Opinion:Since the Ugandan government and the oil companies commenced the process of acquiring land for oil activities in Bunyoro region and Greater Masaka in 2010, the oil host communities have never been happy.
This is because the land that was acquired from them was forcefully taken. Article 26 of the constitution, clearly indicates that’ No person shall be compulsorily deprived of property except where there is prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation, prior the acquisition of the property.
During the acquisition of land, the government did not make use of the constitution but rather forced the oil host communities to take up the low compensation rates not equivalent to the property assessed. People that knew about their legal rights, are still seeking justice over their undervalued property.
Besides, undervaluation of property, the oil project has also become a menace to wildlife as there are some cases of human-wildlife conflicts rising up especially in the Tilenga host communities. It was reported that some people especially children have been killed by elephants from Murchison falls National park, a case that has been so rare prior the project.
On July 13, 2023, Total Energies abandoned the two oil wells within the ionic Murchison falls National park which is one of the fragile ecosystem that must be protected as it attracts a significant number of tourists to Uganda and contributes to over $1.6 billion in revenue annually.
With human and environmental violations revealed by the human rights activists, it is good that over 25 financial institutions that have been supporting the oil projects ruled out. For-instance in the month of May 2023, standard chartered bank and Sumitomo Mitsui refused financing Ugandan oil pipeline.
The withdraw of these financial institutions from supporting oil projects, has put the government on pressure to build more bilateral relations as a way of acquiring funds for the on-going oil project activities. Recently, President Museveni was asking the president of Iran for help with technology in the oil refinery and petrochemical production.
It is tremendously bad that the president of Iran together with Norway Ambassador committed themselves to support Uganda’s oil industry on top of the challenges that the project is imposing onto people and the sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands and national parks.
I therefore plea countries and financial institutions especially the Chinese government still investing huge sums of money into detrimental fossil fuel projects to stop because the project is not environmental friendly. The financial flows should be invested in renewable energy that is clean, inexhaustible, environmental friendly and sustainable.
Lastly, I call upon the Ugandan government to respond to the oil host communities’ concerns. It is not that the oil affected persons are opposing the development of the country but they need their concerns addressed. Let the oil project be viewed as a blessing not a curse to some people because no one hates development. For God and My Country.
The author is Hildah Nsimiire, a researcher at the African Institute for Energy Governance.
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