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Uganda's estimated oil wealth has increased from 3.5 billion to 6.5 billion barrels,following new discoveries. || 80% of the land in Uganda is tilled by Women but they own less than 10% of it. || The Albertine grabben, where most of Uganda's oil is found, is also one of the most ecologically diverse regions in Africa.

Read about eviction of refinery affected people, our work with ERA, the need to protect the environment from oil threats, our involvement with youth...

We are glad to introduce you to the first issue of our monthly newsletter. If you want to know more about the plight of the refinery affected people and the unlawful evictions taking place in Hoima district, this is a must read. Also, you will find out why ERA must step up and protect electricity consumers. Read about why we must all stand up and protect the environment from oil threats- even if it means we all join AFIEGO and camp together at the National Environment Management Authority and Uganda Wildlife Authority offices until EIAs involving public hearings (as required by law) are carried out and tangible steps taken to protect our wildlife. Of course, you cannot afford to miss out on the inspiring story of Dickens Kamugisha and his journey from a barefooted village boy to a passionate human rights defender and our work bringing youth on board the energy cause.We look forward to your feedback. Enjoy reading TheEnergizer.AFIEGO newsletter, May 2014

 

1. Introduction: A promise of expensive but constant electricity

The Uganda Electricity Transmission Company (UETCL) last month announced an increase in tariffs just weeks after ERA announced a 1% reduction. Ugandans have lost track of the enormous tariff hikes that the country has continuously experienced ever since Umeme took over the power sector in 2005. The cost of electricity has more than quadrupled and billing problems and general incompetence in the power sector have chronically hindered growth and development of the sector.

UETCL’s excuse for increasing tariffs was that there is need to utilise thermoelectricity generators that government had earlier abandoned because of the astronomical costs of running them. The government then decided to concentrate on hydroelectricity that it deemed cheaper. Now, UETCL says, it is more expensive to maintain load shedding and idle generators than to put these generators to use. In essence, UETCL is promising that with the generators, there will be a constant supply of high-priced electricity.

2. Irregular generator project

The thermoelectric generators were abandoned in favour of hydroelectricity and small power dams (built to increase supply to make up for what the generators would have produced). From the start, thermoelectricity generation was bound to be a failure. First, it was commenced without a clear policy on how to engage the thermo companies and how their assets would be managed after they are replaced with the dams. How did ERA plan to regulate such companies without a clear policy? Before tariffs rise further, ERA should answer this pertinent question.

3. Ugandans biggest losers in tariff wars

Increased tariffs can never be good news to Ugandans, many of whom live below the poverty line. Their battles with the players in the electricity sector are far from over- a battle Ugandans, led by AFIEGO, took to court in 2010 when they sued Umeme, ERA and UETCL for failing to provide quality, affordable and reliable electricity.

Technically, UETCL is the electricity generator, ERA the regulator and Umeme the distributor. Umeme is the most well known player in the electricity sector in Uganda, enjoying monopoly over distributorship and recording profits each year. However, Umeme has refused to take blame for the increasing tariffs, saying that as a mere distributor, it has no power over tariffs. Umeme insists that it is ERA which has powers to increase the tariffs.

4. Futile public hearings

Ironically, it is the same Umeme that last month defied ERA’s organized public hearing whose objective was to subject Umeme’s application for tariff increment to public scrutiny.   In the same breath, Umeme has expressed its determination to increase the electricity tariffs even further (Whether or not ERA agrees) to the chagrin of Ugandans and in defiance of parliament that recently passed a resolution to terminate the Umeme contract.

Even more controversial is the fact that even as Umeme insists that it has nothing to do with the increase in electricity tariffs, it has dragged ERA to the Electricity Disputes Tribunal over the amendments to Umeme license No.48 for the supply of electricity. The tribunal is established under section 93 of the Electricity Act 1999 as the line implementing agency.

Umeme insists the amendments in the license, as per the contracts, necessitate an automatic right to increase tariffs. As we wait for the tribunal decision, Ugandans are increasingly getting trouble in appreciating who exactly is behind the sky rocketing tariffs.

Indeed, the on-going “tariff wars” in Uganda are rather confusing for the general public that, no doubt, have greater interaction with Umeme. Prior to the public hearing, Umeme (the applicant) unequivocally wrote to ERA informing them that they (Umeme) had no interest and would not participate in the hearing. Still, ERA went ahead to hold the hearing on an application whose author was no longer interested. In this case, ERA wasted public resources because at the time of the hearing, the fate of the application was with the tribunal and not the public. Both ERA and the public failed to respect the subjudice rule whose essence is that issues before court should not be discussed.

5. Yaka causing more harm than good

While the roles of other players such as ERA are provided for by law, the people have for long seen Umeme manage the power distribution as if we do not have a regulator. Power consumers continue to suffer with faulty meters, late bills and irregular disconnections. Currently the pre-paid metering which Ugandans had hoped would address power electricity service issues in Uganda seem to be bigger money making machine for Umeme. As we speak, pre-paid customers do not know how much a unit is because Umeme has discretion in deciding the charges. Unfortunately there is no legal framework that can be relied on to hold Umeme accountable. Ugandans are at their mercy.

The prepaid metering was introduced to solve problems like estimated billing and to lower costs of running and distribution. The benefits of the prepaid metering seemed obvious as less staff would be needed as well as less trips to read the meters, prepare and print bills, take bills to the consumer, go to disconnect if a bill not paid in time, go to reconnect if the customer pays the bill and disconnection fees, monitor the consumption...

The meters were also presumed harder to manipulate. Unfortunately, like the post paid meters, the yaka meters are being given to consumers without being tested and certified by Uganda Bureau of Standards to ensure that they are not faulty. Perhaps, it is this reason the yaka meters have not translated into good services and lower costs for the consumers. Instead, people are complaining of inflated bills and high and varied costs of paying the bills.

For example if you pay your bill through mobile money, you get three units of electricity less than those who pay from Umeme offices. Fewer units are also got when you pay at a supermarket or other Umeme-sanctioned points (even though this is less costly than paying through mobile money). The cheapest means remains going to an Umeme office. So people have to spend a lot of time cuing at Umeme offices so that they can pay less money. The time and money spent travelling to these offices make it a very costly option.

6. What then is the role of ERA?

Ideally, it is ERA’s role, as provided for under the Electricity Act Cap 145, to regulate the sector and protect consumers from exploitation. Yet, the regulatory authority had been pushed to the periphery of the sector. Even to the customers, ERA is remote- a mysterious “regulator” whose role appears ambiguous as customers are treated to electric drama.

ERA’s mandate is buried deep in the Electricity Act, the statute that establishes it as an independent authority with an ombudsman over the electricity sector. Still, not many people have heard a chance to read or understand these laws- Certainly the majority of Ugandans who get ripped off by electricity sector politics have not. So, someone should explain to Ugandans on who is telling the truth about electricity tariffs. Ever since ERA established and Umeme got a concession, electricity tariffs have persistently increased

For instance, in 2001, the electricity tariffs increased by 69% for domestic consumers and 56% for industrial users. In 2006, the tariffs increased twice- by 35% in June and by 41% in November. In 2005, the increment was by 24%. In 2012 there was a 69% and 36% for large scale and domestic consumers respectively. January 2014 is when Umeme made the yet-to-be determined application to have a further increase.

In all circumstances, ERA and its flowery roles as laid down under the Electricity Act have been impotent to save consumers

a. Establishment

The Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) is established under S.4 of the Electricity Act, cap 145 as a body corporate with power to sue or be sued. Its general functions are provided for under S.10 of the Act as follows:

b. Licensing

  • To issue licenses for the generation, transmission, distribution or sale of Electricity: ERA is therefore a licensing body with powers to grant or reject applications for licenses to distributors like Umeme. It has the power to determine who gets a license to own or operate transmission systems.

It thus has to:

  • Receive and process applications for licenses
  • Prescribe conditions and terms of licenses
  • Modify licenses issued
  • Make and enforce directions to ensure compliance with licenses
  • Prescribe and collect license fees, and,
  • Establish a uniform system of accounts for companies it licenses
    • Establish a tariff structure and to investigate tariff charges, whether or not a specific complaint has been made for a tariff adjustment
    • Approve rates of charges and terms and conditions of electricity services provided by transmission and distribution companies
    • Review the organisation of generation, transmission and distribution companies or other legal entities engaged in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.
    • Develop and enforce performance standards for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity
    • Encourage the development of uniform electricity industry standards and codes of conduct
    • Advise the minister regarding the need for electricity sector projects
    • Prepare industry reports and to gather information from generation, transmission and distribution companies
    • Provide for the procedure for investment programmes by transmission and distribution companies
    • Approve standards for the quality of electricity supply services provided
    • Approve codes of conduct in respect of the operation of transmission and distribution systems
    • Acquire information and carry out investigations relating to any of its functions

c. Tariff controls and quality assurance

       ERA is also responsible for electricity tariffs. Under the Act it is expected to:

Under S.11 (1) the authority is required to perform its functions and exercise its powers in a manner that is open and objective, fair and reasonable, nondiscriminatory and Promotes fair competition.

d. Supervisory function

  • Promote efficiency, economy and safety on the part of licensees and the efficient and safe use of electricity
  • Ensure that licensees carry out the activities which they are licensed to perform
  • Ensure that licensees comply with the conditions of their licenses
  • Protect the interests of consumers in respect of the prices, charges and other terms of supply of electricity and the quality, efficiency, continuity and reliability of the supply services
  • Promote competition in the generation and marketing of electricity
  • Enable all licensees to connect to transmission systems and facilities in Uganda on a nondiscriminatory basis
  • Ensure transparency in relation to the activities of the power sector and the authority
  • Ensure a fair balance of the interests of the consumers, the government and participants in the power sector
  • Promote continuity in the supply of electricity

e. Independence and impartiality

Independence of ERA while performing its functions is guaranteed under s.16 which provides that:

“The authority shall, subject to the declared policy of the Government and, except as is otherwise provided in this Act, be independent in the performance of its functions and duties and exercise of its powers and shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority.”

7. ERA, a toothless barking dog

S.16 of the electricity Act, while guaranteeing ERA’ s independence, takes it away by subjecting it to government policy and declarations as well as other provisions of the Act.

ERA’s independence thus seems the lowest in the hierarchy of importance and this has also been reflected in the reality of the electricity sector in Uganda. Umeme, for instance, signed a watertight agreement that ERA cannot penetrate even if it wanted to. Under the agreement that government signed with Umeme, Umeme gets hefty compensation regardless of the circumstances of terminating their contract- whether or not it is Umeme’s fault.

How then would ERA effectively report and monitor Umeme’s activities under the Act to ensure compliance with the license provided and also to ensure quality, reliable and affordable electricity when Umeme is clearly an untouchable heavy weight.

Despite a parliamentary report of Oboth Oboth, Salim Saleh’s report, a court case filed by AFIEGO in 2010, damning media reports and public outcry, Umeme continues to operate as if Uganda does not have a government.

Almost ten years after they came into Uganda’s electricity sector with a promise to overhaul and improve it, problems such as load shedding, power outages, negligent deaths due dangerous connections, faulty meters, high tariffs, limited access remain. And then, we must ask. Is this problem that flowery provisions on the role of a “regulatory authority” can solve?

There have however been a few “victories” for ERA- Like the recent 1% reduction in electricity prices. But what is a 1% reduction after half a decade of being fleeced? Half a decade of being a toothless barking dog that cannot hold its own against the strength and might of an internationally and politically connected company like Umeme. What is a 1% reduction when three weeks later an increment is announced? And more increments still loom over the heads of Ugandans. What is 1% when Umeme is in court for automatic tariff increment based on unfair concession agreements through which some government officials committed our country to profit Umeme irrespective of the quality of services? What is 1% tariff reduction and what ERA do when the executive is delaying or has refused to implement the resolutions of Parliament to terminate UMEME’s concession.

8. Conclusion and recommendations

ERA’s functions remain on paper and it has failed to cater for consumer interests and control price hikes. A 1% pseudo reduction in tariffs and half-hearted attempts to “regulate” will have no impact on the recurrent electricity sector problems. ERA remains a weak body operating under the control of some corrupt government officials and electricity companies. It is therefore proverbial toothless barking dog. There is urgent need for the following interventions to address the problems of electricity sector in Uganda.

  • There is need for relevant players in the electricity sector to revisit, review and rethink their roles and promote regular inter-sector dialogues and mutual respect of each one of them so as to promote effective regulation and management of the sector as a means promote access to quality and affordable electricity services for everyone
  • Government should negotiate a revision of Umeme licensing agreement so as to bring it in harmony with the Electricity Act and make it possible to hold Umeme to account, as the major electricity distributor. A credible body should be put in place to work with government on this; and legal redress sought on grounds of unconscionable terms if renegotiating the terms is unsuccessful.
  • There is need for a spirited campaign by civil society organizations dealing with energy to inform the people of their rights as recognized by the Constitution and The Electricity Act and empower them to advocate for their rights as consumers. The AFIEGO case against Umeme, UETCL and ERA, while never decided, can be a tool for advocacy to check the powers of the players and government. Civil society should capitalize on efforts like this to amplify their energy advocacy voices.
  • Government should implement the recent resolutions of parliament.
  • Government should commence discussions to renationalize the power sector as countries such South Africa, Kenya and others who are still in control of the biggest part of their sectors are doing better.
  • The independence of ERA should be strengthened through ring fencing.• The Government should establish branches of the Electricity Disputes Tribunal at district levels to facilitate access to justice to the public aggrieved with electricity companies and ERA's services.
  • Parliament should strengthen its oversight over the ministry of energy and mineral development to stop her interference in the operations of ERA.
 

Eighty six refinery affected people have moved to mount legal action against government for inadequate compensation rates and violations of basic land rights as guaranteed by the 1995 Constitution, the Land Act 1998, the Land Acquisition Act 1965 and other international treaties and policies applicable to Uganda. The plaintiffs, supported by Africa Institute for Energy Governance and other local organizations, fault the government for moving ahead to acquire 29.34 square kilometers of their land in Hoima district to build an oil refinery without adequate compensation for land and other properties. They are also unhappy with the government's delay in resettling those who asked for resettlement.

On 24th February 2014, through their lawyers, Bemanyisa & Co. Advocates, they served the government with a notice of intention to sue. Among other things, the notice of intention to sue demands that government compensates the plaintiffs at UGX6.5m per acre of land and pays a further UGX2m to each plaintiff for denying them their constitutional right to use their property freely. To date, fourteen days have passed since serving the notice and AFIEGO has made a decision to file a case in the High Court of Uganda on 26th March 2014.

Dickens Kamugisha, CEO of AFIEGO, says that people whose land is affected by the oil refinery project have not been able to fully utilize their property since 2012 when government through the Resettlement Action Plan Report of 2012, declared that any development on the affected land after 1st June 2012 would not be compensated for. The government marked 1st June 2012 as the CUT OFF DATE beyond which no compensation would be paid to anyone.

The actions above are unconstitutional as they contravene Article 26 of the Constitution which clearly provides that a citizen can only be deprived of his or her property rights after such person has been promptly paid fair and adequate compensation. Before such compensation, government has no powers to interfere with a citizen's right to his or her property. Section 59 of the Land Act also requires each District Land Board to put in place rates of compensation for crops and buildings on non permanent nature and review them every year to ensure that they reflect the most current property value.

It should be noted that in addition to poor compensation, the refinery affected people continue to suffer many other injustices including delayed relocation, transferring their land before receiving payment, compensation based on outdated rates, denying female spouses from being bank signatories, harassment and intimidation.

"We eighty six people have signed the notice of intention to sue because we are not happy. Government and the Strategic Friends International (SFI) told us that they would not pay any compensation for any new development made on our land after 1st June 2012. It is now coming to 2 years," said Innocent Tumwebaze, spokesperson of the affected people. He further added:

"They haven't paid us for our land and we are not certain about the future. We entirely survive on land for food, income for sending our children to school, health services and our entire livelihoods. Depriving us the right to fully use our land is the biggest injustice we have suffered so far. We no longer have enough food for our families; we can't pay school fees for our children and or provide the basic necessaries to our households. We need help."

According to Mr. Kamugisha, who has been directly helping the refinery affected people to get prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation from the government for their property in line with Article 26th of the Constitution, the entire compensation process has been flawed and unjust to the thirteen communities of Kabaale Parish.

AFIEGO has for the past two years facilitated the affected communities to petition and appeal to every relevant authority in Uganda including the Speaker of Parliament, Bunyoro MPs, the minister for lands, the minister for energy, the minister for Bunyoro Affairs, the Inspectorate of Government, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Chairperson Hoima District and the Katikiro of Bunyoro Kingdom for help. While some affected people have been compensated, others are still suffering from the injustice.
"It is now time to take this matter to court for redress. That is the only option we are left with to save communities from the gross human rights violations," Kamugisha said.

AFIEGO is a Ugandan registered public policy research and advocacy NGO whose main objective is to promote good energy governance for the common good and national development.

Dickens Kamugisha,
CEO- AFIEGO.

For more information, please contact:
Patience Akumu
Legal & Communications Officer, AFIEGO
Phone: +256-414-571597+256-414-571597 , +256700964398+256700964398

 

Eighty six refinery affected people have moved to mount legal action against government for inadequate compensation rates and violations of basic land rights as guaranteed by the 1995 Constitution, the Land Act 1998, the Land Acquisition Act 1965 and other international treaties and policies applicable to Uganda. The plaintiffs, supported by Africa Institute for Energy Governance and other local organizations, fault the government for moving ahead to acquire 29.34 square kilometers of their land in Hoima district to build an oil refinery without adequate compensation for land and other properties. They are also unhappy with the government's delay in resettling those who asked for resettlement.

On 24th February 2014, through their lawyers, Bemanyisa & Co. Advocates, they served the government with a notice of intention to sue. Among other things, the notice of intention to sue demands that government compensates the plaintiffs at UGX6.5m per acre of land and pays a further UGX2m to each plaintiff for denying them their constitutional right to use their property freely. To date, fourteen days have passed since serving the notice and AFIEGO has made a decision to file a case in the High Court of Uganda on 26th March 2014.

Dickens Kamugisha, CEO of AFIEGO, says that people whose land is affected by the oil refinery project have not been able to fully utilize their property since 2012 when government through the Resettlement Action Plan Report of 2012, declared that any development on the affected land after 1st June 2012 would not be compensated for. The government marked 1st June 2012 as the CUT OFF DATE beyond which no compensation would be paid to anyone.
The actions above are unconstitutional as they contravene Article 26 of the Constitution which clearly provides that a citizen can only be deprived of his or her property rights after such person has been promptly paid fair and adequate compensation. Before such compensation, government has no powers to interfere with a citizen's right to his or her property. Section 59 of the Land Act also requires each District Land Board to put in place rates of compensation for crops and buildings on non permanent nature and review them every year to ensure that they reflect the most current property value.
It should be noted that in addition to poor compensation, the refinery affected people continue to suffer many other injustices including delayed relocation, transferring their land before receiving payment, compensation based on outdated rates, denying female spouses from being bank signatories, harassment and intimidation.
"We eighty six people have signed the notice of intention to sue because we are not happy. Government and the Strategic Friends International (SFI) told us that they would not pay any compensation for any new development made on our land after 1st June 2012. It is now coming to 2 years," said Innocent Tumwebaze, spokesperson of the affected people. He further added:
"They haven't paid us for our land and we are not certain about the future. We entirely survive on land for food, income for sending our children to school, health services and our entire livelihoods. Depriving us the right to fully use our land is the biggest injustice we have suffered so far. We no longer have enough food for our families; we can't pay school fees for our children and or provide the basic necessaries to our households. We need help."
According to Mr. Kamugisha, who has been directly helping the refinery affected people to get prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation from the government for their property in line with Article 26th of the Constitution, the entire compensation process has been flawed and unjust to the thirteen communities of Kabaale Parish.
AFIEGO has for the past two years facilitated the affected communities to petition and appeal to every relevant authority in Uganda including the Speaker of Parliament, Bunyoro MPs, the minister for lands, the minister for energy, the minister for Bunyoro Affairs, the Inspectorate of Government, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Chairperson Hoima District and the Katikiro of Bunyoro Kingdom for help. While some affected people have been compensated, others are still suffering from the injustice.
"It is now time to take this matter to court for redress. That is the only option we are left with to save communities from the gross human rights violations," Kamugisha said.
AFIEGO is a Ugandan registered public policy research and advocacy NGO whose main objective is to promote good energy governance for the common good and national development.
Dickens Kamugisha,
CEO- AFIEGO.
For more information, please contact:
Patience Akumu
Legal & Communications Officer, AFIEGO
Phone: +256-414-571597+256-414-571597, +256700964398+256700964398

The Executive Director
National Environmental Management Authority
NEMA House, Plot 17/19/21 Jinja Road
P. O. Box 22255
Kampala
Dear Sir/Madam

RE: REQUEST FOR NEMA TO CONDUCT AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT PRIOR TO THE DISPLACEMENT OF THE OIL REFINERY AFFECTED PEOPLE OF KABAALE BUSERUKA
We write in regard to the ongoing refinery project in Kabaale, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima district which, according to the government Resettlement Action Plan Report, will displace 7,118 people from over 2,000 households. The displacement is intended to help the government secure 29.34 sq km of land for the construction of an oil refinery in Uganda. We at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) have been monitoring the Resettlement Action Plan process which commenced in May 2012; and was followed by the production of the RAP report in October 2012.
The RAP implementation started in June 2013 and the government commenced the actual compensation of the refinery project affected people in December 2013. Under the RAP and the 1998 Land Act Cap 227, once a project affected person has been compensated (this compensation includes a disturbance allowance of 30%) he or she is required to vacate the property within a period of less than 6 months. Proper compensation, after taking into regard all socio-economic and environmental impacts, is therefore a prerequisite for government acquisition of land.
Still, despite the realities of the environmental challenges facing all oil producing countries in Africa and beyond, there is no evidence that NEMA (the lead agency) has asked the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) (the project implementer) to conduct an EIA in order to assess the possible environmental impacts of the refinery project, including the effect on the social fabric of the community and the entire ecosystem. Indeed, without an EIA, NEMA or any other entity cannot adequately mitigate the possible impacts of such a project.
It should be noted that the requirement to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment for oil projects is a creature of statute. Under the 1995 Constitution, the National Environment Act, Cap 153, the Land Act Cap 227, the 1998 Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations of 1998 and other related laws, NEMA is under obligation to ensure that every investor conducts an EIA for a proposed project before being given a license to commence with the project.
This letter is therefore to request you to ask the responsible government agencies and companies in charge of the refinery project to conduct an EIA and hold public hearings in the affected villages before displacement of the refinery affected people. Under the above mentioned EIA regulations of 1998, any project of international importance or which may have possible trans-boundary effects must, in addition to an EIA, be accompanied by a mandatory public hearing. We request you to observe these legal requirements to avoid possible extermination of the refinery affected people. AFIEGO is ready to support the process by mobilizing the affected communities to participate.
About AFIEGO: AFIEGO is a public policy research and advocacy registered non-governmental organization whose mission is to promote good energy governance for improved livelihoods and national development for the common good in Uganda and the great lakes at large. We do this through three (3) access rights (access to information, public participation and access to justice). We live and work with communities in the oil region, including the oil refinery affected people of Kabaale.
As we submit this letter, the implementation of the RAP continues to impact negatively on the community, causing uncertainty about their future. For instance, since 2nd June 2012 (the official cutoff date), people no longer have the right to use their land freely. Even before fully compensating them, government stopped them from building houses, planting perennial crops like coffee, investing in schools, medical centers and other long term projects. In some homes, children no longer go to school because the entire community expects to be evicted any time. Besides, they can't use their land to dig and raise school fees. It is total suffering and indignity.
While there have been efforts by government to compensate and resettle the community members, the processes have been highly flawed, with some community members who rejected the low compensation rates having to resort to legal action. Thus in the absence of an EIA to properly assess the magnitude of the effects of this project, the future of the refinery affected people is not certain.
It is therefore clear that NEMA failure to use its legal mandate to ensure that an EIA is conducted before displacement of the refinery affected people is a violation of, inter alia, the right to a dignified life and a clean and healthy environment; as well as the duty to protect the country's natural resources.
In the premises therefore, we demand that an EIA be immediately conducted before the displacement of the affected people. Failure to execute your legal mandate will leave AFIEGO with no other recourse but to file a case against you- so as to move you to carry out your duties.
Thank you in advance for honouring our request. We look forward to your timely response.
Yours faithfully,
Dickens Kamugisha
Chief Executive Officer
Cc:
Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development
Minister for Energy and Mineral Development
Minister for Internal Affairs
National NGO Board
Minister for Water and Environment,
Production and Natural Resources Committee of the Hoima District Council
Environmental Officer, Hoima District,

 24th March 2014

The Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission,
Kampala‐Uganda
Dear Sir/Madam,

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.
Signed by;


• 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
• BIRUDA
• BUCAWA
• 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.

Informal settlement
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.

DORIS ATWIJUKIRE

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