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Refinery residents unhappy with compensation process

Innocent Tumwebaze

Innocent Tumwebaze claims he was attacked by security officials in Kitegwa village when they found him encouraging the villagers to stand up for their rights.

The first phase of the ongoing implementation of the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) in Hoima District is facing resistance from some angry residents, with some of them threatening to take the government to court over unfair compensation of their property. They are also claiming that government agents are harassing them and coercing them into signing consent forms.

At a press conference in Kampala today, a group of about 25 residents from Kabaale Parish, part of the area where the oil refinery is going to be set up, accused the government of being dishonest with them, and expressed dissatisfaction with the compensation process.

“People are not contented. We as the people of Kabaale petitioned the office of the Speaker (of Parliament), Minister of Lands and the Energy Minister. We expected a lot from this petition,” said Geofrey Kiwedde, a resident of Kyapaloni village. “Some people were missing property on the compensation forms, some were not happy with the (compensation) rates,” he told the press.

One of their main concerns is that an outdated matrix of 2011/12 is what is being used to determine compensation rates.

Dickens Kamugisha displays a consent form that was signed by one of the residents indicating she had received ninety five million shillings for her land

Dickens Kamugisha displays a consent form that was signed by one of the residents indicating she had received ninety five million shillings for her land

According to the Executive Director of the African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Dickens Kamugisha, some of the residents are signing consent forms that indicate they have been paid and yet they have not received a penny. “The constitution says every person is entitled to property and if the property is taken, they should be given a fair pay,” he argues. He observes that the residents have not been given an opportunity to negotiate their property’s value.

The National Association of Professional Environmentalists’ (NAPE) Allan Kalangi warned that they would resort to the law to ensure the residents are treated fairly. “This situation is worrying. What we want is fairness, peace talks and understanding,” he said. “If peace fails, we are going to court to ensure people receive fair compensation.”

Saboteurs

But in a phone interview with Oil in Uganda, the Communications Officer of the refinery project, Bashir Hangi, maintained that the compensation process takes the locals’ complaints into consideration before having them sign the transfer forms. He noted that some elements were merely attempting to sabotage the process.

“We have compensation agreements here which must be signed only when the complaints have been handled. We move from village to village fully fledged with a grievance resolution team,” he explained. “Those who complain we tell them to come and register at the disclosure centers which are in every village.”

He scoffed at plans by some activists to take the government to court. “We have all the evidence to show that we are going through the rightful channels to accomplish this compensation process and we shall continue with the exercise. But if they want to go to court, no one shall stop them,” he said.

Report by FN