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Breaking: Complaint filed with US NCP against insurance broker Marsh over East African pipeline.

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By Witness Radio team.

Ugandan, Tanzanian and U.S.-based human rights and environmental groups have lodged a formal complaint alleging that Marsh is violating OECD guidelines for responsible business conduct by serving as insurance broker for the planned East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). The complainants are calling for Marsh to drop its insurance brokerage role for the EACOP.

Inclusive Development International and 10 human rights and environmental organizations in Uganda and Tanzania, which are remaining anonymous due to fear of reprisals, filed a complaint to the U.S. government today alleging that New York-based insurance giant Marsh, a member of the Marsh McLennan group, violated international guidelines for responsible business conduct by serving as insurance broker for the highly controversial East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). The groups submitted the complaint to the U.S. National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, an office within the U.S. State Department tasked with handling allegations against American companies.

Marsh is the world’s leading insurance broker and risk advisor. According to its website, it protects and promotes possibility, helping their clients to dream bigger, reach further and plan for the opportunities ahead.

“An insurance broker’s role is often invisible to the public, which allows them to avoid accountability, but Marsh deserves to be scrutinized,” said Coleen Scott, a legal and policy associate at Inclusive Development International. “Marsh is playing a critical role enabling the East African Crude Oil Pipeline to move forward in the face of widespread opposition and overwhelming evidence that the project will be a disaster for Ugandans and for the planet.”

The OECD Guidelines set out principles and standards for responsible business conduct across a range of issues, including human rights and the environment. These standards apply to multinational enterprises with operations or headquarters in OECD countries, including the United States. While the OECD guidelines are non-binding, they are an important and widely accepted international standard for ethical business conduct. The complainants are calling on the U.S. NCP to consider the allegations against Marsh and make recommendations to the insurance broker to bring its conduct in line with these standards. This is the first NCP complaint filed against an insurance broker anywhere in the world.

The complaint alleges that by providing insurance brokerage services, without which the EACOP could not move forward, Marsh is contributing to the serious harm that the project has already or is expected to cause, including, improper land acquisition processes characterized by failure to provide prompt and adequate compensation, intimidation, harassment, threats and arbitrary arrests of community members, environmental and human rights defenders, as well as journalists critical of the project and inadequate consultation with affected communities.

Other damages include; threats to natural resources relied upon by communities, including the risk of oil spills affecting vital freshwater resources such as Lake Victoria, which supports 40 million people, immense and irreversible harm to local ecosystems and habitats along the pipeline’s route, which passes through numerous protected wildlife areas in Uganda and Tanzania and increased carbon emissions that will tip the world closer to climate catastrophe.

Marsh’s failure to conduct adequate human rights and environmental due diligence before engaging on this project, and its ongoing contributions to its harmful impacts, constitute a breach of the company’s responsibilities under the OECD Guidelines, according to the complaint. The complainants are calling on Marsh to bring its operations back into alignment with the OECD Guidelines by withdrawing from its role as broker for the project and committing to abstain from offering brokerage services for the EACOP project in the future. Given the severity of the claims, the complainants suggest that Marsh should at minimum commit immediately to withhold its services until the complaint is resolved.

“Marsh’s website advertises its commitment to sustainability and ‘building a more resilient world’ but the company is actively contributing to a massive and irresponsible fossil fuel project that will have the opposite effect,” said one of the Ugandan complainants, who has chosen to remain anonymous for security reasons. “The EACOP project isn’t just a shortsighted investment in oil as the world is trying to transition to alternative fuels, it is also diverting resources away from renewable energy projects that Ugandans want and threatening natural resources and existing industries that we rely on.”

About EACOP

The EACOP would be the world’s biggest heated oil pipeline, stretching nearly 900 miles (1,443 kilometers) through the heart of East Africa. The project has already caused large-scale displacement of local communities and poses grave risks to protected environments, water sources and wetlands in both Uganda and Tanzania. Those include the Lake Victoria basin; which millions of people rely upon for drinking water and food production. If completed, it would also enable the extraction and transport of enough oil to generate over 34 million tons of CO2 emissions per year at peak production, exacerbating the ongoing climate emergency.

Since its inception, the project has faced opposition from affected communities along the pipeline route and their advocates, as well as the global #StopEACOP campaign that they built. For more on this, visit www.stopeacop.net.

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Breaking Alert: Barely a year after signing the remedy agreement, World Bank Project-Affected Persons (PAPs) receive fresh land eviction threats

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By Witness Radio team.

Kawaala community, which signed a dispute resolution agreement between the Kawaala community and the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), facilitated by the World Bank Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) a year ago, has received a fresh land eviction threat. PAPs say they have received a three-day notice to vacate the land or face an eviction by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

This community first faced a forced eviction in December 2020, shortly after Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) acquired a loan from the World Bank on behalf of the government of Uganda to construct the Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2).

A USD 175 million project was started before consultations with the project-affected community, with no compensation or alternative settlement.

The remedy agreement signed on May 31st, 2023, aimed to mitigate the negative impacts of the drainage channel development on the livelihoods of the affected community and agreed to compensate all PAPs.

On June 3rd, 2024,  PAPs and their advisors  (Witness Radio and Accountability Counsel) issued a statement titled One Year Later, Justice is Delayed expressing disappointment in the way the post-agreement phase was being managed. In the agreement, KCCA, on behalf of the Government, offered to compensate all victims, resettle, and restore livelihoods, which have not been met since.

However, as the victim community is still waiting for the full implementation of the agreement by the KCCA, NEMA is forcing the urban poor community to vacate their land without any due process.

On June 13, 2024, NEMA’s representatives, under the protection of over 30 heavily armed soldiers and police officers, descended on the Kawaala Zone II community and issued an ultimatum of three days to vacate their land. Community members’ houses and other structures were marked with a big “X,” indicating they would be demolished.

“NEMA deployed at our homes soldiers and policemen to intimidate us, warning us that if we fail to remove all our belongings in three days, they will be brought down. Yet this is the land that we have held for decades. We are surprised that this is happening.” Kawaala community members revealed to Witness Radio.

According to Project-Affected Persons (PAPs), this is a collusion between KCCA and NEMA to evict them without receiving additional and fair compensation and their livelihood support under the Second Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP2) project as terms of the May 31st, 2023 agreement.

Witness Radio investigations show that this is the third eviction attempt by the government to run away from its responsibility of providing fair and timely compensation to victims.

The first attempt occurred in December 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Kawaala Zone II community received an eviction notice with a 28-day deadline and no explanation from the government. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) officials heavily guarded by armed soldiers marked the houses with letter “X,” indicating they were to be demolished under the guise of the Public Health Act Cap 281.

KCCA had hidden intentions of taking the community land for the project without compensation. Upon learning that the project is funded by the World Bank, the Project Affected Persons filed a complaint to the World Bank’s inspection Panel demanding to be fairly compensated among others. The parties (KCCA and the Affected community) opted for the dispute resolution supported by the World Bank’s Dispute Resolution Service (DRS).

Still later on, on 23rd August 2022, when the community was still under the dispute resolution, NEMA emerged under the protection of the military, and anti-riot police descended on gardens for the same families in Kawaala Zone II, cut down food crops and demolished houses belonging to over 100 families.

The grieved PAP revealed that this tactic between the two government entities is intended to deny justice to them.

Mbabali Hamis, a 47-year-old father of 15, is cursing the World Bank-funded project. According to Mbabali, ever since they learned about the project’s implementation in their area, they have faced evictions by government agencies, including KCCA and NEMA, which they believe is a tactic aimed at grabbing their land. Mbabaali’s sentiments were re-echoed by many other project-affected persons.

“We have lived here happily for many years, but everything changed when this project began. Since then, we have witnessed numerous attempts to evict us from our land under the pretense that we have been living in the Lubigi Wetland. This is not true,” He revealed.

Like other residents, Mbabali has lived on his land since 1999, farming yams, sugarcane, and trees to provide for his family. When we spoke to him, his words were coming from far away, “he said, this is my land, and I have been living on it for two decades. I have all the documents proving ownership. Where do they want me to take my family when I bought this land with my hard-earned money?” he asked.

Currently, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is disguising itself as ‘evicting wetland encroachers’ a move targeting the urban-poor families’ land well aware that these individuals are the rightful owners of the land.

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Anti-oil pipeline activist in Uganda detained, pressure group says

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A Ugandan activist campaigning to stop the development of a $5 billion crude oil pipeline in east Africa by France’s TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), opens new tab and others has been detained by Uganda’s military, the group he works for said on Wednesday.

Stephen Kwikiriza from the Ugandan environmental pressure group Environment Governance Institute (EGI) has been campaigning to halt the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

The 1,445-km pipeline is to carry crude from oilfields in Uganda’s west through Tanzania to a port on Tanzania’s coast.

The pipeline’s opponents, including Human Rights Watch, say the project will displace hundreds of thousands of people, destroy fragile ecosystems and undermine efforts to limit carbon emissions.

In a statement, EGI said the Ugandan military had detained Kwikiriza on Tuesday in the capital Kampala, according to a text message he sent to a colleague. His whereabouts are unknown, said EGI, which works with other groups to oppose the pipeline.

“The StopEACOP coalition…condemn this latest abduction and all the recent escalation of intimidation and arrests and urges the Ugandan authorities to release the human rights defender,” EGI’s statement said.

Deo Akiiki, deputy spokesperson for Uganda’s military said he was not aware of Kwikiriza’s arrest. He said EGI should make a report to police if they believed their colleague was missing.

TotalEnergies did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The company has defended the project in the past, saying that it adheres to strict Ugandan and Tanzanian environmental laws.

Pressure groups accuse Ugandan authorities of harassing activists who have been campaigning against EACOP. Ugandan authorities deny the accusation.

Last month seven activists were briefly detained outside the Chinese embassy in Kampala as they prepared to hand over a petition to the Chinese ambassador asking China to not fund the pipeline.

Source: Reuters

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PAPs and advisors cry foul over the mismanagement of the remedy agreement with the Uganda Government facilitated by the World Bank’s IAM.

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By Witness Radio team.

When Rita Zinsanze (not her real name due to fear of retaliation) signed a remedy agreement with the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) on behalf of the Uganda government, facilitated by the World Bank Independent Accountability Mechanisms (IAM), she was confident that her land, targeted by the Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2), would be compensated fairly.

The agreement was aimed at mitigating the negative impacts of the drainage channel development on her livelihood and gave her hope for a just resolution.

Rita’s family is one of the hundreds of families affected by the construction of the Lubigi drainage project, which is part of the KIIDP2 project implemented by KCCA.

“I wanted fair compensation so that I could buy land elsewhere and resettle my family, hoping to rebuild our lives as we once lived,” she revealed in an interview with a Witness Radio journalist.

Before the coming of the project, Rita used to live happily with her family on her 100 ft70 ft plot (0.065 hectares) of land farming yams, sugarcanes, and trees, which she used to sell and earn a living to cater for her family’s needs.

“I used to earn at least 500,000 Uganda shillings (131.53 United States Dollars) from yams and sugarcanes every season plus doing other works that supplemented my living.” She added.

But now, Rita says her situation has worsened since the project got to her land. Now, she struggles to make ends meet for her family of 10 because the compensation is very little to enable her to find an alternative piece of land elsewhere.

Rita, like other Kawaala Project Affected Persons (PAPs), finds themselves disillusioned, as none of the promises made before signing the agreement have materialized.

“Every time I follow up on my additional compensation and other promises, they (governmental officials) keep extending days to get my entitlements. I am becoming hopeless for the endless and empty trips I have been making to their offices.” she lamented.

May 31st, 2024, marked the first anniversary since a remedy agreement was signed. In the agreement, PAPs were promised additional compensation, livelihood restoration projects, settlement, and other support.

Instead, the aftermath has brought more negative impacts on the community members, including increased flooding of the area caused by poor drainage, hate speeches, poverty, and family separation.

In a statement released on June 3rd, 2024, by both Witness Radio and Accountability Counsel under the title: One Year Later, Justice is Delayed called upon KCCA and the World Bank to pay agreed compensation, address livelihood concerns, provide a thorough update, and ensure effective monitoring of the implementation of the agreement among others.

Furthermore, the statement mentions that some members of the community are worried that the remains of their departed family members would be lost as some of these affected community members are yet to be compensated for this loss and have not been able to restore their loved ones’ grave sites.

For more details on the statement, click on the link below; https://witnessradio.org/one-year-later-justice-is-delayed-a-joint-statement-on-the-implementation-of-the-kiidp-2-kawaala-community-agreement/

A brief background of the project;

KCCA in 2015 acquired a USD 175 million loan from the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) for Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP) project. However, part of the money (USD 17.5 million, which is 63 billion Uganda shillings) is to finance the construction of Lubigi Primary Channel.

On December 3, 2020, the Kawaala communities were shocked to find KCCA representatives in their village, accompanied by armed police officers, distributing eviction notices and informing residents that they had 28 days to vacate their homes. A few days later, for instance, in the wee hours of 05th/12/2020, the community started experiencing attacks by armed anti-riot police and workers of the construction company; destroying properties, without any prior consultation or plan for compensation and resettlement.

In a bid to find justice, in June 2021, the affected community filed a complaint with the World Bank’s Inspection Panel and raised concerns about forced evictions during COVID-19. At the time of the Complaint, the Kawaala community worried that their land would be taken away without adequate compensation and that the project had been marred with retaliatory attacks from people believed to be project implementers against project affected community.

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