By Guest Writer
OPINION: Oil developments in the Albertine region have come with so many human rights violations.
The violations have been reflected through delayed compensation for persons affected by oil projects, land grabbing, environmental degradation and difficulties in accessing justice in courts of law.
While land and property rights are vital to development, the reality remains that in many parts of Uganda, these rights are routinely violated, denied and given insufficient protection and enforcement during implementation of lucrative government projects.
This has been evident in government compulsory land acquisition and other forms of land transactions.
Project host communities have been left out in decision making, formulation of land policies and many other associated land rights.
This situation, however, has been brought to light by the discovery of oil and gas in the Albertine region.
In 2012, the oil refinery project affected persons were compulsory displaced from their ancestral land to pave way for the oil refinery which is yet to be constructed after a decade but ‘Most of these people accepted the little money out of frustration and the people who opted for physical relocation got their houses in 2018 (in camps like household environment), and they were not compensated for that time.
Others are still in court waiting for justice since they filed their case in 2014 against the government for prompt, fair and adequate compensation as provided by law.
Whereas the law under article 26 of the constitution provides for citizenry right to own land and circumstances how the government can compulsorily take that land for public interest, this provision has long been ignored because of ignorance of affected communities.
The government has taken advantage of the ignorance to delay compensation, order insane cut-off dates and force many people to accept low compensation rates for their land.
Land rights, the communities continue to suffer other rights like environmental rights, access to information and other resource rights.
With the continued oil project developments especially the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) not in isolation of kingfisher and tilenga projects, local communities will continue to suffer untold injustice, they will continue to lose their land, suffer unfair and delayed compensation, absolute compensation rates, intimidation by companies and government officials unless the most vulnerable people including girls, women and youth are empowered with information to defend their rights.
We appeal to the government, Uganda law society, Justice law and order, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to work towards ensuring respect for human rights to avoid the oil curse in Uganda.
To achieve this, they must go back to communities and empower directly affected communities on their human, environment and other resource rights so that they themselves can defend them and decide the development paths of their communities and Uganda at large.
There must be a meeting of mind for the government, local communities, local leaders, and agencies to come together and work out a lasting solution for oil communities’ rights.
The author is Ayesiga Brian, a youth champion in Hoima,and Programs Coordinator of Youth for Green Communities (YGC).
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