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Compensation of refinery residents commences

Image: Esther Igonja

Esther Igonja, of Congolese origin, has spent 50 of her 80 years in Kabaale Parish—but will now have to give way for the construction of the oil refinery. (Picture: FW)

Implementation of the first phase of the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) kicked off early this month and will end with the 7,118 residents of the thirteen Hoima villages on whose land the oil refinery will be built being compensated for their property, or relocated.

The seventy billion shillings project (about 27 million dollars) is being implemented by Strategic Friends International, a local consultancy firm.

The firm’s Head of Party and Programmes, Kosea Wambaka, told Oil in Uganda that they have so far covered five villages namely Katoke, Kabaale 1, Kabaale 2, Nyakasemene and Kigaaga.

“Apart from some minor complaints that we are trying to rectify, the locals are responding well and the statistics are encouraging,” he said. He added that the level of consent was over ninety percent.

According to Bashir Hangi, the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD) Communications Officer, the ongoing phase is mainly addressing complaints from the locals.

“Right now we are conducting a disclosure process that will address things to do with replacement costs, value of land, disturbance allowances and cross-checking with them what they had signed,” he said. “Compensation and resettlement will come last.”

Mr. Hangi says the entire process will last eight months. “By the end of this period, we expect the consultants to have paid the locals, built houses for them in case of relocation and processed land titles on behalf of government,” he explained.

Image: proposed refinery site

Proposed site for Uganda’s oil refinery: sparsely inhabited, yet full of human complexity (Picture: T. White)

Money preferred choice

Oil in Uganda has established that more people are opting to receive cash even though they had earlier preferred physical relocation.

According to Benon Tusingwiire, a local community worker, this has further complicated the process.

“Some people want to change their preference from cash compensation to physical relocation and vice versa. But the environment for this is not being explicit,” he wrote in an e-mail response to Oil in Uganda.

He added that the participation of women was limited because most of the consultations were being done with men. “Some men have opened bank accounts without their spouses (knowledge). One can now guess what will happen to such families when payment is effected. The adverse impacts of this programme hinge upon women. They are now nowhere in the decision making. 99% of people signing are men,” he noted.

But for those who have zeroed on cash compensation, Mr. Hangi says that they will be taken through some financial management training so that they don’t squander their money.

“The locals are going to be trained on how to invest their money,” he said. “The sensitization process is expected to take one month and will be fully paid for by government.”

Kabaale parishioners

These Kabaale parishioners will have to move

Locals being coerced, claim civil society activists

But, according to some civil society activists in the area, the residents are being coerced into accepting the process against their will.

The Africa Institute for Energy Governance’s Dickens Kamugisha, told Oil in Ugandathat the locals were being intimidated into signing consent documents.

“The locals have no capacity to refuse signing these documents,” he says, “They are being intimidated by the Local Councils, Parish Councils and some people from the consultants hired by government,” he said.

Christopher Opiyo, the Secretary of the Proposed Oil Refinery Resident Association, a local pressure group, claims that the locals are signing the documents out of fear.

“We do not know what is wrong with our leaders whom we voted into power,” he notes, “We thought they would help us in this matter but they have turned their backs on us,” he laments.

Among the contentious issues is the compensation matrix being used to determine what is due to the locals.

“The compensation rates they are using are for 2011/2012, yet we are in 2013,” notes Mr. Kamugisha. “The 2012/2013 matrix is still awaiting approval of the Chief Government Valuer.”

Yet according to Bashir Hangi, the likes of Kamugisha are merely inciting locals to reject the process, and ultimately slowing it down.

“We are mindful of the national and international guidelines and will follow them to the letter,” he vowed.

Despite the apparent issues with the process, its commencement is a relief to the residents who have lived in limbo since last year, with some of them going hungry because they were allegedly told by government officials not to plant any crops on the land.

Report by BO