The recent evictions, with associated destruction of property in oil-rich regions such as the Albertine, should not go unquestioned. A few weeks ago, a whole village of more than 500 residents was evicted in Hoima and Buliisa.
This raises questions as to whether the companies and individuals carrying out these evictions have done environmental, social and cultural impact assessments to determine the consequences to human populations. For instance, how will it likely alter the people’s way of life?
Under the concept of self-determination, indigenous peoples have to exercise their traditional way of life, to have the right to achieve sustainable development via indigenous practices, to participate in the benefits derived by the utilisation of resources located on their land.
The International Bill of Human Rights categorically states that while the right to property is an internationally accepted human right, with regard to indigenous people, their collective interest and relationship with the concerned land is recognised, and thus their integrity with the total environment of the areas which the people concerned occupy or otherwise use shall be respected and maintained.
That is why assessments should be carried out before developments are commenced. The need for these assessments is paramount.
Developments carried out while the indigenous people are left to suffer are dangerous to the nation in the long run. Ultimately, these evictions may pose a problem for developments carried out in the areas.
Uganda can learn many lessons from different countries where similar evictions were carried out. Currently, those countries are suffering the aftermaths of the irrational miscalculations that were conducted during various stages of development.
In such countries, governments often used ‘national interest’, putting the general aim of economic development ahead of the specific interest of indigenous people. These same people who were evicted without compensation are haunting their governments like past horrible dreams.
Therefore, the rights of people to participate in, and be consulted with regard to decisions taken which affect their lands, helps create sustainable developments likely to benefit everyone.