About 25 kilometers outside Moroto Town, along the Moroto-Mukitale Road that leads to one of the Kenyan borders, is a limestone mining site located precisely in Katikitile Parish in Tapac Sub-County.
In the early 2000s, the site was abuzz with activity. “The entire sub-county of Tapac used to work here,” says Mr. Lokiru Sisto Dodoth, the Gombolola Internal Security Organization Officer (GISO). Locals set-up camp at the site which was busy with life. Work at the cement mining site was the main source of livelihood for majority of the residents. Today, however, only a handful of locals work at the mines.
“Then, about 60 – 80 trucks used to collect limestone daily,” Mr. Lokiru says. The limestone site which sits on over 49 square kilometers is one of two licensed mining areas Tororo Cement owns. The vast site is dotted with heaps of limestone boulders waiting to be collected. Some of the limestone heaps has been there for over a year without being bought, according to the Mr. Lokiru added. Despite this and the very hot sun, youthful men continue to toil; breaking huge boulders with sledge hammers and loosening others with crow bars. An elderly man, probably in his 70s, with the help of a cane, limps around a heap of boulders as he keeps a keen eye to ensure the young men nearby do not steal them. We are told the old man is waiting for his sons to come and start working on cement boulders.
At a distance, is a heavy duty grader owned by Tororo Cement that makes the work lighter. The grader digs-up the huge boulders loosening them for the miners to work on. You could be forgiven for likening the area as a labour camp. This work is “no-walk-in-the-park” assignment; yet the laborers often spend many months without pay.
“These days only about 9 or 10 trucks come for limestone,” says the GISO. He adds that this is further worsened by the poor state of the access roads to the mines, which complicates the ease of reaching the limestone markets. Consequently, limestone business in the area is very low and no longer lucrative for workers.
“When a truck comes to collect limestone, the obvious priority is put on the boulders closest to the access road. This also determines the ease and pace at which the 15ton or more boulders are loaded,” says Mr. Nathan Mushetsya, the Regional Inspector of Mines in the district.
There is a perception among the local residents of a conspiracy among truck drivers to marginalize the Tepeth tribe by preferring to load limestone collect by other tribes, thus depriving the Tepeth income. This perception is confirmed by the assertion of Mr. Lomel Peter, the Local Council 3 (LC3) Chairperson of Tapac Sub-County. “Our people are not given work; Truck drivers prefer to buy from other tribes, so locals do not get market and therefore income for their limestone,”
Mr. Thomas Lomel, a 35-year old worker says “he has worked at the site for seventeen years, but he has not benefited anything”. A father of seven, he is worried that after many years of toiling, his energy is dwindling and he fears he might not be able to fend for his family soon. He says, the income generation option available, which is agriculture is unfortunately a distant consolation.
The Mr. Lokiru reported that the region has not had meaningful agricultural produce in the last five years, because of adverse weather conditions. A record five-year drought hit the region in 2009 and its effects have continued to be felt to this day.
During a meeting with a team from Oil in Uganda at Tapac Sub-County headquarters, the Local Council officials blamed Tororo Cement for their financial woes and predicament.
“Every time we call the Tororo Cement Officials to meet with us to discuss our problems related with limestone mining, the officials refuse to come to the meetings”, Mr. Lomel said. He asked the Oil in Uganda team to help them meet with the Tororo Cement Officials, because “they as affected resident have failed to achieve this” he added.
Mr. Mushetsya, during an extractives stakeholders’ workshop organized by Action Aid Uganda, reported that he had met some of the officials of Tororo Cement Factory who informed him that they had selected a Liaison person at the district to link the affected residents with the factory. However, Mr. Lomel said that “the liaison person had not been of any help to the residents’.
The officials said “Tapac’s woes, unsurprisingly, include royalty related issues”. Bona-fide landowners where limestone is being extracted have never received their share of royalties remitted by Tororo Cement factory to the Central Government as provided in the Mining Act 2003”, the officials added. Landowners where mining activities are conducted are entitled to 3% of the total royalties paid by a mineral prospector as per the law. Instead, the royalty money was being sent to another sub-county through the Community Development Officer. The landlords reported that this issue has since been rectified and they are in final stages of registering an association through which they will be receiving their royalty money.
Mr. Paul Omonuk, the Production Officer of Tapac Sub-Country claimed that the sub-county does not receive the 7% of royalty as provided in the Law. He also asserted that the district restricts the sub-county’s use of the 7% royalty money remitted to the district claiming that at one time they wanted to buy a vehicle to ease their movements, but the district refused them to do so. However, this claim was refuted by Mr. Mushetsya who informed the participants at the workshop that the Sub-County has authority and mandate to use the royalty money as per their development plans. He explained that the district leadership cannot dictate how the Sub-County uses the money, because they held accountable.
The Oil in Uganda team also learnt that Tororo Cement pays Ug.shs7,000 per truck that leaves the limestone mines. But, this money never reached the sub-county. It was later discovered that Mr. John Bosco Moru, the former Sub-County Chief, used to receive the money and use it for personal interests without the knowledge of the community. Mr. Moru was subsequently dismissed upon the discovery of his illicit conduct.
Based on the submissions of the workshop participants, they suggest that there is an information gap between Tapac Sub-county and Moroto Local Government that is responsible for the unease between the two parties. There is need for timely sharing of accurate information between the two parties.
Tororo Cement sets Record Straight
The Tororo field office is located in Kosiroi about 5 kilometers from the limestone mines. While there, the Oil in Uganda team spoke to the site manager, Mr. Kennedy Akenda together with a few other staffs who were disappointed with the accusations being leveled at Tororo Cement Factory by the Tapac Community members
Mr. Akenda explained that “the miners’ predicament regarding low business volume as a result of reduced number of trucks ferrying limestone was attributed to a Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) directive to the reduce the number of truck plying the route and the tons ferried to avoid continued spoilage of the roads”. He added that “the other factor responsible for the low business volumes was the profitability of ferrying fewer tons of limestone: truck owners found it not profitable to ferry only 11 tons of limestone over a distance of 300kms and consume more than 250 liters of fuel, so many truck owners opted out of the business and put their vehicles to other use” Kennedy said. “The distance from Moroto to the factory in Tororo is over 300km. It does not make business sense to ferry low tonnage of limestone and a high transport cost” Kennedy added. He informed the Oil in Uganda team that “the factory was expanding and setting-up another plant; “maybe then
Mr. Akenda further explained that they were instructed by Tapac officials to withhold payments on truck royalties until the mess created by the former Sub-County Chief is sorted. Once the Tapac officials give the factory clearance to remit the royalty money, they will do so accordingly, because they have clear records.
This explanation from the officials of the factory notwithstanding, the Tapac leaders are determined to pursue the matters until they get what belongs to them as benefits. They warned the factory from bringing their own labour force to mine the limestone, arguing that the community members are ready to mine and sale the limestone to the factory.
The Tapac leader reported that they are in negotiations with Tororo Cement over a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will guide their relationships.
Mubende gold mining is highly dominated by men, a trait blamed on the cultural belief of women not being allowed to access mines.
Mr Kibirige Emmanuel the secretary Singo Artisan Small Scale Miners Association (SASSMA) in Kitumbi sub county Mubende district explains that they have 1420 registered members but only 472 are women that deal in petty jobs like panning gold dust, spreading the gold dust in the sun to dry up among others.
“Women engagement in the gold mining is rooted back in our culture. It was believed that if you slept with a woman you could never get gold the next day. Women were not allowed to step near a gold pit because they were looked at as a curse, that if they got close to a gold pit, gold could disappear. As a result we also told our workers never to sleep with a woman for a full week,” Mr Kibirige revealed
“However these are practices that were made by our grandparents but we have discovered that all these were lies because today women have come up to engage in the mining although in small numbers. They enter tunnels and pits and own gold pits and all is well, nothing has gone wrong.” Kibirige stressed
Kibirige explained that the value chain begins with getting a spade in the morning, entering the pit, digging out the gold dust which is done by men. Women are involved in petty jobs like sun drying the gold dust, taking it to the crashing/milling machine after which they start panning it. A few women however have taken on the ‘men’ jobs of buying and selling gold.
However others also blame the limited involvement of women in the mining sector on limited information provision. About 2500 women in Mubende district have not directly engaged in mining sector due to lack of information which has hindered there economic empowerment.
According to the community development officer for Kitumbi Sub County Mr senkusu Edward the information gap in the mining sector has greatly affected the women involvement in this activity thus carrying out petty jobs like gold dust panning where they earn peanuts
Mr Senkusu explained that gold mines in Mubende district are estimated to accommodate around 60,000 people dealing in the business. Out of this number only 2500 are women who engage mainly in service provision.
“Most women are always scared of engaging in mining sector, they do not know how to operate machines, fear taking risks- a culture belief community attitude and above all they lack information to help them run this business,” he explained.
“There is need for thorough sensitization of the community to enable the women to work in the mines.” Senkusu stressed
Ms Catherine Nyakecho, a Geologist Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development confirmed that women engagement in the mining sector is still at low capacity. She explained that a survey carried out in 20 Uganda’s gold mining sites revealed that men participation stands at 113,756 while women are at 79,019.
According to the Mining Act, 2003, clause 114, on the contrary, a woman may be employed in any underground work in any mine or in any operation or activity relating to or associated with mining. This clearly indicates that women are catered for under the law but due to the lack of information and cultural ties, women involvement in this sector is below standard.
Ms Nivatiti Nandujja the Women Rights Coordinator ActionAid Uganda, women should come on board and get involved in the decision making in the mining sector.
“We need to have gender based laws with in this sector. When it comes to the employment pattern, the conditions where they work are critical; they lack protective gears from dangerous chemicals substances, they don’t have the entitlements provided for by the law like maternity leave , the wages are really wanting. These issues and more need to be addressed,” she advised
Ms Nivatiti explained that there is need to make information about the mining sector available for women. She called on ensuring a gender equity sector with women representation who ensure that women benefits within the sector are pronounced.
Nivatiti stressed that; “We need to address the cultural barriers affecting women participation; we need to empower women to talk in all the forums and to ask for what belongs to them during community meetings. They need to bargain their way through so that their rights are realized.”
By Josephine Nabaale
MPs ask government to establish an independent body tasked with regulating the Mining sector
Members of Parliament want government to establish an independent body – Minerals Authority to regulate the mining sector. The MPs argue that it will be able to check the immense discretionary powers the Mining Act, 2003 vest in the Commissioner [now director] at the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM).
Hon. Samson Lokeris, Dodoth East MP, says just as government established an independent Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) to regulate the petroleum sector, the same should be done for the mining sector.
“We should establish something like the mineral authority it can regulate and provide oversight supervision,” Mr Lokeris said and further explained,
“I think there is need to reduce the powers of the Commissioner. If we can regulate that, it will be very important. We need the involvement of the players including communities and local governments,” he said.
Hon Robert Ntende, Bunya South MP, in Mayuge district also backed Mr Lokeris on the establishment of a Minerals Authority. “We need to make sure that the powers vested in the commissioner are trimmed and shared in other institutions – the Minerals Authority,” Ntende said.
The Commissioner is currently allowed to make a number of critical decisions, particularly related to the granting, renewing and revoking of rights without consulting anybody or committee. This means that the Commissioner has direct and unfettered discretionary control over the sector. This discretion must be checked by introducing an independent oversight body such as a “Minerals Authority” tasked with reviewing bids, approving applications and recommending
The MPs made the recommendations during a Mining Legislation Review meeting by ActionAid Uganda, between MPs on the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament and Civil Society Organizations in Kampala on Thursday 18, May, 2017. The meeting aimed at sensitizing MPs to be able to shape the forthcoming amendment of the Mining Act, 2003 and Mining Policy 2001.
Mr Bashir Twesigye, the executive director, Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED) said many jurisdictions are moving away from concentrating powers in one person or body. He gave the example of Zambia, where government established Mining Licensing Committee to check on the abuse of powers and provide additional scrutiny and Ghana, where a Minerals Commission, was established to that handles licensing and other oversight functions of the mining sector.
The CSOs recommend that the Minerals Authority should be charged with review and approval of applications for license and forward them to the Minister for licensing based on a prescribed procedure for the evaluation of bid information.
The MPs also backed a proposal from civil society organizations for the establishment of the Minerals Fund and a Minerals Investment Reserve in Bank of Uganda to hold all revenues generated from the mining sector. “There is a lot of money from the minerals but we don’t know where it goes. Who monitors whether royalties have been paid or not,” Lokeris wondered.
Mr Isaac Kabongo, Executive Director, Ecological Christian Organization implored government to also consider regulating low value minerals in the forthcoming amendments.
“Uganda’s policies and laws tend to focus mainly on high value minerals and silent on neglected minerals [law value minerals]. Minerals like sand, murrum, clay are always neglected,” he said. However, Uganda’s Constitution excludes sand, clay, stones normally used for building from minerals save if exploited for commercial purposes.
“Without looking for revenues from all sectors, it will always be a challenge to meet our budget. We need to be smart and make sure that every fee is collected. Do the companies pay the taxes they are supposed to pay?” Mr Kabongo said.
Kabongo says in the forthcoming amendments to the Mining Act 2003, there should be a provision for mining companies to first secure a social license to operate from the communities.
“Sometimes, these companies come with their licenses from Entebbe, without any courtesy to introduce themselves to district, sub county or community leaders, go with their equipments and begin mining which is causing a lot of conflict with the local people,” he said. He said in some areas like Karamoja, host communities are being compelled to live on marginal lands and they are left with no option by to become landless.
CSOs also want government to regulate and formalize artisanal and small scale miners and secure their livelihoods and also the establishment of a quasi-judicial body – tribunal to handle disputes in the mining sector. “We think dispute should be handled by an independent tribunal, which should be established by the amended Act,” Mr Bashir Twesigye said.
The Civil Society Organisations will be pushing for inclusivness as they present their agenda to Members of Parliament in the ongoing legislation review process of the Mining Act 2003 and Mining Policy 2001.
Stakeholders of the Civil Society Organisation will be meeting Members of Parliament drawn from the Natural Resources Committee and Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas (PFOG) in a working dialogue tomorrow on Thursday 18, May 2017 praying to have their views taken into consideration in the ongoing legislative review process of the Mining Act 2003 and Mining Policy 2001.
Ms. Flavia Nalubega, the project officer of the Extractives Governance Project at Actionaid Uganda, says it will be an opportunity for civil society to “voice their expectations on the law under review and also have an input in the matter.
“Now is the time to rally support before the matter is presented on the floor of parliament,” Ms. Nalubega said.
The workshop follows a consultative meeting with Members of Parliament on the Natural Resources Committee under the leadership of Hon. Mukitale Steven that was held in March this year regarding the review of the Mining Act.
According to the Mining and Mineral Policy Draft 2016, government recognizes the input of artisanal miners to the socio-economic development of the country bearing in mind that artisanal mining is a source of livelihood for thousands of Ugandans.
In this regard government plans to organize and formalize artisanal miners and gazette them to operate in areas that are not under commercial exploration.
Ms Winfred Ngabirwe, Global Rights Alert Executive Director, says they hope to build consensus with the legislators to ensure a well regulated sector and a better Uganda.
“We have the National Development Plan and Vision 2040 and we need MPs to know where we are coming from. Without good legislation we are leaving out a very big section of Ugandans where we’ll continue to see under development and exploitation, “ She said and added,
“The challenge is not about the leadership, the State or who is in power; there’s no one against the other but rather we strive for inclusive development in the sector,” Ms Ngabiirwe said.
Stakeholders can join the interaction on Twitter under the hastag #mininglegislation that will be relayed by @OilInUg.
Report by Robert Mwesigye
Masindi High Court has cleared another eviction for families in Rwamutonga village, Hoima district, where a US firm wanted to set up an oil waste treatment plant.
An order dated April 4th 2017 signed by the assistant registrar Acio Julia cleared Ochika Julius, a court bailiff, to give vacant possession of the land to Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah and to demolish any illegal structures on the land.
The land is on certificate titles under VRF 10521, Folio 6, Block 44 measuring 103.553 hectares located at Rwamutonga village, Katanga parish, Bugambe sub-county in Buhaguzi County.
“Whereas the above mentioned land is in possession of Abwoli Mukubwa Beatrice, Uromacan Martin, Ausenge Petero, Onita Quinto, Latim Alex, the applicants, their relatives, agents or servants was decreed to Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah,” the order reads in part.
“You are hereby directed to put Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah in possession of the same and authorized to remove any property/persons bound by this decree that may refuse to vacate the same,” the order stated.
The order, which was kept a secret from the families facing eviction, became known on April 20th when it was served to Hoima district security committee members.
The order has sparked tension and fear among the families who were evicted from the same land on August 25th 2014.
The families that lived in a makeshift camp near the land for about three years returned to the land in March this year (2017)after being permitted by Robert Bansigaraho who is in a land dispute with Joshua Tibagwa.
IGP clears eviction
In a letter dated April 19th, addressed to the Albertine regional police commander, the office of the Inspector General of Police cleared the eviction.
“The purpose of this letter is for you to comply with the court order. If any person feels aggrieved by the court order, the remedy is to appeal or cause review of the matter at hand,” Nairuba Diana, an official in the Police’s Legal department wrote for the IGP.
According to Nairuba, the applicants applied for a review of the court order which was clearly denied by the learned judge. The trial judge was Justice Simon Byabakama who has since been appointed Uganda’s Electoral Commission chairman.
“A court order is a court order and cannot be replaced by an administrative decision, thus be advised to comply with the order as guided by the commandant land protection unit in the attached forwarding letter,” the letter referenced PLS 62/211/01/VOL 56 read.
Prime Minister had blocked eviction
The Prime Minister’s office had previously blocked the eviction of the families. This was directed in a letter dated March 6th 2017 signed by the First Deputy Prime Minister Gen Moses Ali and addressed to the Albertine regional police commander Police:
“Please ensure that no eviction takes place, with a view of enhancing peace and tranquility. By a copy of this letter, the minister of internal affairs is hereby informed and so is the Inspector General of Police (IGP),” stated Ali who is also a deputy leader of Government business in parliament.
Gen Ali reminded police about the ruling at Masindi High Court in which Justice Simon Byabakama declared their eviction as wrongful on October 22nd 2015.
Judge petitioned to halt eviction
The centre manager at Justice Centres Uganda, Mr. Tiyo Jonathan, wrote on April 21st 2017 to the Masindi resident judge asking him to exercise his supervisory powers and halt the execution of the eviction and investigate anomalies in the court process.
He said the bailiff had been directed to put Tibagwa and Kusiima in possession of the land from where the families were wrongfully evicted.
He stated that the lawyers are preparing to file an application for a judicial review to quash the warrant and prohibit the intended execution so as not to cause injustice and inconvenience to the families.
Much as the eviction has not yet taken place, it can be executed anytime from now. The eviction order will expire on May 4th 2017.
Robert Bansigaraho who in 2014 entered into a consent judgment and surrendered his title covering 103 hectares to Tibagwa has since withdrawn from the deal and allied with the families.
He argues that the families have suffered enough as a result of displacement which prompted him to allow them back on the land.
Mr. Tibagwa sued Mr. Bansigaraho accusing him of grabbing his land. However in a turn of events, Mr. Bansigaraho entered into a consent judgment with Mr. Tibagwa in September 2013 in which Bansigaraho surrendered a title covering 103 hectares to Mr. Tibagwa.
Mr. Bansigaraho, however, says he regained his land after Mr. Tibagwa failing to give him an alternative 350-acre piece of land, compensating squatters and fully compensating him.
Mr. Tibagwa insists that Mr. Bansigaraho surrendered to him his title and signed the title transfer forms.
Mr. Tibagwa consequently applied to court for an eviction order to evict Mr. Bansigaraho and occupants of the land which he obtained in July 2014. The over 250 families were then evicted in august 2014. The eviction was later declared unlawful and should not have happened in the first place, Masindi High Court ruled.
By Oil in Uganda Correspondent, Hoima
Members of Parliament and human rights activists have asked government to enforce the laws in the mining sector to protect the right of women in the sector. The MPs and other stakeholders said women in the minerals sector face a lot of challenges, which need to be addressed.
The call was made during the National Dialogue on Land and Extractives, under the theme, “Harnessing citizen participation for good governance and sustainable livelihoods,” at Hotel Africana on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The conference was attended by government officials, artisanal miners, district leaders, cultural leaders and civil society representatives among others.
Nivatiti Nandujja, Human Rights Coordinator at Action Aid Uganda (AAU), said the extractives sector is male dominated and women participation is wanting. She explained that the few women employed in mines are working under inhuman and poor working conditions with meager pay.
“Women working in mines do not enjoy the entitlement provided for by the law. They don’t get maternity leave or sick leave, but instead, when they get pregnant, they are simply laid off,” Nandujja said. She said despite the good policies and laws on gender based violence, the position of women has not improved and advocated for other interventions in addition to enforcement of policies and laws in order to ensure gender equity in extractives sector.
Catherine Nyakecho, a Geologist working with Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development disagreed with MsNandujja that the minerals sector is male dominated. She quoted a research by African Center for Energy and Mineral Policy (ACEMP) that revealed that of the sites visited, women are more into stone quarrying, salt mining, marble, limestone, and sand mining – the low value minerals, while the men are where the money is.
However, she said women in mines have been exposed to more poor working conditions than men. For instance in stone quarrying, she said women and children are engaged in crashing stones with their bare hands, which exposes them to accidents and a lot of dust, which affect their lives.
Despite spending a whole day crashing stones, women get meager pay. “Stone quarries lack toilets and therefore women during menstruation periods have to travel back home for health break – wasting a lot of their valuable time and when they fall sick, they get no payment,” she said.
Nyakacho explained that in salt mining, men wear condoms to prevent salty water from entering their bodies through their private parts, but in contrast, though women need protective gears too, they are normally not provided for, and thus enter salty water without protective gears, which has negative consequences on their health.
In gold mining, women are exposed to dangerous chemicals like mercury. Whereas the men get the ore or gold sand out of the ground, Nyakecho said women are exposed to mercury during panning for gold which affect their lives. Weighing in on mercury, one of the participants from Amudat district said there is a worrying trend that feet/legs of women working in goldmines are swelling, due to what she suspects could be prolonged exposure to mercury.
Deborah Ariong, the Natural Resources Officer, Amudat district, said she had witnessed breast-feeding mothers panning gold with mercury and then breast-feed babies thereafter. She called for strict enforcement of health and safety measures in mines like ensuring all workers wear protective gears.
Betty Atiang, programme Manager at Saferworld Uganda, told the extractives sector in Uganda is expanding, and as it expands, it is worsening existing tension and exposing new conflicts. The sector, she explained, is faced with land conflicts in form of land grabbing, contention over surface rights, conflicts that relate to allocation of royalties, environmental degradation and gender based violence among others. She observed that conflict is an impediment to good governance and implored participants to make a contribution towards promoting conflict free extractives sector, transparency, accountability, citizen’s participation in decision making.
Drawing from his experience as an artisanal miner in Mubende district, Emmanuel Kibirig said women of today can do mining, though by their nature they can’t go inside the pit. Therefore, in the pit, miners don’t employ women. He explained that in gold mining, the value chain is that men dig and go inside the pit in order to extract gold ores/sand on the ground for women to their work in the value chain.
Mukitale Mukitale, the MP Buliisa, said women artisanal miners need to form strong cooperatives or associations, through which they can demand for more protection and seek help. Weighing on the discussion, Adong Lilly, Woman MP Nwoya district, told in order to protect women rights, there is need to amend the laws and policies governing the minerals sector to cap a percentage of jobs and contracts to be given exclusively to women. This will ensure that women in the sector are empowered.
By Edward Ssekika
CSOs have organised a dialogue slated for Wednesday the 26th April 2017
Four of Uganda’s Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are hosting an annual multi-stakeholder national dialogue under the theme; Land and Extractives – harnessing citizen participation for good governance and sustainable livelihoods.
The meeting that is expected to attract more than 100 participants is aimed at ensuring that stakeholders at the grassroots interact with the leaders at both local and central government to ensure transparency and good governance of the oil, gas and mineral sector.
The convention, organized by Action Aid Uganda (AAU), Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), Saferworld Uganda and Transparency International Uganda (TIU), will be held at Hotel Africana on Wednesday the 26th of April, and among the invitees are delegates from Parliament, the private sector, industry players, government agencies, local government leaders, community leaders, community representatives and relevant CSOs.
The meeting arose out of findings by civil society regarding the increasing unplanned and untimely displacements and land disputes in the oil rich and mining areas, which inhumane activities affect people, particularly the less privileged, including women and children.
Instead of remedying this pattern, the government has instead recently decided to worsen the problem by proposing an amendment to Article 26 of the Constitution with the effect of allowing government to acquire land before effecting compensation to the project-affected person.
Elaborating on the expected outcomes from the meeting, Mr. Ivan Mpagi, the Extractives Governance Project Manager at ActionAid Uganda, explains that the meeting is meant to create a platform for discussing the challenges in the extractive sector by engaging policy makers on what needs to be done in order to address these challenges.
“We want to bring the oil companies together to tell Ugandans how far they are in the actual extraction of oil,” Mr. Mpagi says. “The extraction will generate employment, and it will generate revenues as well, and we as civil society want to monitor this development and hold these actors accountable.”
He further expresses hope of more transparency concerning the government’s exploration agreements with the oil companies (Tullow, CNOCC and Total), as he finds the government to have been “very secretive” until now. “Through the dialogue we hope that Ugandans can be told about the agreements made with these companies.”
By Preben A. Martensen-Larsen
The current situation for the over 200 indigenous families (1500 people) formerly evicted from Rwamutonga, Hoima District, is characterized by major problems, and it has been thus, since their return on their land in February this year, the residents claim.
A recent visit by a team from ActionAid Uganda found a suffering hungry humanity, sleeping under tattered shelter made of tarpaulin, and crying babies who appeared malnourished while many seemed to have gone hungry for days
In August 2014, families were evicted from their land of over 485 hectares on which they had lived as squatters for years, hence becoming owners. The land, whose alleged rightful owners are Robert Bansigaraho and Joshua Tibangwa, was leased to an oil waste management firm MCalester Energy Resources. In the process, the residents were evicted and left homeless and these were only saved by a good samaritan who allowed them to elect a camp on his land, to find shelter there as they awaited justice to prevail.
Recently, more than two years after the eviction, a bright light shone on the residents when justice prevailed and the long awaited judgement was made in their favour. Thanks to the court order, the local leadership, the people’s zeal and support from one of the landlords Mr Basingaraho as well.
The court ruled that the people were wrongly evicted, and there was need for fresh negotiations with the owner. Mr Basingaraho accepted the residents to return on the land arguing that he did not own the entire land, but just part of it.
And even more recently, the 1st Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Moses Ali supported the cause. He stayed police from any further re-evictions of the Rwamutonga residents unless court states so.
No water, food or medicine
Whereas the good news is that families are trying to establish themselves exactly as they were before the eviction, the darker side of this is life is very tough for them. Life here is no fairy tale.
Mothers carry their babies on the back whole day and move home to home in search of food. There are no smiles there, everyone looks angry, frustrated and lifeless – blaming it on hunger.
“The major issues at the moment are lack of food, no water, or medicine,” Gladys Ougyumoti told Oil in Uganda during the visit in early March, “We are like wild animals, we just move from place to place in search of food.”
Worse still, they are just getting back to their gardens (which have turned into bushes in the last two years) to plough, but the fruits are far from reach since the ploughing just started.
Worse still, there is hardly any permanent shelter here, as many are using tattered tarpaulin to cover the houses made of sticks. The houses get socked in water when it rains, and they are open to mosquitoes and wild animals since there are hardly any doors.
“We are drinking water with the baboons. We are living a baboon live, “Mr Rashid Amora a resident here told Oil in Uganda
And the health of everyone does not brighten up the day either. Almost everyone is coughing, and mosquitoes do not spare them either. Malaria has become a part of them; the infants are testimony to this. Many lie almost lifeless, suffering from malaria yet with no access to medicine. Reports show that an effort to access treatment from the health centres has been in vain as they are chased away by medical workers: “They look at us like dirty (filthy) people who are homeless. They tell us not to disturb them when we ask for medicine,” Ms Lucy Alungat said.
“We are living like how we lived in the camps. In fact, the camps were better because people would send us food, bags of posho and beans. But here, we do not receive free food anymore. We do not receive medicine,” Ms Alungat revealed.
Furthermore, Ms. Gladys Ougumort added that long distances to any kind of treatments are just some of the problems that women face.
A grime future ahead
According to Betty Kosemerwa, who is still breastfeeding her infant son, it is very difficult to give much thought about the future under the current circumstances. One thing she is certain of is that the discovery of oil will have bad effect on many people in Uganda, and the eviction in Rwamutonga is a clear example of this.
Ms Kosemere whose husband was blinded by tear gas, thanks to the fights with Police and their current landlord over this land, is responsible for the entire household, which is a big burden to her. She is therefore more concerned about getting more basic and urgent needs now.
Ms Kosemerwa requested civil society to talk to government and convince them that people, like the wrongfully evicted families in Rwamutonga, have rights over the land. “Government has to come and understand where people are and how they live,” she added.
ActionAid Uganda’s Project Manager Ivan Mpagi retaliated Ms Kosemerwa’s statement, urging government to play its part. He urged them to support the legal process to ensure that the evictees see full justice and regain back their land.
By Preben A. Martensen-Larsen and Flavia Nalubega
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