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Refinery area complainants accept new offers from government

An official from the Chief Government Valuer (Center) speaks to residents in Buseruka as SFI's Director of Programs, Kosea Wamboka (Right) looks on. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

An official from the Chief Government Valuer’s office (Center) speaks to residents in Buseruka as SFI’s Director of Programs, Kosea Wamboka (Right) looks on. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

Some of the refinery affected persons who were contesting the compensation offered by the government for their land and property in the proposed refinery area in Buseruka, Hoima District, have accepted new offers from government.

After reviewing complaints from the residents who rejected the compensation, officials from government and Strategic Friends International (SFI) last week starting meeting  with the complainants in Hoima and presented the results of the reviews.

SFI was contracted by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to implement the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) of the refinery affected persons whose property falls within the 29 square kilometers of land that the government has earmarked for the refinery.

According to the refinery communications officer, Bashir Hangi, the residents’ complaints were investigated and a supplementary valuation report was dully approved by the Chief Government Valuer.

The complaints ranged from omission and undervaluation of some properties, as well as disagreements between some couples on whether to receive cash compensations or be resettled.

“The Chief Government Valuer approved the supplementary valuation report which we are presenting to residents who filed complaints,” Hangi told Oil in Uganda on Monday. “Those who feel they are satisfied by the way the complaints have been addressed have consented and signed accepting cash compensations.”

He said more than 400 people out of the over 600 complainants have accepted the offers.

A little too late

The development is a relief for the residents who have endured months of uncertainty over their fate.

However, although those who had concerns about incorrect measurements of their land and omission of property are now content, the complainants whose contention is with the low costing of land maintain the compensation is too low.

Ministry of Energy's Lands Officer, Francis Elungat addresses the residents in Hoima last week. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

Ministry of Energy’s Lands Officer, Francis Elungat, addresses the residents in Hoima last week. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

According to Geoffrey Kiwedde, the residents’ chairman, only about half of the 49 complainants in his village of Kyapuloni have accepted the new offers from government.

“We are now accepting compensation not because we are happy. We are tired of suffering. We now want to begin a new life with the little compensation which we are being offered,” Kiwedde said.

Kiwedde owns 7 acres of land and is among the residents who sued government seeking to be paid more for their properties.  He still insists on continuing with the suit against government on grounds that his rights to timely, adequate and fair compensation were abused.

Compensation of the 2473 people in Kabaale parish whose land and property fall within the proposed refinery land started in July 2013. By December 2014, 1,945 people had been compensated in excess of 36 billion shillings ($13 million).

According to the Energy Ministry’s Lands Officer, Francis Elungat, government is continuing to negotiate with those residents that rejected compensation claiming the rates were low.

Report by our Hoima Correspondent