Kyotera, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Kyotera and Lwengo district leaders have given the government of Uganda up to August to either compensate the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project affected persons, or they block the project and victims claim for the return of their assets with costs.
The tough ultimatum was issued during a stakeholders dialogue held at Brovad Hotel in Masaka on Friday. This follows the escalating protests among PAPs who have waited for the compensation for close to three years in vain.
According to Patrick Kintu Kisekulo, the Kyotera LC V chairman, the PAPs had expected compensation in the first six months after the project rolled out in August 2018.
He further explains that the affected families are protesting the delayed compensation since the majority have been suffering for some time. He says they will be forced to block the project if the government fails to expedite the compensation plan.
Kisekulo says that his political opponents have used the delayed compensation as a tool to decampaign him. He adds that the compensation issue was politicized to confuse the affected families who have on different occasions stormed his office demanding their money.
He explains that his opponents have always alleged that he connived with the Chief Administrative Officer to use their compensation funds for his campaigns, which was false.
He says that the PAPs have been pushed so far as to resort to protesting and accusing their local leaders of doing nothing about their plight. Kisekulo noted that they are becoming stubborn leaders this time for the good of the people. He further urged Total Uganda, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), and government to have written agreements with the affected families on when to compensate them.
George William Mutabaazi, the outgoing Lwengo LC V chairperson says community dialogues without positive results regarding the compensation have always frustrated the PAPs. He says the unnecessary delays have greatly affected PAPs’ livelihoods which have turned the project into a curse. He noted that some people have died before receiving their compensation which is unfair.
Mutabazi says they are ready to rally the PAPs in Lwengo to return to their lands and utilize them if the government fails to pay them by August. He further commended the civil society groups for intervening in trying to fight for the PAPs’ rights. He noted that there are several human rights concerns increasing due to the delayed compensation of the PAPs.
The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) had promised to start compensation in December 2020 or early January 2021 which failed.
According to Didas Muhumuza, the senior engagement officer – PAU, the communication was an oversight that was not intended by the authority and they have retracted it.
He says they are aware of the frustration, but the leaders’ plan to incite the PAPs may sabotage the project yet they have reached a promising stage. Muhumuza adds that they have had several discussions with the PAPs and different Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders to highlight some human rights concerns in the oil pipeline project. However, he says they are working around the clock to ensure the compensation is expedited.
The 1,443 km crude oil pipeline is planned to pass through Hoima, Kakumiro, Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Gomba, Sembabule, Kyotera, Rakai and Kikuube districts in Uganda.
It will then proceed to Tanzania where it will cover a distance of 1,147 km through eight regions of Kagera, Geita, Shinyanga, Tabora, Singida, Dodoma, Manyara and Tanga.