Tuesday May 6 2014

Oil refinery: Compensate citizens first

By Doris Atwijukire

Uganda is in advanced stage of building an oil refinery to exploit more than 3.5 billion barrels of oil reserves located in the Albertine Graben.

In 2012, the government contracted a local company called Strategic Friends International, which completed a Resettlement Action Plan report in October 2012, providing information regarding the social, economic, and environmental aspects of the planed refinery.

This report was a follow-up on a feasibility study that was conducted in 2010 by the Foster Whiller company on behalf of the government. The study recommended a refinery as the best development option to exploit Uganda’s oil. Unfortunately, the planned developments, to some extent, have not met the affected people’s needs.

The Resettlement Action Plan report recognises the need to respect the rights of the affected people, including the right to own property and or prompt and adequate compensation in cases of deprivation under Article 26 of Uganda’s Constitution. However, some of the affected people are being evicted without compensation.

During a recent visit to the affected communities by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance, we found out that a resident – Ms Jackline Ngamita of Nyahira village – had been issued with an eviction notice by Strategic Friends International on behalf of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, requiring her to vacate within three months commencing March 10.

Ngamita signed for compensation for the property but not for her land. She is one of the people who asked for relocation but for two years, government has delayed to relocate them and she is being asked to vacate by June 10!

There are other cases where people have been issued eviction letters after being paid part of their compensation and there is no clear information on when and where they will receive the remaining installment.

If the government deprives citizens of their right to property for, say, economic purposes, it is only fair – and indeed as required by law – that the affected people must be given prompt, fair and adequate compensation before acquisition of such property by government.

Failure to respect the rights of some of the affected people in the refinery area is a constitutional violation.
We, therefore, ask for the protection of the property owners in the refinery affected area until one is fully compensated.