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Compensation brings temporary excitement to Buliisa locals

 OGWENDO SUB-COUNTY, BULIISA DISTRICT: Located about 16 kilometres from Buliisa town, this quiet agricultural village is dotted with small mud houses, most of them roofed with shiny aluminium sheets.

There is a stark contrast between the greyish, peeling, aging walls of the small houses and the brand new sheets they are roofed with.

“The compensation money excites people here,” says Onencan Paolyel, who runs a local community based organisation in Buliisa town council. “They buy motorcycles and mabati (roofing sheets).”

Fancy roofing appears to be one of the more popular ways of spending the windfall that farmers received as compensation for their crops late last year, when surveys were being conducted in their area, near the productive Ngara-2 oil well.

Most of them received at least half a million shillings, and admitted that they had never earned that much money, yet they also believed that they deserved more.

In some cases, several members of the same household would be compensated individually if their gardens were neighbouring each other.

“Sometimes it brings conflict because Buliisa is a cultural area,” says Onencan. “It is mainly the women who till the land. But when it comes to compensation, the men want to take the money. The man says the garden belongs to him, because he owns the land, but the woman argues that the crops are hers,” he explains.

An eight month wait

Florence Akumu used the money to feed her five children for about five months.

Florence Akumu used the money to feed her five children for about five months.

Florence Akumu, a forty-one year old divorced farmer, received five hundred thousand shillings last year as compensation for her crops that were cut down in March 2012.

She told Oil in Uganda that she had expected to be paid at least one million because “a lot of maize and cassava was destroyed” when some men “made a road through my garden.”

Ms. Akumu said that the ‘road’ was about two metres wide, and cut through her entire plot of land, measuring about quarter an acre.

She added that no one had negotiated with her before invading her garden, but some men told her she would be paid for her loss. The sum was not disclosed.

“About eight months later in November, some people who we were told were representatives of Tullow, but different from those who cut down the crops, came here and called a meeting under that tree,” she said, pointing to a huge mango tree, a stone’s throw away from her compound.

“They would call out a name, you go to the desk, you are given an envelope and told to sign. I received five hundred thousand but I don’t know what my neighbours received because each of us was handled individually,” she said.

She admits that it was the largest sum of money she had ever held in her entire life but regrets that she did not do much with it.

“I bought clothes for my three children, and used the balance for feeding. It lasted about five months,” she said.

Marital conflict

Zainab Nsekanabo was forced to temporarily flee her home after receiving the money due to misunderstandings with her husband

Zainab Nsekanabo was forced to temporarily flee her home after receiving the money due to misunderstandings with her husband

Forty year old Zainab Nsekanabo, a farmer, had a sadder recollection of her ‘rich’ days.

She said that her marriage temporarily fell apart and she was forced to abandon her marital home after receiving compensation of eight hundred thousand for her crops—maize, cassava and beans—on her one acre plot of land.

“My husband said he wanted the money, but I refused because I was worried he would use it to marry other women,” she said.

“So I hid the money with a friend and left the home for a while,” she revealed, leaving behind her five children.

When she returned a month later, her husband had given up all hope of ever accessing the money. She then retrieved the money from her friend and used it to purchase clothes for her children, utensils, and other household items.

“We are now back together and okay,” she concludes.

 

Report by CM and BO