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