Uganda oil refinery project under threat

Refinery 114 0ctober 2013, Kampala – The battle lines appear to have been drawn between the government on one hand and activists and locals over the compensation and resettlement of residents to be evicted to create space for oil refinery infrastructure in Hoima, western Uganda.

At the centre of the fight is how Shs74 billion the government put aside as compensation for those displaced is to be spent. Over 7,118 locals on 29 square Kmsare affected.

President Yoweri Museveni has for almost two years firmly insisted to oil companies that Uganda must get a refinery. The 60,000 barrels per day (bp/d) plant appeared to be on course when agreements were signed in April between the government, Tullow, CNOOC, and Total.

Shortly after that, on Oct.8, government announced it would release a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) to identify a Lead Investor/Operator for the development, implementation and operation of the oil refinery. The fight over compensation is putting the project in jeopardy.

Security operatives, intelligence officers and top government officials have been lined up in Kampala and Hoima to ensure nothing gets in the way of the refinery.

These, however, have to deal with an army of locals and activists demanding prompt, adequate, and fair compensation as required by the constitution.

Instead, The Independent has learnt, about 20% of the money has been allocated to consultants and their activities.

Only Shs 54 billion will go into compensation, while Shs 3.6 billion is for Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) activities, Shs 3.7 billion is fees for Strategic Friends International (SFI) which prepared the plan and Shs 8.9 billion is for contingency. This information is contained in the tightly kept RAP documents prepared by SFI on behalf the Energy Ministry.

There are complaints that although most of the land affected is communal, some powerful individuals have secretly acquired land titles and are using them as a basis for compensation. The locals say over 10 titles that have been issued although President Museveni put a ban on issuance of titles in the Bunyoro region.

In other cases the property of residents has been undervalued, while over 80% of claimants who are illiterate and poor are being harassed and forced by government officials to sign documents without sensitisation or understanding. Global Rights Alert, an NGO, has documented the grievances in a report titled Sleepless Nights.

– The Independent

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