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Social impacts

  • Oil roads construction: Hoima residents cry foul over damage caused by rock blasting

    At least 400 houses in 10 villages have been destroyed by rock blasting in Kigorobya County, Hoima district. PAPs want compensation for their destroyed property.

    “When government started constructing our road, I was excited. I know, it is going to open up our area. However, this rock blasting has affected us

    negatively. You see, my house has developed cracks due to waves from the blasting. It is like an earthquake. I live in fear that one day it can collapse on us,” 67 years old Alice Birungi told Oil in Uganda. “When the Chinese blast the rocks during the day, sometimes I have nightmares of the blasts at night. The waves are too much,”. She added.

    Alice is one of the over 400 households affected by excessive blasting of a rock in Kyakasato village, Kigorobya Sub-county, Hoima district by CICO Ltd, a Chinese company constructing the Hoima – Biiso – Wanseko road which is one of the critical oil roads.

    In a meeting organised by Global Rights Alert – a civil society organisation, residents complained of the excessive damage rock-blasting has caused to their properties mainly houses. CICO Ltd according to residents, started blasting the rock to get aggregates for constructing the road last year.

    John Mary Amanyire, the LC I Chairman of Kyakasato explains that there are many residents whose houses have been destroyed due to rock blasting and yet they have not been compensated. “The company (CICO Ltd) only compensated households within the 500 metre radius, anyone outside that radius has not been compensated. But people’s houses have been destroyed. They too should be compensated,” he said.

    According to residents, rock blasting has not only affected Kyakasato but 9 other villages including Bukona, Haibale I & II, Ndaragi, Kigorobya II, Kikonkona, Kikwanana, Kabatindure and Hanga.

    On April 23, David Karubanga the area Member of Parliament who is also the Minister of State for Public Service wrote to the Executive Director, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) seeking action for the 400 hundred structures which had been damaged by stone blasting. However, UNRA is yet to respond to the MP and residents’ demand.

    Lydia Tukwasibwe, a UNRA sociologist on the construction of Hoima – Biiso – Wanseko revealed that by compensating people within the 500 metre radius, the contractor was following guidelines issued by NEMA. “According to the policy [guidelines] only those within the 500 metre radius are eligible to be compensated,” She explained. She also added that the matter will be solved by their bosses.

    Kadir Kirungi, the district Chairman of Hoima attributes the problem to unrealistic guidelines by NEMA. “I cannot blame the contractor because the contractor is purely following the guidelines which were issued by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). I am only wondering how NEMA could issue guidelines without any form of assessment,” he said. Kirungi wants NEMA to review the 500 metres radius policy.

    Only 78 households within the 500 metre radius have been compensated. However, according to a preliminary assessment conducted by the area MP, at least 400 houses including 3 schools and 2 churches have developed cracks due to blasting and should be compensated. 

     “Communities outside the 500 metre radius have also been affected, their houses have cracks and we cannot leave this matter untouched. Developent in terms of the roads should come to make people better and not to supress them,” Kirungi said.

    The affected residents have further petitioned the district council for an intervention. In a letter dated July 22, 2019, Isingoma Nathan Kitwe, the Hoima district speaker wants clarification from CICO Limited. “I have received a petition in my office signed by 270 persons affected by excessive rock blasting by CICO in Kyakasato village, Kigorobya sub-county. This is therefore to invite you to my office for clarity before I present the petition to Council for discussion,” Isingoma Kitwe wrote. He added, “As you are aware that we need roads and we thank government for the all the endeavours to construct good roads for the people. However, human health and safety should be given first priority,” by: Edward Ssekika,Edited by Muhumuza Didas

  • Youth cautioned to dispel oil politics, focus on tapping opportunities

    Participants at a youth entrepreneurial and innovations “clinic” in Gulu organized by ActionAid Uganda and partners have been urged to look beyond the petty politics being peddled about the oil and gas sector and instead channel their energies on positioning themselves to benefit from it.

    The call was made following emotional outbursts by some participants who raised concerns about the perceived discrimination against the region by locating crucial oil infrastructure outside their region. They also argued that youth from the region were not benefiting from skilling and training opportunities being offered by oil companies (and the government).

    “If you are to benefit from this sector you must think about yourself and how you are going to gain out of it. The oil sector is global and the politics will always be there. What will you do about it? We are not the first to have oil and will not be the last. Are you going to move the airport from Kabaale (in Hoima) to Nwoya?” Paul Twebaze stung the participants.

    He added: “These decisions are informed by detailed studies on cost-benefit and economic analyses. Investors do thorough feasibility studies that cost a lot of money before committing their money.”

    Information gaps

    During a courtesy visit to the Albertine region in 2017, local leaders at Got Apwoyo sub-county headquarters voiced similar sentiments. A riled L.C 3 Chairperson particularly wondered why crude oil would be transported to the central processing facility (CPF) in Buliisa district via a network of pipelines yet it would be extracted from Murchison Falls National Park which is in Nwoya district.

    Didas Muhumuza, Extractives Governance Coordinator at AAIU, narrated how during his time at Tullow Oil as a community liaison officer, got wind of information that young people in Hoima were planning to beat him up because they contended that oil companies were discriminating against them and that he was their agent in doing so.

    “I communicated to the management teams in Uganda and the UK about the situation but also advised that the problem was due to lack of information among the population. We thus devised a strategy to start regular sensitization of all stakeholders through radio and workshops. Some introductory training(s) to oil and gas aspects were also undertaken,” he said. This was very helpful in ameliorating the situation overall.

    Twebaze Paul, a civil society stakeholder in the sector, once shared a story of how he and a team of colleagues were given an ultimatum of an hour to exit Amuru district by security people after their meeting to brief the community about the sector was stopped.

    “Talking about oil then was risky. In 2012 we went to Amuru to talk to the community about oil and how the resource can benefit everyone and not become a curse. Security people arrested us and tasked us to explain who had given us authority to talk about oil,” he narrated.

    Muhumuza noted that lack of information among the general public remains a challenge. However Ronald Kaija, Senior Community Relations Officer at CNOOC Uganda, the developer of the Kingfisher oil fields, says information is now more readily available across many public domains but it is upon the young people to seek it out.

    “Recently we have held public hearings on the ESIA report for the Kingfisher Development Area (KFDA). How many have accessed or tried to read this technical extract explaining what we are going to do?,” Kaija asked participants while showing the copy that was freely distributed at the hearings.

    Notably the public hearings were commended by civil society actors as a step in the right direction in as far as access to information is concerned. James Muhindo, the Coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas, noted that the hearings were unprecedented and presented an opportunity for the people to get involved in the sector by being heard and appraised on its developments.

    The entrepreneurship development workshop(s) presented a unique opportunity for participants to appreciate the challenges of operating a business in a very intricate oil and gas sector with very high competitiveness. Participants, mostly drawn from the districts of Hoima, Kikuube, Buliisa, Masindi, Nwoya, Amuru and Gulu districts also shared their experiences of exploiting business opportunities in the Albertine region amidst the oil developments that have thus far taken place. They have been provided with vital insights on what opportunities the development (and production) phases will provide.

    Participants were also tipped on skills and knowledge on how to go about doing business in the oil industry by appreciating the standards that have been set by government (and oil companies) for those willing to conduct business in the sub-sector as it gears for transition into the development and production phase(s).

    Jackson Etwop, a social movement’s facilitator and motivational speaker, spoke to participants in Acholi to drive home the message of mindset change and hope. “We are our own obstacle to changing our situation. Opportunities are there and amongst us are fellow youth that have made it and can inspire us. Unless we change the mindset we will not change our situation”. Jackson emphasized. The clinics shall be concluded in Pakwach district but the participants shall be followed up to ensure appropriate measurement of impact of the trainings undertaken.

    By Robert Ben Mwesigye Edited by Muhumuza Didas

  • UPIK’s Grace Tabaaza shines in Petroleum lecturing

    Grace Tabaaza undertakes a lecture at Uganda Petroleum Intistiute Kigumba. She teaches Health Saafety and Environment. Photo by Sunday

    Grace Tabaaza painfully left her babies in Kampala and went to Kiryandogo, West of Uganda, to Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba (UPIK) to retrieve studies

    The mother of two decided to take up the opportunity to realize her dream of joining Uganda’s petroleum industry.

    Her first born was 2 while her second born was 1 year old. She wined her baby off breast milk, boarded the bus from Kampala where her family was to UPIK, 200 kilometres away to begin a two-year course.

    UPIK is a government aided tertiary Institution under the Ministry of Education and Sports. UPIK is mandated to train technicians in Oil and Gas operations and maintenance programmes. Currently the Institute is running three two-year Diploma programmes in Oil and Gas.  The institute has a Diploma in Petroleum Engineering (DPE), a Diploma in Upstream Petroleum Operations (DUPO) and a Diploma in Downstream Petroleum Operations (DDPO).

    Tabaaza left the children with her husband to start school. She was among the pioneer students of Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba where she completed a diploma in Petroleum Studies in 2011. She managed to obtain a first class diploma and it is on that basis that the institute decided to retain her as a lecturer.

    “I missed my family. I lost weight. I was always worried about my children’s welfare. However, my husband was very supportive. If he wasn’t, I would have dropped out to go and look after my children” she says.

    Asked how she managed to outshine her fellow students to attain a first class, Ms Tabaaza says she concentrated on studies and taped into the knowledge of her lecturers and students.

    “The institute is out of town. There are fewer distractions here. I put lots of efforts to read and discuss with my fellow students” she says.

    Being pioneers, the students found a less equipped institute with inadequate text books and computers to facilitate teaching and learning. They thus relied on group discussions to share knowledge on the sector.

    Ambition:

    Her ambition is to support efforts of conserving the environment amidst Uganda’s oil and gas developments.

    As we enjoy oil discoveries and productions, she says, there is need to secure our people and the environment.

    She lectures Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) at UPIK and she hopes to instill the discipline of preserving the environment among her students.

    “Am sure they will be a voice of conservation wherever they go,“she says.

    She believes that oil developments should not disadvantage agriculture, environment, tourism and other sectors of the economy because oil is a finite resource that will get depleted unlike agriculture and tourism.

    Uganda hopes that the current oil discoveries will sustain commercial production between 20 to 30 years.

    As she joined the institute, she had hoped to be employed directly by the oil and gas companies that are operating in Uganda. However that did not materialize sine she ended up in the teaching profession.

    “However I am not disappointed since I am making a contribution to the oil industry through teaching students who will serve the industry directly or indirectly” she says.

    Ms. Tabaaza was the only female in her intake. That came with its own challenges.

    “I would at times feel out of place, seeing only men around me. However, later, I accepted the situation and begun to see them as my brothers,” she says.

    Education journey:

    She completed her Primary Education at Rusikizi Primary school in 1992 in Kabaale district. She later joined Kigezi High school where she completed her O’ Level.

    In 2001, she completed her Advanced level at Bishops Girls School in Kabaale district.

    However, her first attempt to sit for A level exams at Standard High Zana in 1999 did not yield the results she wanted to join University or a tertiary institution of her choice.

    She completed a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry and Nature conservation in 2006. The degree made her appreciate and love the Environment.

    This year, she is due to complete her Master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources which she has been studying on part time since she spends most days of the week lecturing at UPIK.

    She is well disciplined and hard working. She motivates students especially ladies” says James Bagaya, the UPIK Academic Registrar.

    As Uganda’s oil industry takes shape, Tabaaza is an example of how committed and resilient young people can attain the skills they need to join the oil industry directly or indirectly.

    Given the fact that oil is being explored in an ecologically fragile area in the Albertine basin, her skills and passion for  environment, health and safety are crucial to the sector.

    Oil in Uganda correspondent, Bunyoro

    ENDS  

  • Oil jobs: Government to establish Petroleum Skills Development Fund

    At least $ 44.7m will be injected in the fund in the next 8 years to skill Ugandans for Oil jobs. In order to increase the number of Ugandans with qualifications and skills to take up jobs in the oil and gas sub-sector, government plans to establish a fund – Petroleum Skills Development Fund. The fund is expected to finance trainings and skilling of Ugandans to match the skills and certifications required in the oil and gas industry. The proposal to establish a skills development fund for the oil sub-sector is contained in the Workforce Skills Development Strategy and Plan for the oil and gas sub-sector in Uganda that was launched recently. The aim of the workforce skills development strategy and plan is meant is to maximise the quantity and quality of employment opportunities for Ugandans in oil, gas and other related sectors. According to the workforce skills development plan, the oil and gas sub-sector is expected to create at least 161,700 jobs (at peak during the construction phase of the entire planned infrastructure for the up-stream and mid-stream developments). Of these, 14,000 will be direct, 42,700 indirect and 105,000 induced jobs. Once the construction phase will be completed, there will be limited opportunities since the project(s) shall not require many people to run it. However, most Ugandans are left out in jobs due to lack of requisite skills, qualifications and certifications. “The main impediment to employing a larger share of Ugandans in the petroleum sector is a shortage of personnel with adequate education and training coupled with inadequate related work experience. The main thrust of the Ugandan national content effort shall therefore be directed at building the capabilities of Ugandan personnel for contributing effectively to petroleum operations,” strategy paper reads in part. A total of $ 44.7 million dollars (Approximately Shs 163 bn) will be injected into the fund in the next eight years (up to 2025). “The Petroleum Skills Development Fund will have its funds replenished by allocating a percentage of revenue generated by international oil companies (IOCs) and Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractors and/or sub-contractors to dedicated training activities each year,” the strategy paper reads. Government also plans to levy a fee of 2% payable on the total gross emoluments paid to international employees and the total gross payments made in respect of labour-only contractors, to raise money for the fund. “In its first five years of operation, the Petroleum Skills Development Fund will be supplemented by a straightforward tax on foreign workers. Such a levy would involve a single one-off payment of $10,000 imposed on all oil & gas employers for every foreign worker brought into Uganda who is not a national of the East African Community”, the strategy reads. According to the skills development strategy, the Ministry of Finance working in partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development will have responsibility for designing and overseeing the mechanism for verifying and collecting these funds. The Petroleum Skills Development Fund will be overseen by the National Content Steering Committee which will constitute a separate sub-committee under the leadership of an independent Chair respected by both Government and the international oil industry. The Petroleum Skills Development Fund will have its own dedicated bank account to maintain a clear link between revenues and funds raised from employers and funds allocated to training activities. Without this clear link, international experience shows that employers will lose confidence that funds are being utilised effectively to address their specific skills’ needs. In addition to the funds raised through the payroll training levy and one-off tax on foreign workers, the Petroleum Skills Development Fund will also be open to contributions from development partners or other agencies with an interest in pooling resources and contributing towards Oil & Gas skills development in Uganda. By Edward Ssekika Edited by Flavia Nalubega Edited by Didas Muhumuza

  • National Oil and Gas Talent Register to boost employment of Ugandans in the sector

    The National Oil and Gas Talent Register (NOGTR) will boost employment of Ugandans in the nascent oil and gas sector, according to Mr. Ernest Rubondo, the Executive Director, Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU).

    On 1st February, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) launched the National Oil and Gas Talent Register. At the launch, Rubondo explained that the the talent register is open to all qualified Ugandans. Registration of Ugandans on the register started on February, 1, 2019. Rubondo added that the register is meant to boost local content and bridge gaps between employers and employees in the oil and gas sector.

    “Registration is continuous and free of charge. However, this does not waive competition for the available jobs. There are over 400 job profiles on the National Oil and Gas Talent Register [NOGTR],” he added. Ugandans will be required to update their profiles once a year. “With a human resource register in place, we will be able to demand for a fair consideration for Ugandan employees because it will be easier to identify potential talent.” Rubondo added that the register will constitute a database of available human capacities and technical skills for the oil and gas sector in Uganda. “The register has the demand and supply side users. The demand side users are the companies, Ministries, Government Departments and Agencies (MDAs) which meet the eligibility criteria and offer employment in the sector. On the supply side are individuals who meet eligibility criteria for the work force demands,” Rubondo explained.

    The National Oil and Gas Talent Register promotes the employment of Ugandan Citizens in the sector. One of the areas the National Content Policy for the oil and gas sector provides for is building the capabilities of Uganda’s human resources. This is expected to ease the recruitment processes in the sector and minimize the use of expatriates. The National Oil and Gas Talent Register (NOGTR) is one of the initiatives of growing the participation of Uagndan citizens in the nascent oil and gas sector.

    One of the key aspects of the Authority under the regulatory role is to ensure the growing participation of Ugandans in the sector. The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) is mandated under regulation 31 of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) (National Content), Regulations 2016 to establish, maintain and operate a National Human Capacity register herein referred to as the National Oil and Gas Talent Register (NOGTR).

    The same Regulations compel companies involved in the oil and gas sector to ensure that Ugandan citizens are given priority for employment in any petroleum activity. The regulations also restrict issuance of work permits to expatriates.

    The Ministry of Internal Affairs, according to the regulations can only issue a work permit after the Petroleum Authority has furnished evidence that there are no Ugandans on the national talent register qualified for the job. When work permits are granted to an expatriate, the oil companies are required to submit to the Authority for approval a succession plan for all positions not held by Ugandan citizens.

    By Edward Ssekika Edited by Flavia Nalubega

  • Hoima residents demand for ‘oil jobs’

    Residents of Buseruka sub county, accuse SBC – a company that is constructing Hoima International Airport of coming with their workers from Kayunga to the detriment of the locals “Early this year, When SBC Uganda Limited [A company constructing Hoima International Airport] started construction of the airport early this year, we [local people] were promised jobs. However, we only see buses ferrying workers from Hoima to here, where are the jobs they promised us,” Julius Muhumuza asks angrily. Muhumuza said that he got recommendations from local leaders to get a job as a casual laborer. However, he was never given the job. Just like Muhumuza, Bosco Twaha another resident of Nyamasoga village, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima district complains, “I have a class A driving permit [a driving class for truck drivers]. I applied for a job as a driver but my application was turned down”. Nyamasoga village is just adjacent to Hoima International Airport that is under construction. The airport is one of the oil-related infrastructure projects required before the country can start oil production. However, local people in Hoima have expressed their dissatisfaction with SBC Uganda Ltd – a company that was granted a contract to construct the Hoima International Airport over the failure to employ them. The locals accuse the company of deliberately locking them out of oil related jobs. They are accusing SBC-Uganda Limited of not implementing local content policy requirements to enable locals benefit from the project. They claim that the company has considered other young people from other places of the country and that few are from within. However, the company officials say locals have been given jobs. Currently, SBC Uganda Ltd employs a total of 664 people at the airport construction site. Out of these, the company explains that 147 people hail from Hoima district alone. Currently, most of the work at airport construction site includes clearing the bushes for the runways, operating construction machines such as excavators, drivers and other casual jobs among others. He says the company is committed to ensure that at least 30 percent of its work force are local people. Stanislaus Birungi, the Human Resource Manager, SBC-Uganda Limited explains that they are currently on earth works whereby the jobs are fixed, adding that most of those who come seeking for jobs do not qualify. He denies claims that the local people have been locked out of jobs. “How many wheel loader operators do we have? How many people have heavy trucks driving permits?. Most people do not have required skills and experience. We need few mechanics and builders at the moment,” he added. Mr. Ali Tinkamanyire, the sub-county Chairman of Buseruka attributes the local anguish to high expectations people have in the oil and gas sector. “Not everyone will be employed in the oil and gas sector,” he said. He appealed to central government to ensure that local people are trained and skilled to be able to participate in the sector. Recently, in a new twist and out of anger, the local people ambushed the company vans transporting SBC workers and pelted them with stones.Allan Julius Hakiza, police spokesperson for oil rich Albertine region says police intervened and started escorting the vans to the construction site. “We realized that escorting the vans was not a sustainable option, we conducted community policing meetings in those villages, where we explained to the local people to be patient or look for other options of benefiting from the sector. Not everybody is going to be employed in the oil and gas sector,” Hakiza said. The locals say, most of the workers at the airport construction site hail from Kayunga district where SBC Uganda has been constructing a road. “SBC has come with their people from Kayunga. This is unacceptable,” Muhumuza says angrily. Edward Ssekika Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org

  • Buliisa leaders want audience with President Museveni over oil impacts

     

    Ngwedo sub-county leaders voting on a compensation process for their properties during oil developments

    Buliisa district leaders resolved to seek audience with President Museveni to share their concerns regarding the oil and gas development impacts in their midst.

    They also want to lay strategies of reaping more benefits from the ongoing oil and gas developments.

    During a district dialogue engagement held on 20th February 2018 at the district headquarters, the leaders said they have a wide range of concerns over the oil industry which they want to discuss with the head of state.

    This followed sharing of numerous issues generated through a series of dialogues undertaken in the sub-counties and town council of Buliisa from throughout the month

    The district dialogue was thus a next step engagement that was supported by ActionAid Uganda and organized by Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO) and Lake Albert Children, Women Advocacy Development Organization (LACWADO) in partnership with Bunyoro Albertine Petroleum Network on Environmental Conservation (BAPENECO) and the civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas issues (CSCO). The issues shared generated a lot of debate and some recommendations.

    Challenges Faced in Buliisa

    There are many unresolved problems that were raised by local communities. For example, the Buliisa Sub-county Chairperson, Lt. (Rtd) Kubalirwa Nkuba said many residents have filed cases against oil companies operating in the district but the cases take long to be resolved thereby creating uncertainties.

    “This breeds anger and anxiety in the population, he said. Oil cases should be expeditiously handled by a special tribunal or court, he recommended.

    Mr. Julius Manyireki, a District Councilor representing people with disabilities said since oil was discovered in the district, several meetings have been held between locals and oil companies but despite this, issues raised remain persistent.

    The leaders unanimously agreed that matters affecting residents need to be brought to the attention of the President and seek his intervention sooner than later before conflicts on the ground get worse.

    The leaders decried the increasing cases of land grabbing, difficulty by locals to secure jobs and contracts in oil companies as well as irregularities in the process of compensating people whose land and properties are affected by oil and gas infrastructural projects.

    “We need a comprehensive skilling programme supported by Government and oil companies because our people need skills to join the oil industry,” said Isaac Nkuba, the Chairperson of Buliisa District NGO Forum.

    He shared that there is limited involvement and participation of local communities in decision making on matters regarding people’s livelihoods in relation to petroleum developments.

    He emphasized that, “the people are being left behind only to face impacts like poor compensation, lack of information, and threat to livelihood options among others”.

    He argued that many people feel alienated and this can easily result in confusion and conflicts thereby creating friction between the people and the oil developments.

    Regarding capacity building of local youth, he proposed the need for a deliberate Government programme of equipping existing schools in the district with equipment and science teachers who deserve a hard to stay allowance in order to motivate them to work comfortably in the district.

    Women’s Concerns

    Ms. Magdalena Namutebi, the Biiso Sub-county Councilor proposed a gender sensitive approach in handling oil matters.

    “The women have been sidelined. We need affirmative action,” she said. She called for an increased number of scholarships in oil courses to be awarded to girls and women to get entrepreneurship skills to enable them compete in oil businesses.

    Jane Akugizibwe concurred with Namutebi about the skilling approach.

    “Let us lobby oil companies and Government to set up a vocational training institute for women.Oil companies should also provide loans to women at low interest rates because many women are failing to pay back loans in commercial banks that have high interest rates,” Akugizibwe emphasised.

    Oil infrastructure

    The district will host one of the two oil Central Processing facilities (CPF) and infield pipelines that will evacuate crude oil from various oil fields located in the park and within the communities into the CPF. The feeder pipeline will also move from Buliisa district to Kabaale Parish in Hoima district where Government plans to set up a holding terminal for crude oil and an oil refinery among other infrastructure. Crude oil for export will be fed into an East African crude oil export pipeline which was launched in November, 2017 by President Museveni of Uganda and his Tanzanian counterpart President John Pombe Magufuli.

    Demands

    The Buliisa District Chairperson, Hon. Agaba Simon Kinene said leaders and project affected persons need Government support to visit oil producing countries for learning and sharing experiences. “We should position ourselves to tap the dollars that will accrue from the oil and gas production” he said.

    This can only happen if we get more exposed to how oil and gas undertakings operate and how local communities can be strategically linked to the same to enable them gain better benefits, he added.

    He asked oil companies and NGOs to regularly hold engagements with various stakeholders in the district for information sharing as well as creation of platforms for discussing issues openly thereby enabling consensus building.

    He pointed out that Buliisa district is highly impoverished despite being the host of huge oil resources. He thus requested that livelihood improvement programmes in the district need to be enhanced in order to improve the welfare of people affected by oil developments. This, according to him, will be very helpful in addressing many challenges that the people are facing and will enable management of their expectations overall.

    The District Chairman greatly appreciated the support by ActionAid for the dialogues that were organized from the Lower Local governments and linked the discussions with the Higher Local Government (district level).

    “I thank ActionAid for partnering with Government in a positive way”, said the Buliisa Resident District Commissioner  Mr. Peter Bisoborwa.

    He pointed out that there are many escalating land conflicts in the district and urged the people to revive their traditional justice system of resolving conflicts amicably instead of always rushing to court where challenges of case backlog and adjournments affect expeditious access to justice.

    While commenting on the proposal by leaders to meet the President, he advised that the District Council should sit with Members of parliament who hail from the district and make a joint write up which he will forward to the President’s office for further action.

    “Give me your resolution with reasons why you need to meet His Excellency and I will forward it” he said.

    He encouraged all participants to remain vigilant and play their part in ensuring that the oil and gas project is protected. He also pointed out that the government is committed to ensuring peaceful resolution of issues and that it is important for the people to maintain the peace in order for development to happen in Buliisa.

    Oil in Uganda correspondent, Bunyoro and Didas Muhumuza

    OilinUganda@actionaid.org

  • Buliisa residents demand affirmative action on land and property ownership

    Residents of the oil-rich Buliisa district have petitioned Government to implement for them an affirmative action programme intended to protect their land rights.

    During the different dialogues organized across seven sub-counties and one town council, with support from ActionAid Uganda, residents and their leaders decried the increased insecurity over land ownership ever since commercial oil reserves were discovered in the district.

    “Many speculators claiming customary land have come to Buliisa district ever since oil was discovered, we need Government protection over our own land” Mr Blasio Mugasa, a former Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom deputy Prime Minister told the meeting at Buliisa town Council.

    The Oil Central Processing Unit above (Courtesy photo)

    Majority of Buliisa communities have held land communally since time immemorial. However, the oil discovery in the rural district has attracted wealthy individuals who are processing communal land titles into private freehold titles.

    Oil infrastructure

    The district will host one of the two oil Central Processing facilities (CPF) and infield pipelines that will evacuate crude oil from various oil fields located in the park and within the communities into the CPF. The feeder pipeline will also move from Buliisa district to Kabaale Parish in Hoima district where Government plans to set up a holding terminal for crude oil and an oil refinery among other infrastructure. Crude oil for export will be fed into an East African crude oil export pipeline which was launched in November, 2017 by President Museveni of Uganda and his Tanzanian counterpart President John Pombe Magufuli.

     Land Rights

    Mr Moses Tumusiime, one of the project affected persons in Kasenyi village, Ngwedo sub-county (Buliisa district) the proposed site for the CPF said residents in the area are concerned that even before receiving compensation for their land and other properties, machines conducting studies for the CPF are already working on people’s lands.

    “Government should not disrespect our right to own property simply because it wants to achieve its oil projects”, Tumusiime said.

    “Whereas government can acquire our land for projects in public interest, we are entitled to prior, adequate and timely compensation as enshrined in the constitution. If oil companies do not respect our rights, we shall seek legal redress” said Gilbert Tibasiima the district youth councilor

    Sophia Kabonesa, a resident of Buliisa sub-county believes that oil companies should always negotiate for prices of land with respective land owners so that land for oil projects is acquired on willing buyer, willing seller basis.

    Government intervention

    An inter-ministerial team led by the lands Minister, Ms Betty Amongi visited Buliisa district in January this year and disclosed that compensation for an acre of land in Kasinyi village will be 3.5 million. In May last year, Government had announced a compensation rate of 2.1 million shillings per acre. The residents in Buliisa rejected the proposed price which they described as inadequate. They demanded 21 million shillings per acre, then.

    During dialogue engagements, residents in Buliisa asked for differing prices of land but majority preferred an acre of land to be acquired for between 10 to 60 million.

    The Buliisa District Community Development Officer, Mr. Bernard Barugahara said compensation rates for crops for the 2017/2018 financial year have already been communicated by the Chief Administrative officer (CAO) to the locals.

    He said disclosure for entitlements of project affected persons in Kasenyi village had commenced but there are several individuals and families that are already in conflict over land ownership and boundaries in the area.

    The dialogue process

    The Buliisa RDC Peter Bisoborwa closing the district dialogue(Photo by Buliisa correspondent)

    Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO) and Lake Albert Children, Women Advocacy Development Organisation (LACWADO) in partnership with Bunyoro Albertine Petroleum Network on Environmental Conservation (BAPENECO) and the civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas issues (CSCO), conducted community dialogues in Buliisa district on the policy and practice aspects in the oil and gas sector, under the support of ActionAid Uganda.

    The dialogues focused on the implications of the planned commercial oil production developments on people’s land and property ownership among other aspects. The engagements were conducted in sub-counties of Kigwera, Ngwedo, Buliisa, Butiaba, Biiso, Kihungya and Buliisa town council. The dialogues kicked off on 5th and ended on 12th February 2018.

    The engagements culminated into district level dialogue where key issues and recommendations generated from the lower local government level were shared with the various stakeholders at the district level for consideration and further escalation.

    The participants in the dialogues included subcounty Chairpersons, Sub-county Chiefs, Sub-county Councilors, L.C 1 Chairpersons, Religious Leaders, Members of the Area land committees, Members of the sub-county courts, representatives of Project affected persons, members of the civil society, elders, women, youth, people with disabilities (PWDs),  Local government technocrats, political leaders and security officers among others.

    The main objective of the dialogues was to discuss on the impacts induced by the oil and gas developments in Buliisa districts in the runner up to the development and production phases.

    ActionAid Uganda’s Extractives Governance Coordinator, Mr Didas Muhumuza said the engagements were meant to create a platform for all stakeholders to discuss issues pertaining to the oil and gas developments’ induced impacts that relate to land acquisition, resettlement and social sustainability aspects.

    “We are happy that stakeholders shared ideas on how best to engage and cause positive policy and practice changes so that local communities can have their problems addressed in good time” he said.

     

    The outcomes of the sub-county dialogue meetings will be used for advocacy and further engagement with decision makers at district and national level so that the concerns raised are duly addressed.

     

    Unanimous resolutions

    The residents unanimously asked Government to implement for them an action plan of registering their land and safeguarding their rights in the wake of oil and gas developments. They further asked Government and oil firms to disclose to them the land acquisition process, the road map of oil developments, the Resettlement Action Plans, social and environmental impact studies’ reports among other useful aspects. They asked for special dialogue engagements for the youth, women and people with disabilities at parish and sub-county levels to enable them access information about land acquisitions and petroleum developments. Residents demanded that the engagement processes should always be timely and continuous so that they get to know issues in good time. They applauded the dialogues for having enabled them to get to know issues they should have known much earlier but no one did prepare them in good time for the challenges ahead. The residents also asked ActionAid to train them in advocacy skills in the extractives sector and support them in the formation of an elder’s forum that will advise their leaders on handling conflicts and engagements in the oil sector. They further suggested that government does not acquire their land permanently but rather gets leases so that land owners can have an opportunity of reclaiming the land after oil is exhausted.                                                                                                                                                Oil in Uganda correspondent, Buliisa                                                                                                                   Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org

  • Uganda works to phase out mercury usage

    The maiden Conference of Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury took place in Geneva on September 24-29. The Convention is an international legal instrument or Treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The Convention currently has been signed by 128 countries and ratified by 83 so far.

    The Minamata Convention requires the phase out of many products containing mercury, implements restrictions on trade and supply of mercury and establishes a framework to reduce or eliminate emissions and releases of mercury from industrial processes and mining.

    Mercury is widely used by artisanal and small scale gold miners, Uganda inclusive. According to the UN, the practice of mercury amalgamation in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is of particular concern due to the “decentralised distribution of elemental mercury utilized and its widespread handling, thermal conversion and disposal within social settings such as shops, villages, and food production areas.”

    The sad bit in Uganda is that because of the state of ASGM, unregulated and illegal, miners have no idea of the dangers of mercury. At high levels, mercury can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. According to studies, high levels of methyl mercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system, making the child less able to think and learn and potentially reducing their IQ.

    During a working visit in Namayingo a miner brazenly said he had handled mercury for over ten years but “nothing was wrong with him and he had never developed any problems.”

    Asked how they accessed mercury, a miner in Nsango B village, Budde Sub County in Bugiri district once told a team from Oil in Uganda that they ‘had suppliers’ but was not willing to elucidate. Mercury however is largely smuggled from Tanzania and easily accessible by the miners at just between Sh800 and Sh1000 a gram meaning it is easily accessible.

    Government intervention

    Mr Erienyu Johnson, the Busia District natural resources officer, displaying a bottle of dirty brown-coloured water, noted how he had fetched a sample from R. Okame in Busitema where miners used mercy nearby. He said locals had complained that the water had been contaminated by the miners.

    He said a nongovernmental organisation, Environmental Women in Action for Development (EWAD), ventured into the district to ‘build artisanal miners’ capacity and promote safe mining without using mercury..

    Mr Erienyu said though the district leadership is in the process of working out something to manage the use of mercury by artisanal gold miners there are currently no measures in place.

    “We currently have a draft ordinance that is to be presented at the next council seating,” he told Oil in Uganda.

    National Task Force

    At the national level, Uganda, through National Environmental Management Authority, has a task force – Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICHEM) – which is the national focal point for the management of use of mercury.

    Mr Paul Twebaze, an environmentalist working with Pro-Biodiversity Conservation Uganda (PROBICOU), says the civil society organisation is the national focal point NGO for SAICHEM in Uganda.

    Twebaze says PROBICOU is also a member of the National Steering Committee of the Stockholm Convention against Persistent Organic Pollutants (global treaty ratified by the international community lead by UNEP – calls for the elimination and/or phasing out of 12 POPs) in Uganda, activities all coordinated by NEMA.

    “We have been a lead NGO doing work on mercury and of course working towards ratification of the Minamata Convention working with the Government of Uganda to speed up the processes of the ratification of the Minamata Convention.

    “We got involved in the negotiation processes and are currently working with government on enabling activities,” Twebaze says.

    “We are working with the health sector to discourage the use of dental amalgam which contains mercury. Additionally we are also trying to promote the use of mercury-free electronic appliances,” Twebaze says of their manadate.

    He says they are also working with all stakeholders in the mining industry to minimize and eventually phase out the use of mercury especially by the artisanal and small scale miners.

    Paul says Uganda is being supported by the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention to speed up the process of ratification.

    “After Uganda has fully understood and appreciated the situation I am confident it will ratify the Convention,” he says.

  • Rwamutonga families to be re-evicted; Masindi court has ordered

    Rwamutonga displaced residents shortly after the return to their homes on the land from which they had been evicted in 2014. Photo by Francis Mugerwa.

    Hoima

    Masindi High Court has cleared another eviction for families in Rwamutonga village, Hoima district, where a US firm wanted to set up an oil waste treatment plant.

    An order dated April 4th 2017 signed by the assistant registrar Acio Julia cleared Ochika Julius, a court bailiff, to give vacant possession of the land to Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah and to demolish any illegal structures on the land.

    The land is on certificate titles under VRF 10521, Folio 6, Block 44 measuring 103.553 hectares located at Rwamutonga village, Katanga parish, Bugambe sub-county in Buhaguzi County.

    “Whereas the above mentioned land is in possession of Abwoli Mukubwa Beatrice, Uromacan Martin, Ausenge Petero, Onita Quinto, Latim Alex, the applicants, their relatives, agents or servants was decreed to Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah,” the order reads in part.

    “You are hereby directed to put Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah in possession of the same and authorized to remove any property/persons bound by this decree that may refuse to vacate the same,” the order stated.

    The order, which was kept a secret from the families facing eviction, became known on April 20th when it was served to Hoima district security committee members.

    The order has sparked tension and fear among the families who were evicted from the same land on August 25th 2014.

    The families that lived in a makeshift camp near the land for about three years returned to the land in March this year (2017)after being permitted by Robert Bansigaraho who is in a land dispute with Joshua Tibagwa.

    IGP clears eviction

    In a letter dated April 19th, addressed to the Albertine regional police commander, the office of the Inspector General of Police cleared the eviction.

    “The purpose of this letter is for you to comply with the court order. If any person feels aggrieved by the court order, the remedy is to appeal or cause review of the matter at hand,” Nairuba Diana, an official in the Police’s Legal department wrote for the IGP.

    According to Nairuba, the applicants applied for a review of the court order which was clearly denied by the learned judge. The trial judge was Justice Simon Byabakama who has since been appointed Uganda’s Electoral Commission chairman.

    “A court order is a court order and cannot be replaced by an administrative decision, thus be advised to comply with the order as guided by the commandant land protection unit in the attached forwarding letter,” the letter referenced PLS 62/211/01/VOL 56 read.

    Mr Atich Nelson, LC111 Chairman Rwamutonga village talks to ActionAid’s Extractives Project Officer Flavia Nalubega during a visit to the displaced persons in Rwamutonga. Photo by Francis Mugerwa.

    Prime Minister had blocked eviction

    The Prime Minister’s office had previously blocked the eviction of the families. This was directed in a letter dated March 6th 2017 signed by the First Deputy Prime Minister Gen Moses Ali and addressed to the Albertine regional police commander Police:

    “Please ensure that no eviction takes place, with a view of enhancing peace and tranquility. By a copy of this letter, the minister of internal affairs is hereby informed and so is the Inspector General of Police (IGP),” stated Ali who is also a deputy leader of Government business in parliament.

    Gen Ali reminded police about the ruling at Masindi High Court in which Justice Simon Byabakama declared their eviction as wrongful on October 22nd 2015.

    Judge petitioned to halt eviction

    The centre manager at Justice Centres Uganda, Mr. Tiyo Jonathan, wrote on April 21st 2017 to the Masindi resident judge asking him to exercise his supervisory powers and halt the execution of the eviction and investigate anomalies in the court process.

    He said the bailiff had been directed to put Tibagwa and Kusiima in possession of the land from where the families were wrongfully evicted.

    He stated that the lawyers are preparing to file an application for a judicial review to quash the warrant and prohibit the intended execution so as not to cause injustice and inconvenience to the families.

    Much as the eviction has not yet taken place, it can be executed anytime from now. The eviction order will expire on May 4th 2017.

    Rwamutonga displaced residents shortly after the return to their homes on the land from which they had been displaced in 2014. Photo by Francis Mugerwa

    Background

    Robert Bansigaraho who in 2014 entered into a consent judgment and surrendered his title covering 103 hectares to Tibagwa has since withdrawn from the deal and allied with the families.

    He argues that the families have suffered enough as a result of displacement which prompted him to allow them back on the land.

    Mr. Tibagwa sued Mr. Bansigaraho accusing him of grabbing his land. However in a turn of events, Mr. Bansigaraho entered into a consent judgment with Mr. Tibagwa in September 2013 in which Bansigaraho surrendered a title covering 103 hectares to Mr. Tibagwa.

    Mr. Bansigaraho, however, says he regained his land after Mr. Tibagwa failing to give him an alternative 350-acre piece of land, compensating squatters and fully compensating him.

    Mr. Tibagwa insists that Mr. Bansigaraho surrendered to him his title and signed the title transfer forms.

    Mr. Tibagwa consequently applied to court for an eviction order to evict Mr. Bansigaraho and occupants of the land which he obtained in July 2014. The over 250 families were then evicted in august 2014. The eviction was later declared unlawful and should not have happened in the first place, Masindi High Court ruled.

    By Oil in Uganda Correspondent, Hoima

    Oil.uganda@actionaid.org