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Social impacts

  • Hoima residents demand for ‘oil jobs’

    Residents of Buseruka sub county, accuse SBC – a company that is constructing Hoima International Airport of coming with their workers from Kayunga to the detriment of the locals “Early this year, When SBC Uganda Limited [A company constructing Hoima International Airport] started construction of the airport early this year, we [local people] were promised jobs. However, we only see buses ferrying workers from Hoima to here, where are the jobs they promised us,” Julius Muhumuza asks angrily. Muhumuza said that he got recommendations from local leaders to get a job as a casual laborer. However, he was never given the job. Just like Muhumuza, Bosco Twaha another resident of Nyamasoga village, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima district complains, “I have a class A driving permit [a driving class for truck drivers]. I applied for a job as a driver but my application was turned down”. Nyamasoga village is just adjacent to Hoima International Airport that is under construction. The airport is one of the oil-related infrastructure projects required before the country can start oil production. However, local people in Hoima have expressed their dissatisfaction with SBC Uganda Ltd – a company that was granted a contract to construct the Hoima International Airport over the failure to employ them. The locals accuse the company of deliberately locking them out of oil related jobs. They are accusing SBC-Uganda Limited of not implementing local content policy requirements to enable locals benefit from the project. They claim that the company has considered other young people from other places of the country and that few are from within. However, the company officials say locals have been given jobs. Currently, SBC Uganda Ltd employs a total of 664 people at the airport construction site. Out of these, the company explains that 147 people hail from Hoima district alone. Currently, most of the work at airport construction site includes clearing the bushes for the runways, operating construction machines such as excavators, drivers and other casual jobs among others. He says the company is committed to ensure that at least 30 percent of its work force are local people. Stanislaus Birungi, the Human Resource Manager, SBC-Uganda Limited explains that they are currently on earth works whereby the jobs are fixed, adding that most of those who come seeking for jobs do not qualify. He denies claims that the local people have been locked out of jobs. “How many wheel loader operators do we have? How many people have heavy trucks driving permits?. Most people do not have required skills and experience. We need few mechanics and builders at the moment,” he added. Mr. Ali Tinkamanyire, the sub-county Chairman of Buseruka attributes the local anguish to high expectations people have in the oil and gas sector. “Not everyone will be employed in the oil and gas sector,” he said. He appealed to central government to ensure that local people are trained and skilled to be able to participate in the sector. Recently, in a new twist and out of anger, the local people ambushed the company vans transporting SBC workers and pelted them with stones.Allan Julius Hakiza, police spokesperson for oil rich Albertine region says police intervened and started escorting the vans to the construction site. “We realized that escorting the vans was not a sustainable option, we conducted community policing meetings in those villages, where we explained to the local people to be patient or look for other options of benefiting from the sector. Not everybody is going to be employed in the oil and gas sector,” Hakiza said. The locals say, most of the workers at the airport construction site hail from Kayunga district where SBC Uganda has been constructing a road. “SBC has come with their people from Kayunga. This is unacceptable,” Muhumuza says angrily. Edward Ssekika Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org

  • Buliisa leaders want audience with President Museveni over oil impacts

     

    Ngwedo sub-county leaders voting on a compensation process for their properties during oil developments

    Buliisa district leaders resolved to seek audience with President Museveni to share their concerns regarding the oil and gas development impacts in their midst.

    They also want to lay strategies of reaping more benefits from the ongoing oil and gas developments.

    During a district dialogue engagement held on 20th February 2018 at the district headquarters, the leaders said they have a wide range of concerns over the oil industry which they want to discuss with the head of state.

    This followed sharing of numerous issues generated through a series of dialogues undertaken in the sub-counties and town council of Buliisa from throughout the month

    The district dialogue was thus a next step engagement that was supported by ActionAid Uganda and organized by Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO) and Lake Albert Children, Women Advocacy Development Organization (LACWADO) in partnership with Bunyoro Albertine Petroleum Network on Environmental Conservation (BAPENECO) and the civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas issues (CSCO). The issues shared generated a lot of debate and some recommendations.

    Challenges Faced in Buliisa

    There are many unresolved problems that were raised by local communities. For example, the Buliisa Sub-county Chairperson, Lt. (Rtd) Kubalirwa Nkuba said many residents have filed cases against oil companies operating in the district but the cases take long to be resolved thereby creating uncertainties.

    “This breeds anger and anxiety in the population, he said. Oil cases should be expeditiously handled by a special tribunal or court, he recommended.

    Mr. Julius Manyireki, a District Councilor representing people with disabilities said since oil was discovered in the district, several meetings have been held between locals and oil companies but despite this, issues raised remain persistent.

    The leaders unanimously agreed that matters affecting residents need to be brought to the attention of the President and seek his intervention sooner than later before conflicts on the ground get worse.

    The leaders decried the increasing cases of land grabbing, difficulty by locals to secure jobs and contracts in oil companies as well as irregularities in the process of compensating people whose land and properties are affected by oil and gas infrastructural projects.

    “We need a comprehensive skilling programme supported by Government and oil companies because our people need skills to join the oil industry,” said Isaac Nkuba, the Chairperson of Buliisa District NGO Forum.

    He shared that there is limited involvement and participation of local communities in decision making on matters regarding people’s livelihoods in relation to petroleum developments.

    He emphasized that, “the people are being left behind only to face impacts like poor compensation, lack of information, and threat to livelihood options among others”.

    He argued that many people feel alienated and this can easily result in confusion and conflicts thereby creating friction between the people and the oil developments.

    Regarding capacity building of local youth, he proposed the need for a deliberate Government programme of equipping existing schools in the district with equipment and science teachers who deserve a hard to stay allowance in order to motivate them to work comfortably in the district.

    Women’s Concerns

    Ms. Magdalena Namutebi, the Biiso Sub-county Councilor proposed a gender sensitive approach in handling oil matters.

    “The women have been sidelined. We need affirmative action,” she said. She called for an increased number of scholarships in oil courses to be awarded to girls and women to get entrepreneurship skills to enable them compete in oil businesses.

    Jane Akugizibwe concurred with Namutebi about the skilling approach.

    “Let us lobby oil companies and Government to set up a vocational training institute for women.Oil companies should also provide loans to women at low interest rates because many women are failing to pay back loans in commercial banks that have high interest rates,” Akugizibwe emphasised.

    Oil infrastructure

    The district will host one of the two oil Central Processing facilities (CPF) and infield pipelines that will evacuate crude oil from various oil fields located in the park and within the communities into the CPF. The feeder pipeline will also move from Buliisa district to Kabaale Parish in Hoima district where Government plans to set up a holding terminal for crude oil and an oil refinery among other infrastructure. Crude oil for export will be fed into an East African crude oil export pipeline which was launched in November, 2017 by President Museveni of Uganda and his Tanzanian counterpart President John Pombe Magufuli.

    Demands

    The Buliisa District Chairperson, Hon. Agaba Simon Kinene said leaders and project affected persons need Government support to visit oil producing countries for learning and sharing experiences. “We should position ourselves to tap the dollars that will accrue from the oil and gas production” he said.

    This can only happen if we get more exposed to how oil and gas undertakings operate and how local communities can be strategically linked to the same to enable them gain better benefits, he added.

    He asked oil companies and NGOs to regularly hold engagements with various stakeholders in the district for information sharing as well as creation of platforms for discussing issues openly thereby enabling consensus building.

    He pointed out that Buliisa district is highly impoverished despite being the host of huge oil resources. He thus requested that livelihood improvement programmes in the district need to be enhanced in order to improve the welfare of people affected by oil developments. This, according to him, will be very helpful in addressing many challenges that the people are facing and will enable management of their expectations overall.

    The District Chairman greatly appreciated the support by ActionAid for the dialogues that were organized from the Lower Local governments and linked the discussions with the Higher Local Government (district level).

    “I thank ActionAid for partnering with Government in a positive way”, said the Buliisa Resident District Commissioner  Mr. Peter Bisoborwa.

    He pointed out that there are many escalating land conflicts in the district and urged the people to revive their traditional justice system of resolving conflicts amicably instead of always rushing to court where challenges of case backlog and adjournments affect expeditious access to justice.

    While commenting on the proposal by leaders to meet the President, he advised that the District Council should sit with Members of parliament who hail from the district and make a joint write up which he will forward to the President’s office for further action.

    “Give me your resolution with reasons why you need to meet His Excellency and I will forward it” he said.

    He encouraged all participants to remain vigilant and play their part in ensuring that the oil and gas project is protected. He also pointed out that the government is committed to ensuring peaceful resolution of issues and that it is important for the people to maintain the peace in order for development to happen in Buliisa.

    Oil in Uganda correspondent, Bunyoro and Didas Muhumuza

    OilinUganda@actionaid.org

  • Buliisa residents demand affirmative action on land and property ownership

    Residents of the oil-rich Buliisa district have petitioned Government to implement for them an affirmative action programme intended to protect their land rights.

    During the different dialogues organized across seven sub-counties and one town council, with support from ActionAid Uganda, residents and their leaders decried the increased insecurity over land ownership ever since commercial oil reserves were discovered in the district.

    “Many speculators claiming customary land have come to Buliisa district ever since oil was discovered, we need Government protection over our own land” Mr Blasio Mugasa, a former Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom deputy Prime Minister told the meeting at Buliisa town Council.

    The Oil Central Processing Unit above (Courtesy photo)

    Majority of Buliisa communities have held land communally since time immemorial. However, the oil discovery in the rural district has attracted wealthy individuals who are processing communal land titles into private freehold titles.

    Oil infrastructure

    The district will host one of the two oil Central Processing facilities (CPF) and infield pipelines that will evacuate crude oil from various oil fields located in the park and within the communities into the CPF. The feeder pipeline will also move from Buliisa district to Kabaale Parish in Hoima district where Government plans to set up a holding terminal for crude oil and an oil refinery among other infrastructure. Crude oil for export will be fed into an East African crude oil export pipeline which was launched in November, 2017 by President Museveni of Uganda and his Tanzanian counterpart President John Pombe Magufuli.

     Land Rights

    Mr Moses Tumusiime, one of the project affected persons in Kasenyi village, Ngwedo sub-county (Buliisa district) the proposed site for the CPF said residents in the area are concerned that even before receiving compensation for their land and other properties, machines conducting studies for the CPF are already working on people’s lands.

    “Government should not disrespect our right to own property simply because it wants to achieve its oil projects”, Tumusiime said.

    “Whereas government can acquire our land for projects in public interest, we are entitled to prior, adequate and timely compensation as enshrined in the constitution. If oil companies do not respect our rights, we shall seek legal redress” said Gilbert Tibasiima the district youth councilor

    Sophia Kabonesa, a resident of Buliisa sub-county believes that oil companies should always negotiate for prices of land with respective land owners so that land for oil projects is acquired on willing buyer, willing seller basis.

    Government intervention

    An inter-ministerial team led by the lands Minister, Ms Betty Amongi visited Buliisa district in January this year and disclosed that compensation for an acre of land in Kasinyi village will be 3.5 million. In May last year, Government had announced a compensation rate of 2.1 million shillings per acre. The residents in Buliisa rejected the proposed price which they described as inadequate. They demanded 21 million shillings per acre, then.

    During dialogue engagements, residents in Buliisa asked for differing prices of land but majority preferred an acre of land to be acquired for between 10 to 60 million.

    The Buliisa District Community Development Officer, Mr. Bernard Barugahara said compensation rates for crops for the 2017/2018 financial year have already been communicated by the Chief Administrative officer (CAO) to the locals.

    He said disclosure for entitlements of project affected persons in Kasenyi village had commenced but there are several individuals and families that are already in conflict over land ownership and boundaries in the area.

    The dialogue process

    The Buliisa RDC Peter Bisoborwa closing the district dialogue(Photo by Buliisa correspondent)

    Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO) and Lake Albert Children, Women Advocacy Development Organisation (LACWADO) in partnership with Bunyoro Albertine Petroleum Network on Environmental Conservation (BAPENECO) and the civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas issues (CSCO), conducted community dialogues in Buliisa district on the policy and practice aspects in the oil and gas sector, under the support of ActionAid Uganda.

    The dialogues focused on the implications of the planned commercial oil production developments on people’s land and property ownership among other aspects. The engagements were conducted in sub-counties of Kigwera, Ngwedo, Buliisa, Butiaba, Biiso, Kihungya and Buliisa town council. The dialogues kicked off on 5th and ended on 12th February 2018.

    The engagements culminated into district level dialogue where key issues and recommendations generated from the lower local government level were shared with the various stakeholders at the district level for consideration and further escalation.

    The participants in the dialogues included subcounty Chairpersons, Sub-county Chiefs, Sub-county Councilors, L.C 1 Chairpersons, Religious Leaders, Members of the Area land committees, Members of the sub-county courts, representatives of Project affected persons, members of the civil society, elders, women, youth, people with disabilities (PWDs),  Local government technocrats, political leaders and security officers among others.

    The main objective of the dialogues was to discuss on the impacts induced by the oil and gas developments in Buliisa districts in the runner up to the development and production phases.

    ActionAid Uganda’s Extractives Governance Coordinator, Mr Didas Muhumuza said the engagements were meant to create a platform for all stakeholders to discuss issues pertaining to the oil and gas developments’ induced impacts that relate to land acquisition, resettlement and social sustainability aspects.

    “We are happy that stakeholders shared ideas on how best to engage and cause positive policy and practice changes so that local communities can have their problems addressed in good time” he said.

     

    The outcomes of the sub-county dialogue meetings will be used for advocacy and further engagement with decision makers at district and national level so that the concerns raised are duly addressed.

     

    Unanimous resolutions

    The residents unanimously asked Government to implement for them an action plan of registering their land and safeguarding their rights in the wake of oil and gas developments. They further asked Government and oil firms to disclose to them the land acquisition process, the road map of oil developments, the Resettlement Action Plans, social and environmental impact studies’ reports among other useful aspects. They asked for special dialogue engagements for the youth, women and people with disabilities at parish and sub-county levels to enable them access information about land acquisitions and petroleum developments. Residents demanded that the engagement processes should always be timely and continuous so that they get to know issues in good time. They applauded the dialogues for having enabled them to get to know issues they should have known much earlier but no one did prepare them in good time for the challenges ahead. The residents also asked ActionAid to train them in advocacy skills in the extractives sector and support them in the formation of an elder’s forum that will advise their leaders on handling conflicts and engagements in the oil sector. They further suggested that government does not acquire their land permanently but rather gets leases so that land owners can have an opportunity of reclaiming the land after oil is exhausted.                                                                                                                                                Oil in Uganda correspondent, Buliisa                                                                                                                   Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org

  • Uganda works to phase out mercury usage

    The maiden Conference of Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury took place in Geneva on September 24-29. The Convention is an international legal instrument or Treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The Convention currently has been signed by 128 countries and ratified by 83 so far.

    The Minamata Convention requires the phase out of many products containing mercury, implements restrictions on trade and supply of mercury and establishes a framework to reduce or eliminate emissions and releases of mercury from industrial processes and mining.

    Mercury is widely used by artisanal and small scale gold miners, Uganda inclusive. According to the UN, the practice of mercury amalgamation in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is of particular concern due to the “decentralised distribution of elemental mercury utilized and its widespread handling, thermal conversion and disposal within social settings such as shops, villages, and food production areas.”

    The sad bit in Uganda is that because of the state of ASGM, unregulated and illegal, miners have no idea of the dangers of mercury. At high levels, mercury can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. According to studies, high levels of methyl mercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system, making the child less able to think and learn and potentially reducing their IQ.

    During a working visit in Namayingo a miner brazenly said he had handled mercury for over ten years but “nothing was wrong with him and he had never developed any problems.”

    Asked how they accessed mercury, a miner in Nsango B village, Budde Sub County in Bugiri district once told a team from Oil in Uganda that they ‘had suppliers’ but was not willing to elucidate. Mercury however is largely smuggled from Tanzania and easily accessible by the miners at just between Sh800 and Sh1000 a gram meaning it is easily accessible.

    Government intervention

    Mr Erienyu Johnson, the Busia District natural resources officer, displaying a bottle of dirty brown-coloured water, noted how he had fetched a sample from R. Okame in Busitema where miners used mercy nearby. He said locals had complained that the water had been contaminated by the miners.

    He said a nongovernmental organisation, Environmental Women in Action for Development (EWAD), ventured into the district to ‘build artisanal miners’ capacity and promote safe mining without using mercury..

    Mr Erienyu said though the district leadership is in the process of working out something to manage the use of mercury by artisanal gold miners there are currently no measures in place.

    “We currently have a draft ordinance that is to be presented at the next council seating,” he told Oil in Uganda.

    National Task Force

    At the national level, Uganda, through National Environmental Management Authority, has a task force – Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICHEM) – which is the national focal point for the management of use of mercury.

    Mr Paul Twebaze, an environmentalist working with Pro-Biodiversity Conservation Uganda (PROBICOU), says the civil society organisation is the national focal point NGO for SAICHEM in Uganda.

    Twebaze says PROBICOU is also a member of the National Steering Committee of the Stockholm Convention against Persistent Organic Pollutants (global treaty ratified by the international community lead by UNEP – calls for the elimination and/or phasing out of 12 POPs) in Uganda, activities all coordinated by NEMA.

    “We have been a lead NGO doing work on mercury and of course working towards ratification of the Minamata Convention working with the Government of Uganda to speed up the processes of the ratification of the Minamata Convention.

    “We got involved in the negotiation processes and are currently working with government on enabling activities,” Twebaze says.

    “We are working with the health sector to discourage the use of dental amalgam which contains mercury. Additionally we are also trying to promote the use of mercury-free electronic appliances,” Twebaze says of their manadate.

    He says they are also working with all stakeholders in the mining industry to minimize and eventually phase out the use of mercury especially by the artisanal and small scale miners.

    Paul says Uganda is being supported by the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention to speed up the process of ratification.

    “After Uganda has fully understood and appreciated the situation I am confident it will ratify the Convention,” he says.

  • Rwamutonga families to be re-evicted; Masindi court has ordered

    Rwamutonga displaced residents shortly after the return to their homes on the land from which they had been evicted in 2014. Photo by Francis Mugerwa.

    Hoima

    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.

    Mr Atich Nelson, LC111 Chairman Rwamutonga village talks to ActionAid’s Extractives Project Officer Flavia Nalubega during a visit to the displaced persons in Rwamutonga. Photo by Francis Mugerwa.

    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.

    Rwamutonga displaced residents shortly after the return to their homes on the land from which they had been displaced in 2014. Photo by Francis Mugerwa

    Background

    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

    Oil.uganda@actionaid.org

  • Address challenges faced by women in mining – MPs, activists ask government

    Ms Nivatiti Nandujja, Human Rights Coordinator (AAU) speaking at National Dialogue. Photo by Francis Emorut.

    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.

    Catherine Nyakecho,  Geologist, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development speaking at National Dialogue. Photo by Francis Emorut.

    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.

    Plenary discussion at National Dialogue. Photo by Francis Emorut.

    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

    Oil.uganda@actionaid.org

  • National Dialogue to impact on governance of the Extractives Sector

    CSOs have organised a dialogue slated for Wednesday the 26th April 2017

    Archive photo from former event. 

    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   

    Oil.uganda@actionaid.org

  • ‘We live like animals’, Former Rwamutonga refugees speak out

    The home (rightful land) to the 200 families who had been evicted in Rwamutonga. Photo 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

  • Rwamutonga Evictees Return On Land After Two Years Of Displacement

    A section of the displaced residents at a recent meeting in the camp. (Photo: Courtesy Global Rights Alert)

    The evicted Rwamutonga residents have returned to land from which they were evicted two years ago, Oil in Uganda has established. Read More

  • Local Governments Losing Revenue from ASM Gold Mining Sites

    Some of the women engaging in planning; a gold mining process where mercury is mixed with water. Photo by Josephine Nabaale

    In this part two of our artisanal miners’ series, we delve in the lack of a clear tax framework to generate revenues for local governments from artisan mining activities.   We analyze the potential amount of money local governments could generate, but are currently losing from Gold mining operations.

    The Mining Score Card recently launched by ActionAid Uganda in partnership with Africa Centre for Mining Policy (ACEMP) and National Planning Authority (NPA) revealed that there is a weak reporting practice in the mining sector.

    It also revealed that even though the mining sector has a great potential of contributing to economic growth and poverty alleviation in the country; less has been done to harness this.

    The office of the Auditor General last year revealed in his Value-for-Money Audit report 2016 that government had lost at least 4.4 billion shillings (approx.1.3 million dollars) in uncollected mineral royalties in the last five years.

    Currently, the government has embarked on undertaking review processes to update the relevant mining legislations. A Draft Green Paper on Mineral Policy is before the cabinet for review and the review of the Mining Act 2003 is yet to commence.

    One of the proposed amendments is the regularization of artisanal mining in Uganda to legally recognize them; integrate them in formal tax arrangements; enable them qualify for social goods, services and infrastructure and to  increase revenues to local governments for proper managements. The consequences of under-regulation of artisan miners have wide ramifications and are far-reaching. It includes artisan miners not having access to social goods, services and infrastructure put in place by government; not being taxed appropriately; being prone to machinations by unscrupulous individuals in authorities; local governments not being able to realize their revenue collection targets; and being exposed to crime and conflicts.

    The lack of clear sub-national taxation arrangements for artisan miners and utilization of revenue collected from artisan mining is denying local governments of much needed revenues. This is mainly not due to policy or legislative deficiencies, but more due to policy implementation and legislative enforcement.   Busoga region is rich in mineral resources particularly Aluminous clays, yttrium, and rare metals such as gallium and Scandium  estimated at $370 billion (about Shs942 trillion) by Kweri Investments, the company conducting Feasibility studies in the region. This wealth as mentioned in Part one; has attracted an influx of immigrants from all over the country and as far as Kenya who hope to tap into these resources.

    According to Methuselah Batambuze, Community Development officer Buddaya sub-county, the population at Nabwala mining site before the  influx was about 2000 and the indigenous people were into agriculture. He however noted that in 2015, with the discovery of gold in that area, the population increased to over 10,000 people.

    Batambuze adds that when the miners were convinced that gold was ‘finished’, some left in search for new mining sites.

    “What you are seeing now are trucks taking the tailings to other places where they are processed using cyanide for better results,” he told Oil in Uganda

    Majidu Musisi, who took part in the first exploration and exploitation for gold in the area in the early 1990s, says he has been at it for now 10 years and has made on average 4 million shillings a week on bad days and over 20 million shillings on good days.

    “I have invested in real estate and own more than 5 commercial buildings in Bugiri Municipality,” subdued Musisi reveals to Oil in Uganda.

    ‘I have also created employment for all these people you see in this mining site,’’ he added pointing to hundreds of youth digging for gold around the site.

    A simple analysis of the money made by Musisi in one week; at a conservative estimate of UGX 4 million a week, he makes UGX 16 million a month and UGX 192 million a year. He then shares this money with the people he has employed which to our surprise do not even add-up to 50% of the money Musisi earns.  A miner who works at the pit is paid a minimum wage of UGX. 25,000 a day. This money is not taxed because Musisi, like other artisanal miners, are still regarded as an illegal miner.

    According to the Mining Act 2003, royalties are to be shared with mineral producing districts based on a basic revenue sharing schemes. The Second Schedule to the Mining Act stipulates that the central government is to take 80% of royalties collected and then distribute the remaining 20% as follows; 17% to “local governments” and 3% to “landowners or bona-fide occupants of land subject to mineral rights.”

    This presupposes that central government would first collect the royalties before the local government can benefit from the contribution, implying that local governments do not have the right to tax/ collect the royalties. This is undermining revenue generation and social goods and services delivery at local government level. A failure on the part of central government to collect the royalties on time in the right amounts and distribute them accordingly to the beneficial local governments further worsens the revenue situation at local level. Consequently, local governments suffer financial deficiencies and stress.

    The above cited revenue sharing scheme is common in mineral rich jurisdictions and therefore is a widely acceptable practice. However, whether it is the best practice for central government to first collect the royalties and then distribute them to the respective beneficiary district is not clear. We do appreciate that it is good practice to recognize the rights of landowners and bona-fide occupants of land where minerals are discovered and exploited. It is our opinion that local governments are given right to collect royalties and deduct what is due to them and remit that due to central government.

    Our rough calculation indicates that if this money would, however, be taxed and royalties deducted, the district is to take 10 per cent of the revenues in royalties and it would generate about UGX. 19 million to its budget. This revenue contribution would be just from Musisi and assuming there are 100 other miners in Bugiri district making the same amount of money, it would be UGX. 1.9bn hence make significant contribution to the district budget.

    According to the Bugiri district Budget Framework paper 2016/2017, the rest of the district’s UGX 21 billion shillings budget comes from government and donor programmes.

    Interestingly, Musisi has never paid a single direct tax from the income derived from the sale of his gold to the ever available gold trading middlemen.

    Just like in other mining areas Oil in Uganda has visited, the roads to the mining area where Musisi operates are impassable during the rainy season.

    “If you are not round here and you want access my mining area, you cannot access it when you are not driving a four-wheeled car,” he warns.

    Sadly, even the basic amenities like a pharmacy or clinic are not available for the miners who work there.

    Some of these things would be solved through paying royalties as District revenues would increase.

    According to Shafic Butanda, the Acting Community development Officer Bugiri District, in the more than 10 years small scale miners have been in Bugiri district, there has never been any contribution to the district budget from them ‘’Even right now we are going for a budget meeting but the briefing papers have mentioned the potential revenues that could be collected from gold mining’’ He adds.

    Unfortunately, there has been no government plan to formalise Small scale mining in the country. And in Bugiri district there is no scheme to collect royalties since the law gives those powers to collect revenues to the government, which then shares with the district, the district officers say they were not even aware they could collect taxes from the small scale miners. Mr Shafic Butanda the Acting Community Development Officer says ‘’they will start looking into ways of raising money from the miners’

    However, even in this, there appears to be an attempt to raise royalties from small-scale gold miners in the Neighbouring district of Namayingo, where according to the Banda Subcounty Chairperson Oguttu Bonaventure, they collect some ‘’little’ money from the miners at Nakuddi gold mining site. “What we collect is based on the same rates as the trading license for the shops in the sub-county which is still little money,’’ he says.

    A Case study on revenue sharing schemes in the mining areas of Kabale and Moroto districts commissioned by Transparency International Uganda in 2015, found that while the districts complained of lack of information and erratic payment of their royalties share from government, even government itself doesn’t have enough information and depends on the disclosures of the miners to collect royalties, which in the case of small-scale miners is nonexistent.

    This is because small scale miners are usually individuals who rent portions of land for mining from an individual, with an agreement to share what is found on the ground, this is what happens in Nabwala Bugiri district and Nakudi in Namayingo district. Taxing individuals has always been hard and there is an effort by various civil society organisations including ActionAid Uganda to help small-scale miners in Uganda form associations, help them acquire mining licenses and formalise their relationship with government.

    This turn of events according to Mr Shafic Butanda, Community Development Officer of Bugiri district will prompt the district to look at creating a mining policy modelled on the National mining policy ‘’Maybe that way we can also help our people benefit from the minerals in the district,’’ he says.

    We recommend that local governments are given right to collect royalties and deduct what is due to them and remit the rest to central government. This way local government will not starve of revenues.

    Report by  Collins Hinamundi Oil, Gas and Land reporter