decision has far fetching legal ramifications within the global community that has called for the independence of national meteorological agencies .

The  decision  to have  Uganda National Meteorogical Authority (UNMA) mainstreamed into the Ministry of Water and Environment now needs the President’s urgent  intervention mainly because Parliament underrated the highly specialized nature and the role of UNMA to the safety and security of Ugandans.

It’s trite law that UNMA is a specialized  agency whose services are critical to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning in accordance to international and regional treaties to which Uganda is a party .

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, 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.

Accordingly , Uganda  and Rwanda led the way that resulted the establishment of  UNMA. In 2011, Rwanda Meteorological Services was transformed into Rwanda Meteorological Agency and in  2012 Uganda also came on board by  transforming  the Department of Meteorology into UNMA.

The same was done by  Tanzania who  transformed their meteorological services to Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA). The  recently tabled Meteorology Bill, 2023 which was passed by Kenya’s Parliament is transforming the Kenya Meteorology Department into Kenya Meteorological Services Authority.

This after  the 18th meeting of TCM which was held in Bujumbura Burundi from 6th to 10th February 2023, recommended  that the republics of Burundi, Kenya and South Sudan should expedite the transformation of their Meteorological Departments to Meteorological Authorities as directed by the 16th TCM .

It’s important to note that Uganda is a member of World Meteorological Organization (WMO) which advocate for  National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of all member states to be transformed into semi-autonomous or autonomous institutions. So, mainstreaming UNMA into the Ministry of Water and Environment will not only reverse the gains of the current government but will also violate Uganda’s commitment to the EAC treaty.

Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) will lose its strategic autonomy to which it is bound by both regional and international obligations. Meteorological services are under the stewardship of World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It has become a global standard  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 had to comply and the then department of meteorology metamorphosed into UNMA  as per a  letter from Secretary General of WMO dated 30th September, 2021.

Similarly ,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 NMHSs among others. Each member state is required to formulate policies and provide the necessary legislation to ensure that NMHSs become more semi-autonomous .

In view of the above, and considering that Uganda is a signatory to WMO convention, Chicago Convention, AMCOMET and East African Treaty, all of which resolved among others, to have all NMHSs semi-autonomous.  

This explains why Meteorological Service is an essential service as per the sixth schedule of the Uganda Public Service (Negotiating, Consultative and Disputes Settlement Machinery) Act, 2008.

UNMA’s contribution to the efficiency and safety of Air Navigation is a service on which Uganda’s aviation industry thrives. Meteorological information is mandatory for every take-off or landing for both local and international flights.

 In Annex 3 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), it is a requirement for the meteorological services to be provided by an ISO series certified institution. UNMA is one of the few institutions of government of Uganda that are ISO certified and by being so, UNMA supports the aviation industry to be compliant with the international standards.

However, mainstreaming UNMA into the Ministry of Water of Environment will have a disrupting effect on the ISO certification status. It is important to recall that the upgrade of the Department of Meteorology to UNMA corresponded to improved service delivery and a higher rating of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA).

The move to mainstreaming UNMA into the Ministry of Water and Environment will therefore , compromise the international rating of Uganda’s aviation industry.

Uganda Peoples Defense Force Air Force (UPDAF) is one of the major consumers of meteorological services. Weather information plays an essential role in the taking off and landing of fighter jets and the sailing of warships.

UNMA works closely with Uganda Peoples Defense Force Air Force (UPDAF) personnel to provide aeronautical meteorological information for the security function either through UCAA or direct briefing of security personnel.

Since the timely weather information plays a major role in national security and economy, it is important to retain UNMA as a semi-autonomous institution of Government.

President Yoweri Museveni should exercise his constitutional powers to consider the above regional, continental and international obligations in light of the passed UNMA Bill.


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

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