Refinery site residents abandon farming as they await oil compensation money

Locals examine documents government will use to expel them out of the land

Bati Franco a resident of Bukoma B and Geoffrey Kiwedde look at the vacation notice that Bati Franco received from Strategic Friends International

In this little-known village of Kyapaloni, we have just arrived in the trading centre and the boys or should we say the young men are playing cards. It‘s few minutes past noon, people should be somewhere in the garden digging but who cares about digging any more, not in this village. Kyapaloni is a village in Kabaale Parish, Buseruka Sub-county, Hoima District, one of the many villages where residents will have to vacate to pave way for the construction of Uganda’s Oil Refinery. The residents here are just waiting for their “cut” in the name of compensation and off they will go to seek for another place of habitation.

We are introduced to Geoffrey Kiwedde, the Chairperson of the Proposed Oil Refinery Resident’s Association. He is dressed in a red- checked shirt. He speaks from a spring of passion but with a reflective consciousness that provides a perfect balance to his passion.

When we start to ask the questions Kiwedde tells us that a number of residents here have been compensated for their land and have thus left. However those that are still here, their future remains uncertain as they cannot do anything except wait till the government compensates them so they can find alternative places for permanent resettlement.

In the meantime none or just a few of them are engaging in any productive work.

“The government stopped us from working but it is two years down the road and they have not compensated us” Kiwedde states

“The people have lost hope, the people are no longer growing any food and the children are no longer going to school. We fear we may be relocated any time soon.”

The 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda under Article 26 guarantees every person’s right to own property which right can only be derogated from in cases where a person is adequately and promptly compensated.

However Kiwedde is concerned that compensation in this case is turning out not to be adequate and prompt.

He says many signed but they have not gotten the money. According to the Local Residents leader, the delay in compensation goes against the spirit of the constitution which demands that compensation should be prompt.

To worsen matters, he reports that some residents have received vacation notices ordering them to leave the land though the government is yet to compensate them for their land.

An example is Bati Franco of the neighbouring Bukona B village.

A copy of the Vacation Notice of Strategic Friends International that Uganda Oil has seen

A copy of the Vacation Notice of Strategic Friends International that Uganda Oil has seen

“Pursuant to the compensation agreement signed by us on behalf of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and yourself, the ministry paid you 467,480 shillings which was deposited on your account No. 2201809763 in KCB Bank Hoima Branch being full compensation for your land being acquired in the above mentioned village,” reads a vacation notice from Strategic Friends International.

Strategic Friends International Ltd is the company contracted to handle the compensation and relocation process of the Oil Refinery site residents on behalf of the government.

“In full compliance with S.77 of the Land Act you are required to vacate the said land within 3 months from the date hereof to give way for the construction of the oil Refinery.”

“You are advised that upon the expiry of the 3 months the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and/or her agents or assignees shall have the right without further notice to assume and/or enforce vacant possession and peaceful enjoyment of the land.” The notice concludes

When we ask Bati whether he will leave without being compensated, he says he cannot. Bati believes that would be an abuse of his constitutional rights, something he swears to oppose at whatever cost.

The compensation rates vary from case to case but they are based on the acreage of the land, the plants thereon and the trees. Generally Land that is within the trading centre would go for about 7 million per acre and land outside the trading centre is 3 million per acre that is without valuing the plants, trees or any other developments thereon. The residents also get a disturbance allowance commensurate to 3% of the total value of the land for which they are being compensated.

Kiwedde says it is unfair the government is still compensating them based on the 2010 rates yet every other day land prices are appreciating.

“Land has become very expensive outside there. When you go looking for land and the potential sellers learn you are a beneficiary of the Oil Refinery Site Compensation, they hike their asking price. At the end of it you are forced to get less out of the compensation money.”

To avert the possibility of getting into the trap of such opportunists some have resorted to relocating to villages that are far away from Kabaale sub- County and other families have opted to be relocated to some other land identified by government as opposed to receiving monetary compensation.

Nonetheless, even the fate of those who want to be compensated with land remains uncertain as the government is yet to identify the land where they will relocate. Kiwedde is disturbed that the government has not kept them informed on the progress of the matter.

“We keep hearing that the government is buying land and that they are going to survey it. We only hear those things in the news. But if it is for us that they are buying the land then we have a right to be involved.” He says.

Apart from his queries on compensation, Kiwedde is as well concerned that the government when sensitising the communities on what they should do with the compensation money,it gave residents a misguided compensation that building rentals was a great business in which locals could invest their compensation cash.

He says many people who have ventured into such projects are now regretting as they can hardly find the people to rent the houses in the villages where they are.

“I know someone who built a house when he got the compensation money and now he wants to sell the house and buy land. He has found the house unprofitable.” Kiwedde reveals

He opines that the government should have rather equipped them with modern agricultural skills.

“They should have taught us sustainable ways of using our land. They should never have taught us anything else. They should have taught us agriculture because that is what we were doing before the refinery came.”

[author image=”https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-xaf1/v/t1.0-1/c124.38.472.472/s160x160/382687_542277799168103_945715142_n.jpg?oh=387acd68bfd7cfa853a20f91860f050c&oe=54B2D4EB&__gda__=1424963371_27a3c19a5cf536d71e27572bedde2d94″ ]Zakaria Tiberindwa is a Writer, Researcher and Legal Professional. He obtained a Bachelors Degree in Law from Uganda Christian University and has completed his Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at Law Development Centre. He has more than 5- years experience in journalism and creative writing. He has skills in writing, journalism, research, legal aid practice, web design, web-content management, social media marketing, public speaking, training, print magazine-designing, editing, photography and video-shooting and editing. He is a performance poet and has been an active member of Uganda’s largest community of Poets, the Lantern meet of Poets. He blogs at the wireless connection and you can[follow id=”@musumbazak” ] [/author]

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