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Safety Is Key: Gov’t Proposes Tougher Penalties In New Civil Aviation Law

Aircraft parked at the  Entebbe Airport Airside/CAA photo

The Minister of Works and Transport, Katumba Wamala tabled the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill 2024, in which Government is proposing the harshest punishment of life imprisonment for anyone found liable upon conviction of hijacking or indulging in acts of violence on an aircraft in Uganda.

Deputy Speaker, Tayebwa asked the Committee of Physical Infrastructure to expedite the scrutiny of the bill, saying the bill only has few clauses and the issues the  Bill intends to address touch the core of the safety and security of Entebbe International Airport.

“The Minister engaged me together with the Attorney General and this appears to be a very urgent matter to do with the certification of our airport for Entebbe International Airport to continue receiving traffic. There are issues that came out of the audit and they are saying you must do this by this time or we withdraw your certificate,” said Tayebwa.

Minister Katumba informed Parliament that Uganda is signatory to the International Convention of Civil Aviation of 1994, and under article 37 of the convention, Uganda is required to comply with ICCA international standards and practices and the ICCA universal oversight audit program was in Uganda and conducted a survey and an audit from 16th-18th September 2023.

“During the audit in September 2023, a number of gaps were identified in the primary aviation legislation which if not addressed could have exposed Uganda to adverse audit findings that could have had far reaching implications on the country. Including a finding of significant safety concern. A finding of significant safety concern is in effect a notice to the world that it isn’t safe to travel to Uganda or to travel by air to Uganda or on any Ugandan registered aircraft,” explained Katumba.

The Minister also added that Uganda is scheduled for a universal security program which is continuous monitoring approach commencing in January 2024 to 8th February 2024 and the said auditors are already in the country and this audit is intended to monitor Uganda’s compliance with ICCA safety and security related matters and oversight obligations under the convention.

In clause 10, Government is proposing to insert a new clause 64D of the principal Civil Aviation Act by proposing tougher  penalties for offences committed under the aviation industry proposing in sub-clause (1) In clause that; “Any person who unlawful seizes an aircraft or engages in the unlawful seizure of an aircraft commits an offence and is liable. on conviction, to imprisonment for life.”

Government further proposed that any person who commits an act of violence against a person on board an aircraft in flight, and which is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

In clause 10(3), the Ministry of Works and Transport also proposed that any person who commits an act of violence using any device, substance or weapon against a person at an airport serving international civil aviation, which causes or is likely to cause serious injury or death or which endangers or is likely to endanger safety at that airport, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

Government also proposed in clause 10(4) that any person who places or causes to be placed on an aircraft in service, by any means, a device or substance which is likely to destroy that aircraft, or to cause damage to the aircraft, or a person who engages in an act of placing or causing to be placed on an aircraft in service, by any means whatsoever, a device or substance which is likely to destroy that aircraft, or to cause damage to the aircraft and which renders the aircraft incapable of flight or which is likely to endanger its safety in flight, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

Additionally, Government proposed further in clause 10(5) that any person who engages in the destruction or damage of an air navigation facility or interferes or engages in interference with its operations or which is likely to endanger the safety of aircraft in flight; commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

Government also proposed a penalty of life imprisonment to be imposed on any person who engages in the destruction of, or serious damage to the facilities of an airport serving international civil aviation or aircraft not in service located at the airport, or disruption of the services of the airport, if such an act endangers or is likely to endanger safety at that airport.

The Ministry of Works and Transport in clause 10(7) also proposed a penalty of imprisonment for life to a person who communicates or engages in the communication of information which a person knows to be false, thereby endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight.

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