By Guest Writer

Dear editor. I was born in Kabaale parish, Buseruka sub county way back in the 90s. Many people in Uganda might not be aware of Kabaale-Buseruka and what is taking place in the Albertine region particularly where oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities are taking place.

Before my community were displaced in 2012 to pave a way for the construction of an oil refinery, we hardly lacked food neither would any of my neighbour lack what to eat.

I did not also grow up seeing members of my community buy food apart from exchanging food for fish from Lake Albert.

One might be wondering why all over a sudden I am now complaining about the lack of food. I know some of you are aware that in 2012 government of Uganda through Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development acquired 29 sq kilometer of land displacing about 7,118 people from 13 villages. The compensation and resettlement process of the PAPs of course took long-time with others being resettled in 2018 after waiting nearly for seven years.

With the above said, let me now address myself on the point of the common term “the Dutch disease”. Following government’s decision to make Kabaale an industrial park, land started selling like a hot cake and almost all the families surrounding the proposed industrial park have sold part of their land if not all to land speculators. One may easily say that these people are selling their own land and what is the problem with that.

Well, it’s their land and there is no problem selling it, however, the social issues that come with it affects everyone including those who didn’t sell.

Recently, when I was chatting with fellow youth in Nyakasenene trading center, I posed a question “people why are we selling out our land to these visitors”.

It is not surprising that I got the obvious answer, that man we are going to be employed by these oil companies that are coming and we also need to start some businesses to target the people who are coming here and proceeds from the oil sector.

Honestly speaking, my heart was grieving until I left that place to go home. It was from this point that I recalled that we are bound to be eaten up by the Dutch disease.

When you go to most of these areas surrounding the proposed industrial park, no matter what time, you will find a lot of people especially the young people around the trading centers just seated waiting for opportunities which has not come up to day from the time they started waiting for it.

Worse noting is that my fellow youth have sold off their land to buy boda-bodas and start retail shops which unfortunately do not leave to see its anniversary.

The local leaders who should be helping to guide the people to continue with their traditional economic activities or improve on them, are rather fuelling the situation by saying “tuli’mukintu” literally meaning that we are in things, jobs are going to come and we are going to be rich.

On June 19 and 21, 2019 during the Kingfisher environmental and social impact assessment, we were informed by CNOOC that they will directly employ between 1,000 and 2,000 people which number include both locals and foreigners or experts.

In my village, we are approximately 700 households with an average of 6-7 people per family which clearly shows that we cannot all get employed by the companies.

The other thing is that majority of my village mate if not all do not have the required skills by the companies to work. This means that the future of the young people in these areas are at a risk if immediate interventions are not sought to help them change their mindset from waiting to be employed by the oil companies.

With the above said, I appeal to the local government authorities particularly in the oil project affected districts to come up and help the vulnerable communities before the whole population become squatters and a burden to the oil host communities.

Government should improvise means on how they can add value to their land instead of selling it to avoid future thugs, street kids and other social challenges in our society.

The people especially the youth should be helped to form self-help groups through which they could be equipped with entrepreneurial skills, life skills, home based economics, improved farming methods among other things to improve their income other than waiting for the opportunities in the oil and gas which some people are already enjoying.

I also recommend that government should compensation and resettlement of project affected persons are done in shortest way possible to avoid loss of livelihoods.

The framework on prompt, fair and adequate compensation should be put in place so that the people do not wait to be compensated for over seven years like it was evidenced with my community.

In addition, while designing the resettlement action plan (RAP), government or the developer should set aside a budget to cater for psychosocial support of the project affected persons in the aftermath of the resettlement process to help them cope up with the new place to avoid looking at government projects as an enemy.

The author is Christopher Opio, Program Coordinator Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA) Kabaale-Buseruka, Hoima.

Disclaimer: We as UG Reports Media LTD we welcome any opinion by any one if it’s of a constructive use to the Development of Uganda. All the expressions and opinions in this write-up are not of UG Reports Media LTD but for the author of the article.

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