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Government starts resettlement process of refinery area families

Junior Energy Minister, Peter Lokeris addresses the refinery area affected persons in Buseruka, Hoima in December 2014. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

Junior Energy Minister, Peter Lokeris, addressing some of the refinery area affected persons in Buseruka, Hoima, in December 2014. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

Government has started preparing to resettle the 93 families that opted to be relocated from the 29 square kilometres of land on which the planned crude oil refinery in Hoima District will be built.

Last month, a team of Physical Planners from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development visited the land which government purchased for the families in Kyakabooga village, Buseruka sub county.

The Ministry’s Spokesperson, Dennis Obbo, said the Planners visited the proposed relocation site to prepare for the imminent physical planning of the area.

“The survey team went to do a topographic survey in the area before we embark on physical planning,” he told Oil in Uganda on Wednesday.

He said after receiving the topographic survey report, the Lands Ministry would then design a draft physical plan for the area which will be brought back to the families for their input.

“We intend to have a model nucleated rural settlement with services in the centre of the land but as you move away, you find settlements and developments,” Obbo added.

The Refinery Communications Officer, Bashir Hangi, explained that government had purchased a 500-acre piece of land on which each family will be allocated a piece of land the same size as the one they previously owned in the refinery area.

“The people will get land titles and for those who had houses in the proposed refinery site, we shall build for them permanent houses on the resettlement land.”

Hangi added that government will construct roads, water sources and extend power and other amenities to the relocation site.

“The relocated households will be consulted in the designs of the houses and physical development plans of the relocation site,” he said.

Long overdue

Richard Orebi, the Chairman of the nine-man Relocation Committee comprising of members of the affected families, said the relocation has been long overdue.

“Most of our neighbours who accepted compensation have left the area, leaving us surrounded with bushes and wildlife. We are living in uncertainty and our livelihoods have been disrupted,” he complained.

He said when the Committee visited the area, they were shocked to find that some people have already encroached on the proposed resettlement site and are cutting down trees for charcoal.

“This is unfortunate because we would also love to find the trees which they are cutting,” he noted.

“It is our request that our resettlement is expedited so that we resume our agricultural and other economic activities,” Orebi added.

He however expressed concern that none of the affected families had seen the purchase agreement for the land.

Compensation of the 2473 people in Kabaale parish whose land and property fall within the proposed refinery land started in July 2013.  According Bashir Hangi, the exercise has been slowed down by the high number of complaints from the affected persons, as well as the strict accountability measures in the process to minimise losses.

A contractor for the refinery is expected to be selected next month.

Report by our Hoima Correspondent