By Guest Writer
OPINION: Editor, in September 2022, the European Union (EU) parliament passed a resolution asking the governments of Uganda and Tanzania together with Total Energies E&P to delay the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project for at least one year.
In the resolution, the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) revealed that the $3.4 billion EACOP project is being implemented in violation of environmental and human rights standards.
The Members of the European Parliament also cited major environmental and climate risks posed by the project.
Among other challenges cited in the EU resolution includes the delayed and unfair compensation of the EACOP Project Affected Persons (PAPs).
The resolution also indicated the persecution and intimidation faced by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and human rights defenders (HRDs) who dare criticise the project, recalling that several HRDs that have been arbitrarily detained, motivating several UN Special Rapporteurs to send no less than four joint communications in the last two years on this issue.
It should be noted that in 2018, TotalEnergies commenced on processes to acquire our land. We were informed that without consulting us, government, alongside the other EACOP project developers, had decided that the EACOP would pass through our lands.
Some of our leaders told us that the EACOP is a government project and we have no right to refuse government from taking our land.
We were promised to be paid fair and adequate compensation very soon.
Our properties were assessed and cut-off dates were placed. These were placed in May and June 2019 for Greater Masaka and Bunyoro respectively.
However, since then, we have experienced untold suffering as we were stopped from using our land to grow perennial crops and to set up other developments.
Although, currently we are experiencing some relief as compensation has either been received or some of us are signing for compensation, there are emerging grievances that remain unaddressed.
Some of the EACOP affected communities are decrying over the EACOP project developers’ failure to pay us an uplift of 15% covering three years.
We have spent over three years waiting for compensation and government with the oil companines know that the inflationary pressures in Uganda have risen over the last months. Cement, water and other materials that some PAPs need to replace their houses are now more expensive. Compensation is also expected to end in 2023.
Despite this, the PAPs are paid an uplift of only two years. This is unfair and we request that the EACOP Company pays us an uplift covering the third year.
Other grievances include destruction of our water sources, small and culturally inappropriate houses, different compensation rates for the same district, failure to leave us with signed copies of compensation forms and others.
Therefore, we request that before any other progress for compensation-related activities is conducted, they should ensure that central places are put in place to address the ongoing grievances of the oil -affected communities. These places should easily be accessible by the communities.
The government should also promote an energy future for Uganda that does not rely on oil or other fossil fuels, but rather on renewable energy alternatives.
The writers are Tundulu John & Aganyira Comfort,
Oil Project Affected Persons (PAPs)
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