Statement on the Violation of the Rights of People Affected by Uganda’s Refinery Development

Communiqué Issued at the end of a Dialogue on the Rights of the Proposed Oil Refinery Affected Communities held in Buseruka-Hoima on the 17th day of July, 2013

Preamble

The Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) in partnership with Oil watch Network Uganda and Publish What You Pay Bunyoro Chapter organized a half day Dialogue on the rights and the future of the 7,000 people affected by the proposed oil refinery in the 13 villages of Kabaale parish, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima district.  The dialogue was held on 17th July 2013 and brought together 25 participants comprising of representatives from all the 13 affected villages of Kabaale. Other participants came from the districts of Kibaale, Buliisa, Masindi and Kiryandongo.

During the dialogue, Micheal Businge, the Coordinator of AFIEGO in Bunyoro delivered a key presentation on the ‘state of human rights respect and the future of the 13 villages of Kabaale amidst the development of an oil refinery’. The dialogue was aimed at updating the participants on the progress of different initiatives being taken to protect the rights of the refinery affected people vis a vis the implementation of the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP). The dialogue also had the objective of creating needed synergy for, evaluating and interrogating the level of transparency in the workings of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) and the Strategic Friends International (SFI) regarding the RAP. The meeting discussed a number of issues to strengthen the resilience and readiness of the affected refinery communities and the surrounding villages for greater transparency and mutual benefits in Uganda’s oil development processes as discussed below:

Discussion

  • Failure to put regulations for assessment and payment of compensation in place: with sadness, the members noted that for the last 20 years, the minister for Lands has failed to make regulations for the assessment and payment of compensation as required by section 20 of the Compulsory Land Acquisition Act. This has left the affected people at the discretion of districts that are required to compile rates and the chief government valuer who endorses all payments. As a result, it remains difficult to for one to challenge the rates in cases of disagreement.
  • Conflict of interest and bias: the participants noted that it is wrong for the MEMD to allow the Strategic Friends International (SFI)Companyto conduct the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) and the same company to implement the plan through the on-going compensation disclosures. This is irregular and falls below the required transparency necessary to guarantee respect for the rights and the future livelihoods of the affected local communities. The participants further observed that for the last two years, the MEMD and SFI have failed to make public the findings of the RAP. Even parliament and especially the MPs representing the affected communities have no access to the report. Surely, this is like a case where an investor conducts an EIA and goes ahead to manage and supervise its implementation. How do you avoid bias and conflict in such a case?

 

  • Secrecy around contracts between the MEMD AND SFI: members further discussed the secrecy around the contractual relationship between the MEMD and SFI. Currently, there is no evidence that the services of SFI are procured through competitive processes and there is no guarantee that Ugandans are getting value for money.

 

  • Lack of competency on the part of SFI: the participants observed that while the SFI has been doingseveral trainings and research studies with a number of local districts and health centers across Uganda, there is no evidence to indicate any competence to deal with a project such as the proposed oil refinery in Kabaale that is scheduled to displace over 7,000 people. Already, the SFI and the MEMD have for two years failed to make public the RAP report, respect the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (PFIC) principle. They have also failed to advise Hoima district to put in place the 2013 compensation rates and are happily using an un-approved rates of 2011/2012. Further, theyhave failed to advise government to put in place predictable grievancehandling mechanisms that are accessible and affordable by the communities to get justice and avoid the possibility of people opting to take the law into their hands in future. The government should know that the proposed refinery is the biggest project in the country’s history and as such, it requires careful and competent companies to deal with the resettlement of such communities in a manner to avoid possible extinction of whole communities and future conflicts between investors and communities like those happening in countries such as Nigeria and others that opted for quick fix.

 

  • Violation of access rights: Further, the members were concerned about the lack of respect for the right to information, public participation and access to justice necessary to guarantee common benefits. The Hoima district for instance has ignored the need to involve the people in setting up and making decisions on compensation rates as required under the Land Act. The affected communities are being indirectly coerced to sign compensation forms without being given time to study them and make a decision whether or not to sign.

 

 

  • Petitions to parliament ignored:Further, the members noted that in May 2013, a delegation of 36 people representing all the 13 affected villages in Hoima and others from Buliisa petitioned the parliament of Uganda, the minister for Energy, minister for Lands, minister for Bunyoro Affairs and the Hoima district Council calling upon the government to address the injustice and violation of their rights in the RAP process by MEMD and SFI. However, all the above petitions have been ignored and the violation of communities’ rights has continued to increase.

 

  • Local content: the members were happy to recognize that SFI is headed by two Ugandans; Mr. WambakaKosea and Ms. Namataka Sylvia which is a plus to Uganda’s efforts for local content. However, by commission or omission, these Ugandans that should have the heart to treat theirfellow Ugandans with dignity have opted to ignore even the minimum best practices such as the principle of Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as a principle established under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 (the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (1989). Why do you allow a company that has no respect for international best practices to conduct and implement the RAP even when there is evidence and complaints from the affected communities?There must something special between the company and MEMD. If this is what local means, then, there is a problem.

 

 

  • Violation for the Constitution: Under Article 26 of the Ugandan Constitution, a person is entitled to adequate and prompt compensation for loss of any property rights but the affected communities have been denied a right to negotiate their compensation or decide where to be resettled. At the moment, they are being told by SFI to sign documents for compensation which most of them don’t know how to read and understand. To make it worse, they are not told the specific dates when to expect their payments to enable them properly plan for their future.As a result, the communities a full of speculation and anxiety.

 

  • No information regarding the resettlement: Further, while the SFI is busy telling the affected people to sign for compensation in monetary terms, there is no information for those who want to be resettled by the government in places of their choice. As a result, even those people who wanted resettlement as opposed to money compensation are being indirectly forced to sign for money as they see no hope for the resettlement. It is a situation of take it or leave it. And the poor have no security to persevere and insist in defense of their Constitutions rights.
  • Lack of Grievance mechanism: members discussed the failure by the ministry of energy to create local community mechanisms for handling people’s grievances. They observed that the local authorities right from LC1 to LC3 that would have helped the communities were all co-opted by SFI through the so-called RAP committees and are now being used to intimidate as they implement the RAP. In absence of LCs, people have nowhere to run to as the traditional courts remain out of their reach due to poverty.

 

  • Absence of 2013 compensation rates:in addition to lack of regulations, Hoima district currently does not have updated rates of 2013. The only approved rates are those of 2011 while those of 2012 are still pending. Unfortunately, without shame, the MEMD and SFI are using the rates of 2012 which if irregular. This should stop.

 

  • Lack of public consultations on compiling rates: the Land Act requires districts to consult the public while compiling compensation rates. However, there is no scintilla of evidence of public consultations by the Hoima district regarding both outdated rates of 2011 and 2012. Remember, the reason why the districts were given the mandate to determine the rates of crops and non-permanent buildings in their areas of jurisdiction were based on the assumption that they would consult their respective communities.

 

  • Poor valuation of fruit trees such as mangoes: the members appreciated that UGX 80,000/ as a value of a mature mango tree under the 2012 rates is too small and it does not take into account the fact that a mongo tree can produce mangoes worth over 100,000/ in a season and the affected person will take over 6 years without any harvest waiting for a new tree to grow. So, the value of such a mango tree should be at leastUGX600,000/ to cater for the years of deprivation and waiting for a new harvest.

 

  • Lack of public awareness and education: The members also recognized the lack of public awareness and education oncompensation rightswhich has resulted in high anxiety and suspicion among people especially in the households that lack capacity to read and right.

 

  • Lack of Collaboration between the MEMD and CSOs: the members discussed the lack or weakness in the collaboration between the government and CSOs in the RAP exercise. Instead, mistrust and suspicion has continued to build. This is undermining the opportunity to build synergy for massive community empowerment on rights and national development. As a result, most of the active NGOs and other groups working with the local communities that would have filled the gaps existing in the RAP are being threatened and scared away by some selfish authorities.

Recommendations

1.      Parliament should investigate the dealings between the MEMD and SFI and how there are handling the RAP. The investigations should look at the contractual process, the competence of SFI in handling the RAP and the possible conflict of interest on the part of MEMD in the affairs of SFI.

2.      Parliament should use her oversight powers to compel the minister of lands, housing and urban development turgently put in place regulations for the assessment and payment of compensation to create consistence and certainty in all compensation processes  that have for years affected our investors by delaying projects through endless compensation disputes.

3.      It should be made mandatory for all districts to update and approve their compensation rates by end of March of every year to promote harmony between investors and affected communities.

4.      Regarding crops, compensation rates should take into account the actual production of fruit trees and the number of years a new tree takes to mature.

5.      The RAP report should urgently be made public to enable the communities and the general public access accurate and timely information to guide their participation and planning.

6.      Establish grievance handling community committees comprised of representatives of the affected communities, CBOs, NGOs, religious leaders and local authorities to offer affordable justice to the poor and vulnerable affected communities who lack capacity to take their complaints to traditional courts. This will save the suffering communities from biased LC officials that have been co-opted by the MEMD and SFI through payment of non-official allowances.

7.      Before implementing the RAP, government should conduct public awareness campaigns to prepare the affected communities both physically and mentally to avoid increasing cases of family conflicts and frustration that has already resulted into many community members resorting to endless alcohol drinking, abandonment of agriculture to wait for the compensation and many other social challenges.

8.      Stop forcing people to sign for compensation based on outdated and or an un-approved compensation rates. Only approved 2013 compensation rates should be used in 2013.

9.      The affected people should be educated on the benefits of both compensation in monetary terms and resettlement where they identify government buys such land for them to maintain the social fabric and cohesion necessary for the survival of Uganda’s rural communities.   This education will help family heads to make informed choices for the good of their households and community development.

10.  The right to adequate and prompt compensation under Article 26 of the Constitution should be respected and implemented to avoid the current miserable compensation rates being given to the affected people and the many years they wait to get paid those small compensations.

The Participants thanked AFIEGO for coordinating the dialogue.

Signed

1.      Dickens Kamugisha, Co-Chair, Oilwatch Network Uganda,

2.      BenonTusingwire-Deputy Chair PWYP-Uganda-Bunyoro Chapter

For more information: www.afiego.org