Connect with us

Livelihood, Land And Investment

Families left in limbo as Uganda oil project earmarks land

Published

on

Jacckson Katama, a fisherman by trade, at his home in Bullisa District near Lake Albert in Uganda, September 15, 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Isaac Kasamani

By Liam Taylor

BULIISA, Uganda, Oct 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Two years ago, surveyors came to measure a swathe of land cutting through the Bitamale family’s homestead in western Uganda.

The family was not sure whether the land acquisition in their village in Buliisa district was for a road or a pipeline, but they knew it was connected to a multibillion-dollar oil project coming to the low plain beside Lake Albert.

“The surveyors told us we shouldn’t use the land where they passed,” Violet Bitamale told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, indicating an invisible line between a nearby tree and the house of her adult son.

But since then, nobody has come to develop the land and the family has received no compensation for it, noted her husband, Isaac.

Uganda’s first major oil project has hit repeated delays, leaving families in a state of limbo that poses major risks to their livelihoods, their land rights and the environment, human rights groups said in two reports published last month.

The project is a joint venture between French energy giant Total and the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), in cooperation with the Ugandan government.

The companies will acquire land from hundreds of families around Lake Albert and 12,000 additional families along the 1,440-km pipeline route from Hoima district to the Tanzanian coast, according to the NGO reports.

In a speech this week, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he expects the oil companies to reach a final investment decision on key parts of the project by the end of this year.

Officials say it will take another three years until the crude starts pumping, with government geologists estimating the country’s reserves at 6 billion barrels.

Bitamale said before the surveyors came to her village, Total had told residents they would receive compensation for any land that was bought up – but only for the crops and structures that were already there, not new ones added later.

Families were informed they could plant seasonal crops, such as potatoes and maize, but not their staple food cassava, which takes up to two years to grow – because by that time their farmland could have become part of the oil project, she added.

“What should we eat now?” Bitamale asked.

Isaac said they are growing some cassava on a different plot, but it is not enough, so they also have to buy some.

Total said the land acquisition process follows international standards, and that “considerable efforts have been made” to keep households informed about delays, for example through radio messages and posters.

CNOOC Uganda said in emailed comments that it “complies with all the relevant Ugandan laws and regulations along with its own corporate standards that have to be met (to) respect human rights”.

22-year-old student, Emmanuel Ongyeer stands at the Kyakaboga resettlement in Hoima district near Lake Albert in Uganda, September 14, 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Isaac Kasamani

‘PROTECTING THE PEOPLE’

Oil companies have had their eye on the Lake Albert region since commercial quantities of crude were first discovered there in 2006. The planned development is expected to attract investments of $15-20 billion over the next five years.

According to public statements by the energy ministry and the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), a regulator, the development will include more than 400 oil wells, several processing facilities, and a refinery.

It also involves building the world’s longest heated pipeline, the $3.5-billion East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

On Sept. 10, after signing a pipeline agreement with Total, Museveni said the government’s share of oil earnings would support the country’s infrastructure, education and health.

That agreement signalled renewed momentum, and Total said that it is starting to “resume and expedite the compensation process” for people who will lose land to the project.

The company said land belonging to more than 600 households was marked for acquisition in the first phase of the development.

But even before the first drop is pumped, the Total project and others in the venture “have been marred by allegations of human rights violations,” said a joint statement by several human rights groups.

They include the global charity Oxfam, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), headquartered in Paris, and the Kampala-based Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI).

Families who have been affected by the projects have complained of “slow payments, disruption of children’s education, loss of traditional sources of livelihood, and opaque resettlement processes,” the statement said.

Rashid Bunya, a researcher at FHRI, said that “the government should not focus on earning from the oil. It should also first focus on protecting the people who are going to live with the oil”.

“The … initiative is a good project. The biggest challenge is how it has been handled. There’s a problem of engaging with the community and so people’s voices are not heard,” he said.

Total said it had consulted with 68,000 people since the start of its component of the project and that the pipeline route was chosen so that just 488 families would need to leave their homes.

“The rates of compensation have been approved by the relevant governments based on market research,” the company said.

Ali Ssekatawa, director for legal and corporate affairs at the PAU, acknowledged the development is facing delays and said affected communities were free to keep using their land “within limits”.

DIVIDED FAMILIES

In Buliisa, the disruptive effects of oil development are already being felt.

Bitamale said oil companies working in the area initially registered only men as the landowners, causing families to quarrel over compensation and even fuelling domestic violence.

The FIDH report noted that Total now requires both spouses to sign compensation contracts and pays women directly for their personal crops and property.

Fred Mwesigwa, who has lost three acres (1.2 hectares) to Total’s central processing facility, said the 10 siblings in his family have fallen out over whether to accept resettlement or cash compensation, at rates he considers inadequate.

“That house belongs to my sister,” he says, gesturing across his garden. “You just pass by, without (her) greeting us.”

In a separate project further south, in Hoima district, the government is planning to build an oil refinery and an international airport which will fly in oil equipment.

That project has so far displaced more than 7,000 people, according to the Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA), a community-based rights group.

Although most families took cash compensation, about 70 opted for resettlement, noted Francis Elungat, a land acquisition officer at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development who confirmed the figures from the ORRA.

The families who chose resettlement now live in a government-built village, in rows of geometric houses with a faintly suburban feel.

One of the residents, Innocent Tumwebaze, said it is nothing like the homesteads they left behind, which had space to graze animals or construct separate huts for adolescent sons.

“As Africans, in our culture most families are extended families – you find the grandfather is there, the son, the daughter,” Tumwebaze said.

“When they were planning this settlement … we told them the kind of setting that we have in our community does not match with what we are doing here.”

**Trust.org

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Accountable Development To Communities

A self-claimed landlord who caused the imprisonment of six community land rights defenders on false charges was aligned before the court and charged with 28 counts.

Published

on

Naava while entering court cells at  Mubende.

By Witness Radio Team

A magistrate court at Mubende has charged a self-claimed landlord with 28 counts plus murder. Naava Milly Namutebi caused the arrest of six community land rights defenders, falsely accused them of murder, and got imprisoned for three years without trial. 

Naava’s appearance before the court followed shortly after the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) dropped murder charges against six community land rights defenders. These include; Tumusiime Benjamin, Bagirana Innocent, Habana Domoro, Miyingo Gerald, Byangaramani Charles, and Byekwaso Fred.

Naava was charged along with Bulasio Musoke, Richard Mugagga, Henry Kaaya, among others. They were not allowed to answer any charges as the court had no power to make legal decisions and judgments on charges read to them.

The prosecution alleges that Naava and others still at large, committed offenses in areas of Mubende and Kampala districts between 2006 and 2021.

From 2012 to date, Naava got help from the senior army, police, and other public officers in Mubende orchestrated violence and committed human rights violations/abuses while forcefully evicting over 4,000 people off their land. 

The land being targeted measures 3.5 square miles covering villages including Kirwanyi central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district.

Naava and others accused were remanded to Kaweeri prison until 19th/July/2022. 

Continue Reading

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Six community land rights defenders from Kawaala have turned up at police for interrogations but, failed to take off

Published

on

By Witness Radio Team.

The six community land rights defenders from Kawaala zone II and the local leader that were summoned to appear at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters have turned up, however, the interrogations did not take off due to the absence of the head of investigating team.

The six community defenders were required to report back to police for further investigations into alleged crimes that have not yet been officially disclosed to defenders’ lawyers. They were supposed to appear before the police investigation team today the 06th of July 2022 at 10:00 AM.

The defenders include; Kasozi Paul, Busobolwa Adam, Kabugo Micheal, Serugo Charles, Ssemanda David, Sserukwaya David, and the area vice-chairman Patrick Kato Lubwama.

While appearing before police for the first time last week on Wednesday 29th, the Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Domara Patrick who heads the investigations team casually said the defenders and the local leader are being investigated for obtaining money by pretense and forgery, which charges are not mentioned on police summons.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced eviction by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) being implemented by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The drainage channel construction is financed by the World Bank.

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

Witness Radio – Uganda has established that the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division, Mr. Anderson Burora is among the complainants. Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio – Uganda believes that police are being used to harass and intimidate defenders to back off the justice campaign for people negatively impacted by the drainage channel.

The defenders and the local council leader have been booked to report back to the police on Monday, the 11th of July 2022 at 9:00 AM local time.

Continue Reading

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

A self-claimed landlord who masterminded the imprisonment of six community land rights defenders for three years has been arrested.

Published

on

Naava being arrested by police.

By Witness Radio team.

A joint team of investigators from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from Kampala and the Mubende police arrested a self-claimed landlord who falsely accused six community land rights defenders of murder and led to a three years imprisonment without trial.

Naava Milly Namutebi was arrested at her farm in Kirwanyi in Mubende district with other alleged land dealers namely Bulasio Musoke, Richard Mugagga, and Henry Kaaya.

Naava’s arrest occurred a few days after the DPP dropped charges of murder against six community land rights defenders who had spent three years without trial. These include Tumusiime Benjamin, Bagirana Innocent, Habana Domoro, Miyingo Gerald, Byangaramani Charles, and Byekwaso Fred.

Since 2012, Naava with the help of senior army, police, and other public officers in Mubende have orchestrated violence and committed human rights violations/abuses against over 4,000 people to evict them off their land. The land is measuring 3.5 square miles covering villages namely Kirwanyi central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district.

According to locals, Mubende police acting on Naava’s orders arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained dozens and dozens of land owners at different police stations in the district. Several victims allege they had to pay colossal sums of money to be released.

For many years, Mubende district has been one of the forced eviction hotspots where families are forced off their land with compensation or being offered settlement. Witness Radio’s one-year research report released in 2017 revealed that over 60% of the total grabbed land in the district was stollen by local investors.

Witness Radio – Uganda research indicates that Naava is involved in multiple land grabs with the help of government security apparatus. In 2017, residents namely Ruhobana Dombo, Samuel Ndekezi, and Chleopus Zariwa from the Butoloogo sub-county in Mubende district were arbitrarily arrested and detained on Naava’s orders by Mubende police.

The victims and other residents lawfully occupied and cultivated their land for decades but got shocked to hear that Naava was claiming ownership of their land.

The trio had gone to their gardens to plant maize on August 17, 2017, when Naava’s stick-wielding laborers attacked and severely beat them.

Naava is currently held at Mubende Central Police Station, with 28 charges including murder, attempted murder, forgery, and others preferred against her.

 

Continue Reading

Resource Center

Legal Framework

READ BY CATEGORY

Facebook

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter





No spam mail' ever' its a promise

Trending