Court rules against families over oil project

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is a 1,443km pipeline that once completed will run through 10 districts in Uganda, stretching from Hoima in Uganda to the Indian Ocean at the Tanga Port, west of Tanzania. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • The court in Hoima, a town near the oilfields, ruled against the 42 households protesting against inadequate compensation.

A Ugandan court on Friday ruled against dozens of families claiming they were short-changed when compensated for land used to develop a major oil project, an activist and a plaintiff said.

The $10-billion project by French giant TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation to develop oilfields in Uganda has been hailed by President Museveni as an economic boon.

But it has been fiercely contested by rights activists and environmental groups.

It is facing legal action in France, while the European Parliament has raised concerns over the alleged wrongful imprisonment of environmental activists and eviction of people from their land without adequate compensation.

The court in Hoima, a town near the oilfields, ruled against the 42 households protesting against inadequate compensation, according to an activist from the Tasha Africa Research Institute, which supported the villagers' legal expenses.

"The ruling has been in favour of the ministry of energy and mineral development," Abdul Musinguzi told AFP.

"As per the ruling, no further compensation (is due to)... the project affected persons protesting low compensation."

The project involves drilling around 400 oil wells in Murchison Falls National Park, the largest protected area in Uganda, and shipping crude along a 1,445-kilometre (900-mile) pipeline to the Tanzanian port of Tanga.

TotalEnergies claims those displaced by the project have been fairly compensated and measures have been taken to protect the environment.

The government has vociferously defended the project, saying it will create many jobs.

One of the plaintiffs from the 42 households, Jealousy Mugisa Mulimba, described the ruling as "an ambush".

"We were given one day to prepare for the case after receiving the notice on December 4," he told AFP.

"These are mainly illiterate and poor people. Only about 12 made it to court today as they could not afford transport."

Rights campaigners including Human Rights Watch have urged a halt to the project, warning of dire consequences for the environment and local communities.

But Museveni, one of the world's longest-serving leaders, has vowed to proceed with the project.