The people affected by the oil refinery who opted for resettlement have refused to move to the resettlement village set up by government in Kyakaboga, Bugambe sub-county, Hoima district.
They want government to fulfill the promises made to them in the resettlement plan before they agree to resettlement. Last week, officials from the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development communicated to the affected persons about the planned relocation.
This comes after government failed to honour its December 2016 promise of making the houses available as a Christmas package. In 2012, 7,118 people were affected by government’s acquisition of 29.34 square kilometres of land for the construction of Uganda’s first oil refinery, which will process crude oil from the Albertine region.
At least 93 people opted for resettlement, and of these, 46 were to receive housing while 47 would get land as compensation. The refinery-affected persons say that government promised to put in place all the facilities that were needed for resettlement.
These include land titles, an access road to the resettlement village and another road from the resettlement village to the cultivation land. The people also want a health facility, a water and livelihood restoration program, which will help them settle in.
This also includes food, which government promised to give them for six months. The people want government to inform them in due time before they are resettled to enable them to harvest their food which they planted in the acquired land where they are currently living.
They also want special arrangements to be moved to the new resettlement village, and not rely on themselves for transportation as this would be costly. Those who will not receive houses want government to establish an alternative where they will resettle as they construct their houses on the land government allocated to them.
Francis Elongat, the lands officer in the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, said the refinery-affected people should move as government works to put these facilities in place.
However, the people believe if they move before their requests are met as promised in the resettlement plan, government will not put these facilities in place. Until these requirements are met, the persons say they will not move.
“They have been telling us that they will work on all these things. We presented our issues to the minister of Energy and Mineral Development, the speaker of parliament, Uganda Human Rights Commission, the MPs of Bunyoro region and petitioned the president to intervene in the process of compensation of the affected people. But nothing has been done because now they are telling us to move before they complete.
“Construction is not finished as some facilities are not on site, while other people are still in court. So, we will not move when government is still negotiating because we believe our issues will not be solved,” Richard Orebi, one of the refinery-affected persons, said.
They say that with the selection of a new contractor to build the refinery and groundbreaking of the pipeline construction, government should consider the concerns of the people and resettle them properly. Experts believe the manner in which government manages this process will affect the next acquisition of land for the crude oil pipeline.
“If government refuses to listen to our concerns, then they are making us suffer because it is not about what government wants but what we landowners want. This will show that oil is for a few people, and not all Ugandans. Our land has been taken for the refinery. So, we should be resettled. If everything fails, we will follow the law and go to court to ensure our rights are realised,” Orebi said.
The writer is a communication officer at Global Rights Alert.