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MPs oppose compensation of Tororo-Gulu railway rehabilitation

FILE PHOTO: Railway line

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Physical Infrastructure Committee has recommended that more than 4,000 People affected by the Tororo-Gulu Railway project should not be compensated.

The MPs made the resolution on the project after considering the ministerial statement for the works and transport for financial year 2019/2020.

In the ministry of works and transport ministerial statement for financial year 2019/2020, Uganda Railways Corporation has been allocated 5 billion shillings, 2 billion shillings for partial compensation and 3 billion shillings for civil works.

However, Uganda Railways Corporation explained that the Valuation Report for the project shows that the Project Affected Persons (PAPs) should be given a total of 6.2 billion shillings as compensation.

Therefore, an additional 4.2 Billion shillings would be required to compensate all the PAPs.

The committee vice chairperson, George Wilson Kumama says that MPs have however opposed any allocation for compensation because they are “wary about compensating PAPs on an already existing railway track and reserve.”

The committee, thereby, “strongly recommends that no compensation should be made to the PAPs since the land in question (375KM) belongs to government as it falls in an already existing railway reserve.”

The committee noted that Uganda plans to rehabilitate the Tororo – Gulu railway line at an estimated cost of Euros 34.57 Million, approximately 145 billion shillings.

The railway line is being rehabilitated to provide transport services in the Northern Corridor from 2020 until probably 2039 when the Standard Gauge Railway line has been constructed along the same corridor.

It is projected that the SGR will render the Metric Gauge Lines like Tororo-Gulu useless but its rehabilitation is important because the completion of the SGR hangs in balance due to funding issues.

The Rehabilitation Project is being funded by the European Union (EU) to a tune of Euros 21.5 Million (About 90 Billion shillings) and Euros 13.07 million (About 54 billion shillings) as government of Uganda counterpart funding.

The funding from EU will cover Civil Works, Capacity building and Supervision Consultant while counterpart funding is for Civil Works of the Resettlement Action Plan and Supervision Consultant.   Rehabilitation works are expected to commence in the first quarter of FY 2019/2020; therefore, government is required to provide land and counterpart funding of Euros 13Mn during the reconstruction period 2019/2020 to 2021-2022.

The physical infrastructure committee was informed that the government of Uganda is expected pay the compensation as a precondition for the effectiveness of the EU grant. The RAP implementation is expected to commence by end of May 2019.

The project affected persons to be compensated are within the corridor of 30 Metres that is, 15 metres from either side of the centre of the existing track in the 15 districts the project will traverse. These districts include Tororo, Mbale, Soroti, Alebtong, and Gulu among others.

The committee also opposes the recommendation of a consultant (M/S Planet S.A) hired by the European Union Delegation to Uganda.

In 2013, the Planet S.A, a Greek company, was contracted to carry out “Detailed Studies for the Rehabilitation of the Tororo-Gulu Railway-Uganda”. The report was ready on 30th August 2018.

Planet S.A report recommends that the project must adhere to the World Bank Operation manual that provides for compensation for involuntary resettlement for people with or without legal rights to land for the project.  The provision is meant to consider vulnerable groups such as those who live below the poverty line, landless, children, women, indigenous groups and other disadvantaged persons.

It noted that the existing laws in Uganda, such as the Land Act 1988, Land Regulation 2004 do not provide for involuntary resettlement. Therefore, compensation for users in the railway reserve area is not acceptable based on findings of consultations with government authorities, and a review of the Land Act 1988.

It thereby recommended that the Project affected persons are merely licensees and will be compensated for their legal use of the railway land within the existing corridor and compensation will be restricted to perennial crops, trees and improvements and not land.

However, Kumama, who is also Bbaale county MP, says that the committee disagrees with the recommendation from the EU consultant on compensating the PAPs.

The Tororo-Gulu railway is projected to transport cargo for minerals, crops between Tororo to Gulu as well as transport cargo to South Sudan when business normalises there.

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