24th March 2014
The Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission,
RE: REQUEST TO MEET YOU AND DISCUSS THE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE 2013 SPECIAL OIL REPORT ON EMERGING HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES (OIL IN UGANDA)
The above refers,
This is to kindly request you to give us an opportunity to meet you and discuss the findings and the recommendations of the 2013 Special Oil Report that was launched on the 20thMarch 2014 at the Grand Imperial Hotel‐Kampala. The main objective of this letter is to enable us meet you and discuss ways through AFIEGO can contribute to the implementation of the report recommendations for the benefit of the citizens and national development. We request to meet you on 16th April 2014 or any other date convenient for you. First, we take this opportunity to thank you for the great work the commission and its staff is doing for promoting respect for human rights in Uganda and for involving CSOs including AFIEGO in the process of compiling and launching the 2013 special oil report. As an organization, we appreciate and thank you for such a participatory approach, a key ingredient of any functioning democracy. In AFIEGO, you are assured of a committed partner willing to continue supporting the UHRC to fulfill her constitutional mandate. AFIEGO (Africa Institute for Energy Governance) is a Ugandan registered public policy research and advocacy NGO whose main objective is to promote good governance in the management and utilization of energy resources for the common good and national development. It was established in April 2005.
We strongly believe that the UHRC report is timely and if well implemented will significantly contribute in ensuring that Uganda's oil is used for the common good, human dignity and national development. While the content of the report is good, in the proposed meeting, we shall point out some of the gaps and propose how they can be addressed to improve future reports that your commission may wish to produce as the oil sector midstream and downstream activities increase. In summary, the following is a summary of issues which intend to discuss in the proposed meeting:
1. Compensation rates: On page 16, the report creates an impression that the Chief
Government Valuer (CGV) or the District Valuer (DV) has powers to change the rates of crops and buildings of non permanent nature. But if you consider sections 59 and 60 of
the Land Act on the functions and powers of the district land board respectively, the board is required to be independent and can only seek advice from district technocrats, including the district valuer but not the CGV.It should be noted that the failure by the District Land Boards (DLB) to appreciate their functions and powers against those of the CGV regarding compensation is one of the major factors that has continued to cause trouble in Uganda. We believe that the reason why the legislature opted to give all powers on determining rates of compensation for crops and buildings of non permanent nature to the DLBs was clear, the CGV who seats in Kampala cannot know the market prices in all parts of Uganda and the aggrieved affected persons, most of who are poor people cannot access his office easily. And the citizens especially the poor and rural based cannot enjoy their right to property provided for under Article 26 of the Constitution if the institutions are not doing their work well. So, for the UHRC to create an impression that the rates used were well determined by the DLB of Hoima without inquiring whether the process met the standards set under Article 26 of the Constitution and section 60 of the 1998 Land Act is unfair.
As AFIEGO, we are not happy to see that in all your recommendations, you are not advising the DLBs to do their work better by exercising all their powers and appreciating their functions and the scope of their work, and the CGV to desist from interfering with
the DLBs. From our investigations, the interference of the CGV in the work of DLBs is the
single biggest factor causing delays in compensation annual reviews across Uganda because every district has to wait for the decision of the CGV every year. While the approval may be okay in practice and for purposes of harmony across districts, it violates
the powers of DLBs as provided for under sections 60 and 59 of the Land Act 1998 as amended and its consequence of causing delays is a violation of Article 26 of the Constitution which provides for the payment of prompt, fair and adequate compensation prior to depriving a person his or her property. So, it would have been fair to advise the CGV to stop interfering in the work of the DLBs as a way of promoting prompt payment of compensation to affected Ugandans. Second, the land act requires each DLB to have a seal but during the compilation of the report, AFIEGO met and presented the 2010/2011 rates which had been used in 2012 for valuation of the affected people's property to UHRC team. Later, the payment of compensation started in late 2013 and continued in 2014 on the basis of 2010/2011 rates. How then could you conclude that the disputed rates were duly and legally determined by the Hoima DLB?. The rates used had no seal and were signed by the district valuer instead of the Board. Surely, how can people enjoy their rights if laws are not being followed by government institutions?
2. UHRC satisfied with the rates of UGX‐3.5M‐7M per acre and rates for crops: the report
on pages 15 and 16 states that the above rates were good and that you got information from the MEMD which indicated that the ministry was about to buy land for people who asked for relocation at a cheaper price. How can the commission make a conclusion based on speculation? We want to present to you evidence to show that the MEMD has up to now failed to secure land for the people who want relocation because they are being asked to pay UGX6.5m and above per acre. So, the report's conclusion that the rates are good based on the words of the MEMD who we have been complaining about to be mismanaging the refinery compensation process leaves a lot to be desired. It is like an accused or complainant being asked to be a judge in her own case. Yes, the majority affected people accepted and signed for compensation and many have since then received their compensation but that should not be taken as a sign that all those people signed voluntarily. Remember, the communities of Kabaale like many other rural areas in Uganda are poor people most of whom have no money to hire lawyers to go to court in case of disagreements. The nearest court is 40km away in Hoima town. So, in most villages, it is a take it or leave it affair. For instance, to date, the people who rejected the compensation rates that were given to them from above and later lodged complaints in June 2013 are yet to receive any feedback. Instead, they have been isolated and if we cannot urgently help them, they will sign, not because they agree but because they have lost hope for justice. At the end, they will console themselves that unfair and inadequate compensation is better than nothing. So, no one should be deceived that all those who signed are happy. Instead, it should be noted that the majority are forced by factors beyond their means to sign and transfer their property. Right now, the people who rejected the compensation have asked AFIEGO to help them go to court. And we have already served the Attorney General with a notice of intention to sue (see as attached). AFIEGO and other NGOs, who are helping the downtrodden to get justice, need the commission's support and protection. But when you conclude in your report that CSOs are acting unprofessionally, are not accountable and do not act in public interest without evidence, you make our operational environment even worse. In the meeting, we shall request for advice on how to proceed with the above court process and our protection as human rights defenders.
PEOPLE WHO ASKED FOR RELOCATION: the report recognizes that many children in the refinery area have stopped going to school because their parents are living a life of uncertainty. Despite this finding, the report does not recommend a timeline within which to resettle the people who asked for relocation to start a new life and ensure that their kids go back to school. The commission should have appreciated that it is in itself a violation of human right for one to be made to live a life of uncertainty on his/her own land for over 17 months. It is clear that the dropping of children out of school is just a symptom of a bigger problem. If you do more investigations, you will discover that the life of uncertainty in the Kabaale households has led to grave break down of many families in the area. Because of the CUTOFF DATE IN THE RAP, since June 2012, the people have continued to live in Kabaale affected villages as displaced persons and landless. That is a violation of their right to own and use their property freely. Again, the above people like the one who rejected compensation have asked AFIEGO to help them go to court. The case will be filed on 27thMarch but we still need your advice and any mediation is welcome.
PEOPLE WHO REJECTED THE COMPENSATION RATES WHICH THEY SAW AS INADEQUATE
WANT TO GO TO COURT FOR REDRESS: I am wondering why the report does not find it strange that over 86 people who rejected the compensation rates and lodged complaints in June 2013, up to now, they haven't gotten any feedback. Paying some people and leaving others with complaints for years has left many isolated. This in itself is an injustice which the report should have pointed out and called upon government to address. We would have expected the UHRC report to make a recommendation on how such people should be helped in a specific timeframe to avoid possible litigations. As mentioned above, the affected people want AFIEGO to help them go to court as a last resort. The above people with our support have tried everywhere including the speaker of parliament, ministry of energy, lands, Bunyoro Affairs, Bunyoro MPs and others without success. The remaining option is court.
To that extent, the report falls short of the people's expectations and I am sure, if you presented into the refinery affected people in its current form, the commission would have many questions than answers. People will feel betrayed. If you had given them an opportunity to validate the draft report, may be your findings, conclusions and recommendations would have been different and more appropriate to the challenges of the affected people.
3. Compensation before acquiring the property: we don't know why the report does not condemn the RAP report where on page 33, it puts a CUT OFF date on people's land before payment of their compensation contrary to Article 26 of the Constitution. Since 2012 June, no owner of land in Kabaale affected villages is allowed for instance to build a house on the affected land. In view of the above Article 26 of the constitution, the CUTOFF date makes the RAP report unconstitutional. The UHRC should have questioned the legality of the CUTOFF DATE and where the government got such powers to impose it when the Constitution is clear that an owner of property has absolute right over his/her land until fair and adequate compensation is paid. To that extent, the RAP report is illegal. Perhaps, it is the reason why it was never availed to the affected people and the commission could only access it from Entebbe when the affected people are in Bunyoro, 230km away.
4. Valuation of customary land and other property rights: in section 77 of the Land Act,
the value of customary land is the open market value of unimproved land while that of buildings is the open market value of urban areas depreciated with the replacement value of rural areas. We had hoped that the UHRC would investigate whether or not the MEMD and SFI complied with these requirements rather than relying on the speculation that the MEMD was in the process of buying land at a cheaper price in the same area.
That way, you would have given Article 26 of the Constitution a rich and progress meaning.
5. Regulations for the assessment and payment of compensation: Section 20 of the Land Acquisition Act 1965 requires that the minister of lands should put in place such regulations to help avoid discretions and create certainties on how compensation rates are determined but for over 40 years, the regulations are yet to be formulated. We would have expected the commission to recommend for the formulation of such regulations as a matter of urgency to give full effect to the Land Acquisition Act as a means to stop or at least reduce the increasing cases of conflicts in compensation processes and land grabbing where Ugandans have continued to lose lives.
6. Government's suspicion of some CSOs: on pages 36 and 37, the report appreciates that CSOs are important in any functioning democracy and goes ahead to rightly note that one of the roles of CSOs in good governance is to hold duty bearers/government for their actions and decisions. The report confirms that the roles of CSOs more often make them conflict with the government and in the oil region; the suspicions between CSOs and government are real. Some CSOs reported harassment. Unfortunately, in paragraph1 on page 37—you conclude that there is a capacity problem among CSOs to effectively handle oil issues. That due to capacity gaps, most CSOs had resorted to speculation and disseminating misleading information to members of the public thus causing unnecessary clashes amongst themselves and some government officials. Further, on pages 4 and 43 (recommendation 4.6), you conclude and recommend that CSOs should endeavor to always act professionally and be accountable; they should always strive to advance the interests of the people. This conclusion is very unfortunate because a look at the list of interviewees, only 4 NGOs were interviewed and I am sure, NGOs such as International Alert and AFIEGO cannot be faulted for lack of capacity without proof. Indeed, the UHRC Chairperson's speech opening the launch meeting clearly stated that you began investigations based on the 9th May 2013petition which had been drafted by AFIEGO and submitted by the PAP to the MEMD, Speaker of Parliament, Minister for Lands, Minister for Bunyoro Affairs and other government agencies.
Surely, is that a sign of lack of capacity? Where is evidence in the report to show that NGOs act unprofessionally and are not accountable or do not act in the interests of the public? This is not to attempt to say that all NGOs have capacity but to show that the recommendation and conclusion is over‐exaggerated as generalizes all CSOs. We gave you evidence of how the government was harassing NGOs to cover up excesses of some officials. Yourself, you failed to get the RAP report in the Albert region and you had to go to Entebbe to get a copy. How many of the affected people or NGOs in Bunyoro can manage to go to Entebbe‐over 230km away from the affected people. Now, isn't it our right to access such information? If we say that the government is hiding information, is that speculation and misleading? Who should be blamed in that situation?
Further, Why didn't you recommend the MEMD and police to facilitate NGOs/CSOs with relevant and timely information such as the RAP report, feasibility study, the EIA report for the refinery and others which are key to the refinery affected people and others? Why didn't you recommend the government to stop harassing CSOs? What evidence does the report provide to show that CSOs are not professional, accountable and are not acting in the interests of the public? Did you find any affected citizens complaining about CSOs We would like to discuss these and other questions in the proposed meeting of 16th April2014 at your office. NB. Attached is a statement and a list of cases regarding harassment, intimidation and threats to environmental and human rights defenders by some government officials in Uganda and the Great Lakes Region.
Thank you in advance for your positive response.
• Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO),
• National Association for Professional Environmentalists (NAPE)
• Global Rights Alert (GRA)
• Ecological Christian Organisation (ECO)
• Pro-biodiversity Conservationists in Uganda (PROBICOU)
• Lake Albert Children and Women Advocacy and Development
• Association (LACWADO)
• Uganda Youth Voluntary Efforts in Advancement and
• Environmental Protection
• Butimba group
• Buseruka Women's Association
William Ogik v AG (application No. EDT/04 of 2012)
In 2012, AFIEGO facilitated Ogik's case before the Electricity Distribution Tribunal to challenge government compensation of Karuma dam affected people. Ojik represented the residents of of Awoo Village in Kiryandongo District. They demanded that the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development revise the low compensation rates for their properties were affected by the construction of Karuma Dam.
Charles Kahirwa v UETCL (Application No. EDT/O3 of 2012)
Still in 2012, AFIEGO facilitated Kahirwa's case before the tribunal. His complaint was that UETCL took constructed a power grid in the middle of his land instead of on the edges as they had earlier agreed. By constructing in the middle of his Land, Kahirwa argued, UETCL had rendered his entire land useless by unnecessarily fragmenting it.
Following the two complaints of Kahirwa and Ogik, the accused in both cases agreed to renegotiate over the affected property. Government has since revised the compensation rates for Karuma dam affected people and UETCL agreed to move the power grid out of Kahirwa's land.
The community of Kabaale, Buseruka-Hoima District, did write a petition to the Hon. Speaker Kadaga in regards to the oil refinery that is to be constructed within their area. See full petition below.
26/09/2013: As government commissioned the construction of the 600megawatt Karuma Hydro plant last month, people affected by the project are still complaining of lack of compensation.
Some 168 residents of Awoo village in Diima parish Mutunda Sub County, Kiryandongo district complain that they have never been compensated despite losing their land and valuable property to the project.
Auma Bilentina, the Awoo LC1 Chairperson and member of the affected group, says although the other affected people were compensated in December last year (2012); the remaining group has never received even a single coin.
Auma lost about an acre of land. She says according to the evaluation results, she is entitled to 1.6million shillings. The village chairperson says although they were promised pay in May, four months later no money has been received.
She says what worries them most is the construction work going on after commissioned by President Yoweri Museveni on 12th August 2013, yet their money is not yet paid.
"We accept development but it has brought us poverty, people cannot afford to shift, we have tried to go through the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) but he has given us a deaf ear, we wrote to the president when he came here for commissioning but they stopped us from meeting him," she said.
Last week the energy ministry released a draft map showing the area earmarked for the construction of an oil refinery in Buseruka Sub-county, Hoima district. As Uganda plans to build an oil refinery, we thank our government for taking the initiative and deciding well on what is good for our oil industry and our country at large.
For stance, since commercial quantities of oil were discovered in Uganda six years ago, President Museveni has insisted that the country should add value to oil production by building a refinery. The idea was to make Uganda self-sufficient in petrol, diesel and kerosene-eliminating a hefty import bill of around US$ 500 million per year-and also to export petroleum products to other countries in the region. International oil companies were less keen on the plan, preferring to export crude oil quickly and profitably.
According to the oil refinery map that was released, 13 villages in Hoima district will be affected. And that at least 8,000 people are to be evicted after being compensated.
Also according to Bashir Hangi, the refinery project communications officer, the refinery map released will help them get people's complaints if any like the spelling errors and under or over valuation of property on their land.
However, though the refinery which is expected to begin late this year will enable value addition to the crude oil, boost employment to the locals and give the locals a chance to provide services, still there are gaps to be filled especially for the refinery process to commence and became successful.
First, there is still little access to information regarding the positive and negative impacts of the refinery and pipelines planed to be constructed from different oil wells by all stakeholders for the purposes of effective public participation.
Secondly, it is unconstitutional for the developers of the refinery to tell the local communities not to plant perennial crops in the proposed refinery land before payment of compensation to the affected people. This is affecting the capacity of household heads to sustain their families.
Further, the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) which was undertaken and aimed at establishing land ownership, properties, loss of economic activities and livelihoods through compensation or resettlement from the refinery land, did not guarantee justice because of the Minister's failure to put in place formal regulations for the assessment and payment of compensation as required by section 20 of the Land Acquisition Act Cap 226. Instead, the RAP presented biased conclusions of consultants and government which impact on the communities negatively.
In addition, neither do the oil bills 2012 provide for a land owner an option to lease where he or she fails to agree with options of compensation or resettlement nor does it provide for compensation to include value added by the discovery of oil on the land. Leasing land will enable the land owners to continue getting rent throughout the oil production period and recover the land after oil exhaustion.
Therefore we believe that Resettlement Action Plans (RAP) should strictly be conducted in line with the Assessment and Payment of Compensation Regulations to protect the rights and interests of the affected people. This will avoid over reliance on the government valuer and districts land boards which are never independent to make reliable decisions for the affected people.
Also, In line with Article 26 of the Constitution, the communities in the proposed refinery area should not be stopped from using their land until full compensation is paid to them. And the new oil laws should make it clear that a developer/government can only acquire a right over the owner's land after paying full and agreed compensation to the owner.
Last but not least, the new oil laws should provide an option to land owners to lease their land to oil project developers in addition to resettlement and compensation. And also ensure that the compensation value includes that of discovered oil or the value of the project to be undertaken by the developer.
On 24th/June/2013, Kyambogo University KUEMA Students committee presented a petition to the director of NEMA Uganda on issue of safeguarding the environment from the dangers of oil activities in Uganda.
This was an initiative that was supported by AFIEGO, a public policy research and advocacy NGO whose main objective is to promote good governance in the management and utilization of energy resources for the common good and national development without compromising the environment.
Read full petition below:-
Despite the immense opportunities associated with solar energy, its adaptation in Uganda continues to be slow. Even as the Ministry of Energy, financed by the World Bank, prepares to roll out phase II of the rural electrification programme, it is becoming increasingly clear that hydro power is not a viable option and government needs to look into other sources of energy. One such source is solar.
According to the renewable energy policy 2007, the estimated electrical potential of solar is 200MW. Rural Electrification Agency (REA) estimates that so far there are over 600 solar connections in the country. Uganda has huge unexploited solar energy resources. Like most African countries, Uganda receives 325 days per year of bright sunlight. This gives solar power the potential to bring energy to virtually any location in Uganda without need for expensive large scale grid infrastructure.
Countries like Kenya have adopted a comprehensive solar system and their approach is a success story from which Uganda can learn. Kenya's major solar projects supply the national grid with 4mw. Kenya also has a number of off grid solar systems that have helped supply power to rural and peri urban areas- for example the 50mw power solar plant in Garissa-Northern Kenya and the L.Turkana 250MW solar project in Turkana district.
Solar energy would be particularly important for people on islands like Kalangala and in mountainous areas like kabaale, where it is difficult and too costly to extend the national grid because of the hard terrain. With the reality of climate change, solar energy is a way to provide clean energy without negatively impacting the environment and getting affected by the climate change.
Hydro energy problems
Government's failure to listen to the United Nation Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (UNPCC)'s advice to factor the effects of climate change in all our development projects has continued to affect the capacity of our dams. Indeed, the prolonged droughts and degradation of the environment, especially around L. Victoria, are increasingly making our dams "ghosts". This is the reason why Owen Falls dam is currently producing 74mw instead of planned 180mw, Kiira dam is producing just 50mw instead of the planned 200mw while information about the actual production of Bujagali has never been independently verified.
The failure to produce the expected amount of hydro energy explains why Ugandans are paying high tariffs andstill in darkness despite government promises that upon the commissioning of Bujagali, tariffs would reduce and darkness would be no more, at leastfor two years. Unfortunately, even before Bujagali clocks five months, load shedding is greatly increasing and power tariffs are higher than before. Government has to recoup the costs of building the dams even when they are not working to optimum capacity, and the consumers ultimately shoulder the burden.
High power tariffs
Uganda's power tariffs continue to increase at a disconcerting rate, especially considering that over half of the population lives below the poverty line. Uganda has the highest power tariffs in East Africa. Ugandans continue to bear the burden of the ever increasing power costs. Last year the electricity tariffs for large-scale consumers rose by 69% to shs.312.8 from Shs.184.8 per unit. Tariffs for small scale consumers increased by 36% to shs.458.6 from shs.358.6.The ever increasing electricity tariffs remain the biggest challenge in Uganda's electricity sector year after year.
More to this is the problem of load shedding due to the demand for electricity being more than the supply because of the ever increasing number of people that are connected to the national grid every day. Uganda also experiences high production costs due to the concentration of dams on River Nile in Jinja. The major dams of bujagali, kiira and Nalubaale are all built on R. Nile and this makes it expensive to transmit electricity to the rest of Uganda. Also, a lot of energy is lost as power is transmitted over long distances.
Solar too expensive
State minister for Energy Eng.Simon Du'jang, has blamed the delay in adoption of solar energy on the high set up costs required when investing in viable solar systems. But like Dickens Kamugisha, Executive Director of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance, points out, setting up a solar system is a onetime investment. With solar energy, one need not worry about paying monthly bills to electricity generation and distribution companies. Also, there is no need to employ a lot of personnel to maintain solar energy or carry out meter readings like is the case with hydro energy. In the long term, solar energy is evidently the more affordable option.
Therefore there's a need to empower individuals and communities as producers and controllers of solar energy, other than having the government being the main key player. This would, in turn decentralize power distribution. Thus far, government should concentrate on subsidising the people who install solar to make it easier for them to access solar energy. Fruitful partnerships with potential investors should be taken into account by government for the development of solar projects implementation.
Solar energy is one of the most promising renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources. Government needs to diversify the energy sector through increased investment into other renewable energy sources, chief of which should be solar energy. Only then shall we have hope of realizing the renewable energy policy 2007goal of increasing use of modern renewable energy from 4% to 61% by the year 2017.
Recently the media reported that government had signed a power purchase agreement with a major American infrastructure firm AAE systems that will take on a $1.2 billion, 150Mw, geothermal power plant in Kasese district .It is commendable that government is taking such a huge stride in trying to meet the electricity needs of Ugandans.
Such developments are needed for the country to fully exploit the existing geothermal potential estimated at 450MW (Renewable Energy policy 2007). Aside from the proposed Katwe Geothermal Power Project, another remaining 300 MW could be developed at Buranga-kabale district, and Kibiro-Hoima district.
Ranked 10 on the list of the 24 global producers of geothermal technology, Kenya is the leading producer of geothermal energy in Africa. In 2010, geothermal energy accounted for almost 20% of Kenya's total electricity generation, all coming from the rich reservoirs of Olkaria I, II, III and IV. Currently Kenya generates over 200mw from geothermal technology. An additional 512MW is forecast to be added to the Kenyan Grid by 2020.
To achieve this, the Kenyan government has had to undertake several Institutional and Policy reforms geared towards promoting geothermal energy development. At Institutional level, Geothermal Development Company (GDC), a semi-autonomous state-owned company, was established and charged with financial risk mitigation, appraisal and production drilling in the early stages of geothermal exploration and development.
GDC also works with domestic and international financial institutions to underwrite and spread risk through Joint Ventures with investors. Deterrent capital investment risks associated with this technology have been assumed by the government's investment in exploration and feasibility studies as an assurance to potential investors.
A 20-year feed-in tariff policy benefits all the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) generating power not exceeding 70 MW this acts as a market incentive.
The above highlighted bold policy initiatives continue to attract both domestic and foreign investment into the country's geothermal resource sector in Kenya.
Uganda is on the brink of yet another load shedding roaster due to electricity demand outpacing supply, while the procurement standoff between the IGGs office and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development continues to delay the development of Karuma Power Project, cloning the Kenyan success story in geothermal technology would be a welcome relief to Ugandan electricity consumers.
Unlike hydropower, the technology is not affected by drought and climatic changes, it is green and clean energy with almost no adverse effects on the environment with less carbon emissions compared to fossil fuel technology and has predictable low operational and management (O&M) costs compared to other forms of renewable technology.
By addressing the existing bottlenecks to the development of geothermal technology which include lack of a geothermal policy and Act, inadequate funding for the initial ground surface works and a non existing skilled manpower in the sector, will be a precursor to attracting more investment into the sector.
In a country where the electrification rate is only 12% for the whole country and 6 % for rural areas, the katwe geothermal project will enable substantial increase in the provision of additional reliable and clean power generation capacity to Ugandan households, businesses and industries. This in turn will also improve electricity coverage in Uganda, which is still one of the lowest in Africa.
Africa Institute for Energy Governance
The government and Uganda's development partners like the World Bank have done well to promote and support rural electrification. So far, Uganda's electricity access in rural areas is six per cent, though the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) had targeted a 10 per cent access for rural Uganda by 2012.
According to REA, currently there are more than 6,000 solar connections and 426 grid extension projects that have been implemented countrywide to support social and economic projects for rural transformation.
Rural electrification is important because it increases electricity access to rural areas, thus improving the standard of living and the economic competitiveness of people in rural areas.
An estimated 90 per cent of Ugandans live in rural areas with less than three per cent electricity access. There is, therefore, need for rural electrification to cover the biggest percentage of Uganda's population.
However, it is uncertain whether the rural electrification programme is meeting its objectives of reducing inequalities in access to electricity and the associated opportunities for increased social welfare, education, health and income generation.
Access to electricity is vital for development for electricity serves as a catalyst, making the other pillars of development, education, modern healthcare, agriculture and other income-generating activities possible.
It has also been noted that for a society to move out of subsistence, conventional energy is a precondition. Therefore, access to electricity is not an end in itself but constitutes an important tool for development when we consider its linkages to agriculture, education and health.
In addition, the media recently reported that the West Nile Rural Electrification Company (WENRECo) wants to increase its power tariffs, a move that was opposed by the legislators from the region, citing irregular power supply. Under the Rural Energy Infrastructure, WENRECo signed a 20-year concession with the government to construct Nyagak hydropower dam and supply power to West Nile.
However, despite the fact that various dams have been commissioned across the country over the years, the increasing rate of power tariffs in Uganda is alarming. Despite heavy investments and reforms, Uganda's power tariffs and power losses still remain one of the highest in Africa. Increments in tariffs should ideally be matched with improved service.
If in 1990, the population of Uganda was less than 17 million and today, we are 34 million, what does the rural electrification access increase from two per cent to six per cent in 12 years mean? How many people are connected to electricity and can use it profitably compared to those without access to power or those with access but cannot benefit from it because of poverty or ignorance?
According to the REA, in Oyam, Pader, Abim and other districts, connection costs have been subsidised and people can pay in installments. But we need to take into consideration that after installation, there are high tariffs to pay!
Are we, therefore, getting value for money from our investments in the rural electrification projects? What is the best way to make electricity relevant to the needs of the poor? What is the impact of tariff increase on the efforts of the poor to use electricity to overcome poverty?
If power consumers in urban areas are disconnected due to failure to pay bills, how do we expect those in rural areas to benefit from electricity? Is there any case study that can help us demonstrate how the poor can access and profitably use the current expensive electricity?
It's at this critical time in the lifespan of the rural electrification programme (12 years) that these critical questions should be answered. More so, despite the good laws, the government has continued to implement good initiatives through closed processes with no input from the beneficiaries - the poor to whom such reforms were intended to benefit.
As a result, the rural electrification projects have continued to miss out on the much-needed popular support of the public, a key ingredient of success for any project aimed at providing the common good. In the end, the government and development partners have to continue providing unsustainable support such as subsidies to the private sector.
Remember, electricity is a right and Ugandans have a duty to demand accountability, accessibility and affordability. A well functioning governance mechanism such as effective implementation of laws, strong institutions, public participation, access to information and to justice would allow for better decision-making about the goals of rural electrification initiatives. It will also ensure that such goals are tailored to the needs of the rural poor who are the beneficiaries of such projects.
Africa Institute for Energy Governance.
Usually large scale projects like hydro power tend to grab headlines when it comes to renewable energy. However, there are many less celebrated small scale renewable energy projects. These have the potential to fuel businesses, reduce the carbon footprint, enhance environmental conservation, create employment and create income. In April, the New Vision newspaper ran a story about Rose Twine, a woman making millions through her energy saving stoves. The stoves optimally utilise special stones (other than charcoal) which in turn conserves the environment.
The stoves, apart from being environmental friendly, solve the problem of wood shortage which is rampant in rural areas. They reduce deforestation and wood consumption by 95% and cooking time by 75%. They protect the eco-system and reduce emission of harmful gases. The stoves can also be used to charge phones and light bulbs.
The renewable energy sector has a growing market that remains untapped despite continuous rise of unemployment rates among the youth. Supporting these projects will help meet multiple objectives as stipulated in Uganda's renewable energy policy 2007. The objectives include: Increasing access to clean energy, improving security of energy supply, contributing to inclusive social and economic development, protecting the environment and creation of employment in the emerging green economy- In essence, setting Uganda on a low carbon pathway.
The last few years have seen a growth in community based small scale renewable energy projects. These have mainly been triggered by increased awareness of climate change and environmental issues. Also, the social and economic benefits of such projects to individuals and the wider community are invaluable. However, the key problem remains in financing such projects.
These projects are often perceived as too risky for investors and too costly for the economy. This and other challenges such as in-house technical expertise, project coordination, and up-front funding at the planning stage, have hindered growth of these small scale renewable energy projects.
Small scale renewable projects respond to the urgent need to cut Carbon emissions, to boost the economy, diversify the energy supply, increase resilience and security of supply. It is important to note that renewable energy is an investment opportunity which can pay for itself over time. For businesses and citizens, much of this opportunity lies with small projects where the public can see the direct benefits of investment.
Employment created by small scale renewable projects has significant beneficial impact on local businesses and community as a whole because much of the labor required to implement these projects such as (contractors, installers, electrical engineers etc.) becomes part of the core workforce of the community.
We therefore urge government to create a range of incentives to encourage roll out of these projects like provide finance at beneficial rather than off-market interest rates, flexible grants or 'soft' loans, project preparation support to those that demonstrate potential and profitability and help those with promising project concepts develop their ideas into bankable proposals.
In this Issue, AFIEGO showcased the work we do in the energy sector to bring justice to the poor and vulnerable, we put a spotlight on the Oil for Development Program. We highlighted the program's great achievements and show what next should be done to ensure that the laws, policies and other benefits of the program are implemented so that Ugandans can benefit from their oil.