President’s envoy disappoints Mubende gold miners, fails to turn up for the long awaited reconciliatory meeting
Thousands of artisanal miners that had gathered at lujinji mining site in Mubende district to meet the presidential advisor on land matters left the venue disappointed over her failure to show up.
According to Mr Sempowo Robert chairman Mubende artisanal miners, they secured this appointment with Ms Kiconco flora, the legal presidential advisor of land so that they could be able to show her the area currently occupied by the artisanal miners, how miners operate in this area, equipments being used by miners, how many miners are operating in this area, to win her support towards an end to a possible eviction of the miners by the President.
Earlier in the same month July, the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni allegedly issued a presidential directive to have over 500 artisan gold miners displaced from the mining area of mubende in favour of Gemstones International mining company. This company holds the location license for the area, but had allowed the artisan miners to operate alongside them in this same area, from which they derive a livelihood. This however has since changed. Worried that the miners may encroach on all the gold, they reportedly sought government’s protection to retain back all their land for which they hold a license. Government officials, majority from the Ministry of Energy advised the president accordingly, who in turn ordered for their vacating.
These miners that gathered up from 7:30am in the morning on Thursday 13th April, left three hours into waiting disappointed after an official communication that the presidential advisor was not to turn up, because she was caught up with state work therefore postponing the meeting to 20/July/2017.
Mr Lukwago Peter one of the miners expressed disappointment: “We have been forced to suspend our work because we are law abiding citizens that need to stream line the course of our work. We really need government to listen to our side of the story other than favouring one investor, a move that has left us jobless.”
Lukwago added that the news about the presidential directive of eviction left them in fear.
“Few people go into the pits in search for gold. Few people are buying new stuff for their shops. Business is no longer booming because we can’t invest much capital for fear of being chased away from the mines,” he said.
Mr Senkusu Edward, the community development officer Kitumbi sub county explained that;” we have received a communication from the presidential advisor that she won’t be able to appear for the meeting because she is caught up with other state matters therefore postponing the meeting to 20/July/2017.”
The presence of potential gold deposits in Kasanda Sub County in Mubende district was first discovered by the British colonial government in the 1920s. Then, in the late 1990s, regular visits by potential investors with big plans alerted locals to the existence of a valuable mineral in their midst, and soon Ugandans from other parts of the country were flocking the area to start small-scale operations as illegal miners. Many people who were previously unemployed or underemployed from the streets of Kampala and from as far Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Rwanda have continued to come into this area. This has led to an impromptu gold rush with miners, washers, middlemen, buyers and exporters.
The area houses men, children and women who utterly derive their livelihood from artisan gold mining. These insist that they applied for a location license two years ago, when they learnt of the expiry of Gemstone’s first license. They however did not receive it, but Gemstone did again.
The Petroleum Fund currently has $ 72 million dollars and Shs 10bn on its Shillings account instead of the $709 that was collected
At least Shs 2 trillion oil revenues has already been spent on infrastructure and other energy projects, a report of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) reveals. However, the report adopted by parliament last week, does not give details of how and where the money was spent, but the Secretary to the Treasury in a letter, states the money was spent on the construction of Karuma hydro power plant.
One of the terms of reference for the Committee was to establish all revenues received in the Petroleum Fund. Accordingly, during the investigations, the Committee requested the Office of the Auditor General (AOG) to conduct a special audit to establish all revenues received by government in respect of the Petroleum Fund. After the audit, the report notes, it was discovered that so far, government received $709 million dollars in petroleum revenues between 2011 – March, 2017.
“The Committee established that a sum of $709 million dollars which has been ring fenced for infrastructure and energy development, accrued to the sector since petroleum activities started,” the report reads in part. However, as at 14th March, 2017, the Petroleum Fund had only $ 72.5 million dollars on its dollar account and a paltry Shs 10bn on its Shillings account.
“Out of this, $633.7 million dollars (approximately Shs 2.2 trillion) was transferred to the Consolidated Fund [and spent on Karuma hydro power project] while the sum of $72.3 million dollars is being held in dollar account and Shs 10bn Shillings account in the Petroleum Fund.
The Committee report reveals that by the time the Public Finance Management Act came into force in February, 2015, the oil revenue account in Bank of Uganda had a total of Shs 1.36 trillion, which was transferred to the consolidated fund.
In the report, MPs question, why Shs 1.36 trillion was transferred from the Oil Revenues Account in Bank of Uganda to the Consolidated Fund, instead of transferring it to the Petroleum Fund as required by the Public Finance and Accountability Act, 2015, as the fund’s opening balance.
However, in a letter dated June, 24th, 2015, jointly signed by Mr Keith Muhakanizi the Secretary to the Treasury and Mr Lawrence Ssemakula the Accountant General, and seen by our writer, the duo directed the director in charge of Banking at Bank of Uganda to transfer the money, close the account and open a new account in the name of the Uganda Petroleum Fund.
“Prior to the enactment of the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act, 2015], the oil funds on account were earmarked to support the financial year 2014/2015 budget for Karuma hydro power plant, and were released from the consolidated fund and thus need to be refunded to the Uganda Consolidated Fund (UCF),” the duo wrote and further explained, “In order to operationalize the Petroleum Fund, there is need to open bank accounts for the Fund, where all oil revenues received by government from 6th March, 2015 shall be deposited. I authorize you to open a Uganda Shillings (UGX) and dollar (USD) accounts in the name of Uganda Petroleum Fund.”
According to the letter, the principal signatories to the Petroleum Fund are; Mr Keith Muhakanizi, Mr Patrick Ocailap (deputy Secretary to the Treasury), and Mr Lawrence Ssemakula, the Accountant General.
“The Committee recommends close monitoring and supervision of the activities of the petroleum authority and the Uganda National Oil company Limited. The relevant committees of parliament should receive quarterly reports from the Authority and National Oil Company,” the report recommends.
In January, 2017, the Committee chaired by Hon. Abdul Katuntu (Bugweri MP) was tasked to investigate the controversial Shs 6bn reward to 42 government officials for winning a tax dispute between government of Uganda and Heritage Oil and Gas Limited an arbitration tribunal in Landon in 2015.
The gist of the investigation was to establish the legality of the Shs 6bn rewarded to 42 government officials for their effort in winning a tax arbitration case between government of Uganda and Heritage Oil and Gas Limited in Landon.
In 2010, Heritage Oil and Gas Company Limited sold its participating stake in the Albertine Graben to Tullow Uganda Limited at $ 1.45 billion – a transaction that attracted Capital Gains Tax. However, Heritage objected to tax assessments in the Tax Appeal Tribunal and also initiated arbitration proceedings in Landon against government of Uganda under the United Nations Commission for International Trade Law Arbitration Rules, 1976. The company sought a refund of all monies collected as Capital Gains Tax.
In February 2015, the tribunal dismissed Heritage’s application and awarded government of Uganda $ 4 million dollars in costs incurred in defending the application. The committee established that government hired Curtis Mallet – Provost, Colt &Mosle LLP, a British law firm to represent government of Uganda in the arbitration proceedings at a cost of $8.6 million dollars.
Following the victory, the President acting on a request from senior government officials rewarded the 42 officials with Shs 6bn for their contribution.
The committee observes that the selection of the beneficiaries was not all inclusive. ‘For example, Bernard Sanya, the initiator of the tax two assessments was neither on the first list nor the second list of the beneficiaries. According to the report, there was a lot of informality and arbitrariness in the selection of beneficiaries.
“The committee concluded that the Shs 6n reward was contrary to standard practices of rewarding public officers, as provided for in the law. The President’s approval of the Shs 6bn was bonafide. However, it was an error of judgement,” the report reads.
The Committee recommended that all funds paid out of URA account to beneficiaries of the “handshake” should be refunded and all officers who flouted the law should be held accountable.
Responding to the report, Ali Sekatawa, Assistant Commissioner for Litigation, one of the beneficiaries of the handshake threatened to petition court over the report, arguing that the Committee selectively evaluated evidence before it, and thus came to wrong conclusions. He said parliament has no powers to order him to refund the money, since it was not given parliament. It came from URA’s account that had been appropriated by parliament. Parliament unanimously adopted the report.
“The Committee further established that whereas the costs awarded to URA by the Tax Appeals Tribunal and the High Court of Uganda has not been taxed and recovered, up to approximately $ 15 million has not been recovered. The bill of costs is yet to be filed. The International Arbitration Tribunal in Landon did award Government of Uganda costs amounting to $4 million which also remains unrecovered,” the report reads in part.
The report asks the Attorney General to recover the $ 4million dollars as costs awarded by the arbitration tribunal within 90 days from the date of tabling the report. However, Ali Sekatawa says it will be difficult for government to recover the costs from Heritage Oil and Gas Limited, since the company was delisted from the Landon Stock Exchange.
Following the revelations by former Energy Minister, Syda Bbumba, that she signed the Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) without reading through the agreements, the report recommends that politicians should be barred from signing such agreements.
“Parliament should revisit section 8 of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act, 2013 with a view of amending it and provide for technical people to be signatories to PSAs. All recoverable costs incurred by oil companies should be submitted to parliament quarterly,” he report reads.
Weighing in on the report, Odonga Otto (Aruu MP), said “The good thing we have a report adopted by parliament, so even if it takes 10 years, the beneficiaries of the handshake will refund that money” he said.
By Edward Ssekika
District leadership wants the president to intervene
Over 60,000 artisan and small scale gold miners in Mubende are leaving under fear following a recent alleged presidential directive to evict them from the area.
The miners were given a seven days ultimatum starting 16th June 2017 to vacate the premises in Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties, in the mining camps of Kampala, Kikade, Kamusenene and Kapya, in favour of the license holder Gemstone International. This company has a mining lease of 21 years and Exploration license for three years for this same area that houses the artisan miners. The miners have tried to access a location license from Ministry of Energy for this same area since 2015 but with no success.
According to the member of Parliament of Bukuya sub county, Hon Bukenya Micheal, the directive was arrived at after a meeting held at State House with the Minister of State for Minerals, Defence Minister among others agreed that the artisan miners are a security threat to the country, claiming that majority are from DRC and other neighbouring countries, hence ferrying out Uganda’s gold to other countries illegally.
Dr. Bukenya claims that the people who made decisions in state house for miners to vacate the premises within five days have little or no knowledge of the operations in these gold mining camps, hence unaware of how many people shall be affected by this move.
“They have never stepped in this constituency; they don’t know what takes place in the gold mines. Neither the local council leadership, district leadership, the sub county leadership, parliamentary representation was involved in the discussion that took place in state house which we think was done by design because they didn’t want the president to know the truth. So we think everything wasn’t done the right way and we want to be given audience such that we will be involved in the issues concerning our area,” he said.
Dr.Bukenya explained that the meeting also allegedly agreed that the people in the mines are not registered hence government doesn’t know the amount of gold getting out from this area neither does it know the people operating in this area. There were also claims of environmental degradation thus the need to evict them from this area.
Residents live in fear
Mr Nkwatirire Ismail, The Chairperson LC III Luginji gold mining area explained that what is needed is not ridicule but support from government to uphold them as Ugandans who have tried to find a livening in gold mining and have created employment for many
“We are Ugandans who have managed to create employment for ourselves. All we need is government to come up with regulations on how best we can improve our jobs not evicting us because we have nowhere to go,” he said.
Miners confirmed that this is a source of livelihood for many. Mr Mulyazaawo Umaru one of the gold miners explained that;” All my life rotates now around the gold mine, I cannot afford to lose all the millions invested in digging up the tunnel in search for gold. I would rather fight and I don’t care whether I lose my life in the battle.”
Another resident Mr Mutabaazi Jonathan said Government ought to put it’s citizens first. “Why care for the interests and needs of a single individual an investor and rendering 60,000 people homeless and jobless. Government should put her citizens interests first,” he told this publication.
Mubende. for about five years now, illegal gold miners from various parts of Uganda have occupied two hills of about 44 acres in Kitumbi and Bukuya Sub-counties, Mubende District.
Estimates indicate the number of the miners – known as artisanal miners – could be as high as 10,000 in Lujinji A and B villages, in Kitumbi Sub-county alone but over 50,000 people are indirectly benefiting from the exercise as they are engaged in sale of merchandise like food stuffs, bars, entertainment industry, transport industry, agriculture and other related activities.
Mr Emmanuel Kibirige, the general secretary Ssingo Artisanal Gold Miners Association (SASSMA) said the association applied for the location licence on behalf of other miners but were not granted.
A location licence, according to The Mining Act, 2003 section 54 (2), is a licence for prospecting and mining operations by methods which do not involve substantial expenditure and the use of specialised technology.
This is mostly meant for small-scale miners who do not have the capacity to afford high-tech equipment for mining.
By Josephine Nabaale
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
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
RT Global Resources pulls out of negotiations to construct the oil refinery, government launches a search for a new investor. The alternate bidder (SK Engineering and Construction) is no longer interested in any negotiations with government forcing it to re-launch a search for a new investor.
The Board of Uganda’s National Oil Company (UNOC) appoints Dr. Josephine Wapakabulo as the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
President Yoweri Museveni announces the decision that Uganda and Tanzania have entered a deal that will seal an oil pipeline of crude oil from Hoima to the Tanga port along the North Eastern coast of Tanzania (thereby abandoning the joint communique with Kenya). The announcement was made in Kampala as the President closed a meeting of East African leaders called to fast track infrastructural projects in the Region.
Over sixty Ugandan and international NGOs issues a joint press statement calling on the Uganda government to stop its plans of licensing out the Ngaji oil block (covering Lake Edward and part of Queen Elizabeth National Park) at the DRC border in order to preserve the pristine environment of the Virunga National Park.
The High Court of Masindi declared that Robert Bansigaraho wrongfully evicted the residents of Rwamutonga and advised them to seek compensation for the damage caused.