August 5, 2013

Govt, CSOs Clash Over Oil Refinery Compesation

Government and civil society organisations are trading accusations over the construction of the oil refinery in Hoima district.

While members of the Civil Society accuse government of harassing them for their advocacy work among the communities affected by the proposed refinery, government insists the group is sabotaging the refinery project by mobilizing residents against it.

Last week, Benon Tusingwire, the executive Director Navigators of Development Association-NAVODA, one of the CSOs doing advocacy in the area, said he was summoned by the Ministry of Energy and some security officials in Hoima and questioned why he is sabotaging the refinery project.

An oil rig in western Uganda
An oil rig in western Uganda

Innocent Tumwebaze, the Vice chairperson Oil Refinery Affected Residents, a local pressure group in Kabaale parish, Hoima district, said the security personnel had also ordered him away from the disclosure centre in Bukona village. Tumwebaze says it all started when he urged residents not to accept low compensation rates and signing agreements before they are shown the rates, as was the case at the centre. On Monday last week, Tumwebaze appealed to members of the National Youth Council for intervention.

Members of the National Youth Council were in Hoima to discuss the oil and gas sector and available opportunities for the youth.

However, Hangi Bashir, the Oil Refinery Communications Officer, has rubbished as false claims the comments made by the CSO actors. Hangi instead accuses the two actors and their other group members of instigating the refinery-affected persons against the project by feeding them on negative information.

Early last month, Government and Consultants from Strategic Friends International embarked on an exercise to disclose compensation rates and total compensation for the over 7000 people in the 13 villages of Kabaale parish Buseruka Sub County in Hoima district, where the oil refinery is to be built. Disclosure is part of the implementation of the Refinery Resettlement Action Plan-RAP designed in May last year.

CSOs say the exercise is not transparent and the implementers are using outdated rates, a claim dismissed by Kosea Wambaka, the head of Strategic Friends International. Wambaka says the rates being used are the current ones of the financial year 2011/2012.Wambaka however, explains that the compensation rates vary depending on the location of the land and the developments on that particular land.

According to some of the rates, the compensation rates book being used by the consultants, an acre of young and poorly maintained banana plantation is valued at 200,000shillings. An acre of Robusta coffee is valued at two million shillings, while an acre of cassava is valued at 2.5 million shillings. Cassava is the staple crop in the refinery-affected area. At least each family has a garden of cassava.

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