Delayed compensation and relocation continue to worry refinery affected persons in Buseruka Sub County, Hoima district.
Government earmarked a 29-square kilometre piece of land in Kabaale parish to host the oil refinery which will process Uganda’s crude oil into finished petroleum products. This has seen 7,118 residents facing displacement from their ancestral land to pave way for the project.
In December last year a resettlement and compensation drive started. Some of the affected people have been compensated and have vacated the area, while others remain behind awaiting their turn.
As the already compensated group gets used to their new places of residence, those who remain behind are in misery. These residents complain of isolation in an area that has now overgrown into a bush, lack of food, as they can’t grow cassava and other perennial crops and lack of access to social services because access roads and pathways have died out.
They also complain of wild animals like baboons and warthogs which destroy the little crop gardens they have and also scare away their children from going to school.
Silivano Owucha, the Kabakete 2 village vice chairperson, is among those that opted for compensation, but is yet to receive the money. A husband to three wives and a father of 19 says the land he had booked for relocation has now been sold off because of delayed compensation.
In addition to living in isolation after all his neighbors left, Owucha says he has issues with feeding his large family since he no longer grows cassava which is a staple food in the area.
Jane Rose Biwaga, a 35 year old resident of Nyahaira village opted for relocation for fear that she could misuse compensation money. A single mother of three, Biwaga now regrets why she did not go for compensation. She says she is still uncertain of when and where she will be relocated, even as she remains isolated in the bushy area.
For 19-year-old Moses Omirambe, delayed compensation has cost him his education. Omirambe sat for Senior Four last year, but has been unable to continue with his education because of lack of money. He says his father used to raise school fees through selling cassava, which he does not grow now because government barred them from anymore perennial cultivation.
The locals’ complaints come just two weeks after Civil Society actors and local leaders raised the same issue. Winnie Ngabirwe, the coordinator Publish What You Pay Uganda Chapter, described the delayed compensation as unconstitutional and a violation of the affected people’s rights.
In a telephone interview, Bashir Hangi, the communication officer Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD) in charge refinery maintains there is no delay in the refinery compensation and resettlement exercise. Hangi says like any other government program, the exercise followed the laid down procedures like procurement process.