Government Must address the Rot in the Resettlement of Affected Families in the Uganda Oil Refinery Project

By Doris Atwijukire…

Last week, President Museveni was sworn-in for another five-year term at Kololo Independence Grounds.

Since the President is expected to appoint a new cabinet that is expected to prioritise, among others, income-generation to uplift Ugandans out of poverty, we hope his new government will take into consideration the plight of vulnerable families in the oil refinery area of Kabaale, Buseruka, Hoima District.

These families are in dire need, particularly the 38 families who opted for cash compensation as well as the 93 families that chose to be relocated.

Last week, for instance, two members of the 93 families who were waiting to be resettled lost their lives, and residents could not easily find a place to bury them. This came as a result of government’s decision to set a cut-off date in 2012, stating that effective June 2, 2012, nothing on the refinery land will be considered for compensation. Therefore, Kabaale residents feared that if they bury their loved ones on the refinery land, they will be forced to exhume the bodies to where government would relocate them without any government compensation.

In 2012, the Government of Uganda embarked on a project of acquiring more than 29sq km of community land from 13 villages of Kabaale parish, Buseruka Sub-county, Hoima District for the country’s refinery. The acquisition affected 1,221 households with a total population of 7,118 people. Of this, 3,514 were women, 1,344 children and 181 elderly people.

Based on government’s commitment made in the By  for the project, 93 households opted for relocation. Among the commitments made in the RAP were: buying land on a case-by-case basis for each of the households which opted for relocation and giving a land title and a house to each household.
The other households totaling 1,128 opted for cash compensation and they were entitled to receive money for the total value of their property (within a period of six months) plus a disturbance allowance of 30 per cent as compensation.

While government offered cash compensation to some refinery-affected families who opted for cash, and started constructing houses for those who opted for relocation, the exercise was marred by delayed and inadequate compensation. For instance, government used 2010 compensation rates to value people’s property, contrary to the Land Act and the Constitution.

Because of being offered low compensation that could not facilitate some refinery-affected families to return to their original state of living, 38 refinery-affected families rejected the compensation. For four years, the 38 households, together with the 93 households that opted for relocation are still waiting for their compensation with no means of survival. They have no food; no schools and school fees for their children’s education; no clean water and other basic needs.
Government should ensure all the 93 families get houses and also renegotiate and pay the 38 households who rejected the inadequate compensation since it is currently constructing houses for only 46 families out of the 93 who opted for relocation.

It is important to note that government is also failing to uphold the RAP by not only failing to construct houses for all the 93 families that opted for relocation but also by constructing houses in a special settlement-like camp in Kyakaboga village, Hoima District.

This will infringe on their rights since there is no sufficient spacing between the different households. Also, government has failed to resettle each family on the total amount of land government owes them. Houses are being constructed on 50×100 plots with the rest of their land being given to affected people elsewhere. As agriculturalists practicing subsistence farming, rearing goats, chicken, etc., these people need enough land.

Moreover, the government contractor is living very little space between their kitchens and pit latrines. Since some of the houses being constructed are still at foundation level and others are yet to be constructed, people’s lifestyle should be taken into consideration. The affected families should be fully consulted and included in decision-making of what is best for them.

Government should also divide the land it bought and give each affected family sufficient land, not a 50 X 100 plot. They should be allowed to decide where on their land they want their houses, kitchens and pit latrines located.

Finally, President Museveni and his new government should give each of the affected families a house as agreed on in the RAP, particularly those who opted for relocation; renegotiate with the 38 people who opted for cash and relocate and compensate them as a matter of urgency.

Doris Atwijukire works for Africa Institute for Energy Governance.

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