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Govt pushes for compulsory land acquisition in Buliisa



Uganda’s multi-million dollar Tilenga Oil Project which is being implemented in Buliisa and Nwoya districts  faces numerous hurdles ranging from legal suits, contestation from locals to environmental concerns.

Under the project, government plans to build a central processing facility (CPF) with capacity to process 190,000 barrels of oil and 700,000 barrels of total liquid per day.

The project entails drilling 200 water injector wells, 196 oil producer wells, two polymer pilot wells and 28 reference wells which will be drilled on 31 well-pads.

The project includes Jobi-Rii, Gunya, Ngiri, Kasamene-Wahrindi, Kigogole-Ngara and Nsoga oil fields.

Government plans to build more than 160km of flow-lines which will transport crude oil and water from the wells to the CPF.

There are plans to build a   95 km 24 inch feeder pipeline which will transport the processed crude oil from the CPF in Buliisa to the export hub and refinery in Kabaale in Hoima District.

The project requires approximately 2,400 acres and the land acquisition process is ongoing.

However, it has received mixed reactions from locals in the oil rich Buliisa District.

Compensation disputes

Mr Gilbert Stephen Kaliisa, the Ngwedo Sub-county chairperson, said more than 600 project affected people (PAPs) have received cash compensation for their land and properties.

A total of  29 resettlement houses have also been built in Kasinyi with  three more pending but some PAPs have not received any compensation.

“More than nine families have not received any compensation, ”  Mr Kaliisa revealed.

An independent monitoring study conducted by the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas (CSCO), with financial support from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) indicates that some PAPs rejected compensation due to hiked prices for land compared with the Shs3.5m per acre that was being considered by the chief government valuer.

The PAPs also resisted government attempts to settle them in areas with  worse social services than  they currently live.

“PAPs are concerned about blockage to social cohesion and cultural identity as the established project infrastructure will separate villages and families,” Mr Joseph Mukasa Ngabwagye,  a Senior research fellow at the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (Acode), said.

According to the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), Total E& P Uganda (TEPU) has conducted a front end engineering design (FEED) study, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study, procurement and contracting of Wells and Drilling Related Services, Technical Surveys, Sub-Surface Studies and Land Acquisition.

TEPU has undertaken the FEED for the Enabling Infrastructure including access roads, well pads, Masindi Check Point, construction camps and Industrial Area among others.

ESIA contested

However, the ESIA report for the Tilenga project which the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) approved in April 2019 for a period of 10 years, has been contested by a section of locals and civil society organisations who have  since dragged Nema and PAU to court seeking  cancellation of the report.

In its suit before the High Court Civil Division, the African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) states that the Tilenga ESIA was marred by flaws, procedural irregularities thereby denying AFIEGO and other interested parties a chance to effectively put forth their views aimed at protecting their right to a clean and healthy environment.

“If the said certificate of approval is not quashed, the public shall suffer irreparable damage as the approved ESIA report allows oil activities in the most sensitive biodiversity ecosystems including Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Albert, Budongo Central Forest Reserve,”  the suit reads in part.

But the Attorney General has asked Court to dismiss AFIEGO’s suit for lack of substantial merits.

“Grant of orders sought by the applicant will undoubtedly delay the implementation of the Tilenga project and eventually affect the anticipated benefits of oil to all Ugandans only for the selfish benefits of the applicant,” Ms Jane Mbabazi Byaruhanga, the PAU environment manager, said  in her affidavit filed in court. Court is yet to rule on the matter.

  Failed talks

In 2017, Mr Jelous Mulimba Mugisha was elected by locals in Kasinyi village as chairperson of the Resettlement Planning Committee (RPC) which was charged with representing the interests of the PAPS.

The committee worked closely with Total E & P Uganda, Tullow Oil and government to ensure a smooth implementation of the resettlement exercise.

“After repeated talks with officials of oil companies and government who could not address our concerns, some PAPs sued Total and government in France. We are waiting for judgement,”  Mr Mulimba said.

Ms Gladys Birungi, a mother of five, vacated her family land in Kasinyi Village in 2017 when government announced a deadline  for PAPs in an area earmarked for a CPF.

Her family rented a house in Kasinyi Trading Centre with hope of  being paid and resettled in time so that they could resume their subsistence farming.

“We demanded for Shs10 million per acre but government officials gave us Shs3.5m per acre. When we protested the compensation rate, the officials said it is up to us to accept or leave the money,” she said.

Ms Birungi is among the 30 families being resettled in houses built by the government.

She revealed that the government paid her Shs15m as compensation and disturbance allowance for her four-acre piece of land and properties but claims the payment was inadequate.

“I failed to buy an acre of land in Ngwedo Sub-county after owners demanded Shs7m per acre yet I was paid 3.5 million by government,” Ms Birungi said.

Grounds of rejection

The Kasinyi LCI Chairperson,  Mr Gilbert Balikurungi, who is among the nine people who rejected compensation said he wants the rates increased considering that the price of  his land has appreciated.

Balikurungi and others  were assessed in the 2018/2019  but have been promised  compensation in the 2020/2021 financial year.

 Govt opts for compulsory acquisition 

In a turn of events, government through the Attorney General has sued nine families in Kasinyi Village who turned down compensation.

In his miscellaneous cause No 25 of 2020 filed at Masindi High Court, the Attorney General has requested court to allow government deposit in court Shs368,887,602 being compensation for 74.21 acres which are part of the land earmarked for an industrial area for the Tilenga oil project.

The Attorney General  has  also requested court to discharge any liabilities arising out of any claim and/or action for the compensation currently in its possession in respect of the said land.

He has asked court to grant government vacant possession of the land to enable the Tilenga project to proceed.

In his affidavit in court, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy,  Mr Robert Kasande, said the Chief government valuer carried out valuations of the project land and disclosed compensations to the PAPs but the respondents disputed the value and refused to present their particular disputes to the Chief Government Valuer for consideration.

“I know that the respondent’s actions and/ or inactions have constrained the applicant’s activities and delayed the implementation of the Tilenga project all to the detriment of all Ugandans,” Kasande’s affidavit reads in part.

He said project delays are detrimental to government and oil companies, which are under the joint venture partnership. He added that the project is critical for the progress of the oil and gas sector which plays a key role in Uganda’s social -economic development.

“The delay in acquisition of required land will affect the project timelines and economics,” Mr Kasande said.

Govt confident

Asked if contestations by PAPS will affect oil projects, Ms Gloria Sebikari, the PAU Corporate Affairs and Public Relations manager, said projects are ongoing  much as there are court processes and discussions.

“We handle concerns arising with caution to ensure projects are not impended. Projects remains open to discussion to resolve intricate things arising, ” she said.

Original Post: Daily Monitor

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Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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