Uganda Ponders Nuclear Energy Collaboration With Algeria

President Yoweri Museveni is optimistic that Uganda will collaborate with Algeria in the area of nuclear energy

The Ugandan leader was left in awe after visiting the Nuclear Research Center of Algiers on Monday during his 3-day visit to Algeria.

“I congratulate our Algerian brothers & sisters on taking the right steps in the area of Nuclear physics & energy,” Museveni said admiringly.

He explained that nuclear energy helps in the areas of medicine, agriculture, energy & propulsion among other benefits. 

“Uganda already has a nuclear energy unit and we shall collaborate with the Nuclear Research Centre here to agree on specific areas of cooperation,” he said on Monday.

The nuclear energy optimism comes at a time when Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) has signed an MoU with Sonatrach, the State Oil Company of Algeria.

The UNOC-Sonatrach deal will see Uganda work with Algeria on different oil and gas projects including the upcoming oil refinery set for construction in western Uganda.

At a press conference last week, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development announced it will begin construction of the country’s first nuclear facility in Buyende district, eastern Uganda.

For the Buyende Nuclear Power Plant, Uganda, according to reports, will partners with China National Nuclear Corporation which would assist in developing capabilities for the peaceful use of atomic energy.

"Preparation to evaluate the Buyende Nuclear Power Plant site is ongoing to pave the way for the first nuclear power project expected to generate 2,000 MW, with the first 1,000 MW to be connected to the national grid by 2031," Dr Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu, the energy minister, said in a statement.

Nankabirwa warned residents of Buyende District against selling their land to speculators who are targeting the 2031 nuclear energy power plant project worth Shs34 trillion.

"I want to call upon our people of Buyende not to rush to sell their land to speculators who would lure you with huge sums of money expecting to get a lot more as compensation from the government,” she said.

Adding: “Remain with your land and government valuers will be used as usual and the rightful owners shall be compensated,"

In December 2021, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) endorsed Uganda’s nuclear energy power plant development following a successful review of the country’s nuclear infrastructure.


Uganda Turns To Algeria To Fix Oil Refinery Gamble

President Yoweri Museveni, together with officials from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) led by Dr Ruth Nankabirwa, the minister, witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) and Sonatrach, the State Oil Company of Algeria.

Eng Dr Michael Mugerwa, the General Manager of Uganda Refinery Holding Company, signed the MoU on behalf of Uganda while Sonatrach Chairman & CEO, Toufik Hakkar signed for Algeria.

UNOC said the MoU covers oil and gas cooperation in the Upstream, Midstream (refining and petrochemicals), Downstream, capacity building, and Oil & Gas Services.

The signing ceremony was held at the El Mouradia Presidential Palace in Algiers on Sunday, 12th March 2023 as one of the many engagements Museveni had in Algeria during a three-day state visit.

Museveni said they looking at Algeria investing in our refinery. “We want to build an inland refinery. It is absolutely necessary because it will cut transport costs seeing that we are far away from the coast,” he said in a brief update conveyed on Twitter.

Uganda has struggled to secure funding for her much-preferred oil refinery set for construction in the Albertine Graben region where some estimated 6.5 billion barrels of crude oil were discovered in 2006.

Negotiations with South Korean, Russian and American investors in the past haven’t yielded anything concrete; therefore, the country remains in constant search of a developer to take on the financing of the refinery.  


Female Journalists Get Environment Reporting Training In Hoima

Female news reporters and editors from the Albertine Graben region on 11th March 2023 converged in Hoima City to undergo training aimed at improving their skills as environment reporters.

The twenty environment-enthusiastic newswomen were drawn from the districts of Hoima, Masindi, Mubende, Kiboga, Kikuube and Buliisa among others. 

The training, organized by Western Media for Environment and Conservation (WEMECO) with support from Global Green Grants Fund and other Environment conservationists, among other issues looked at how journalism can be used to conserve the environment and avert climate change.

One of the training facilitators, Leila Bbale, an editor at Spice FM, a Hoima-based radio station, highlighted that women are the most affected when the environment is damaged because of their positioning in society. 

“When water sources like wetlands and lakes are destroyed, it is the women who suffer most. When there are floods or drought because of the climatic changes, the women and children are vulnerable to the sufferings caused,” Bbale said.

She encouraged female journalists to consistently report on the issues of the environment because they can create climate change awareness through their work. 

In an interactive presentation, Precious Naturinda, who works with the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) and Uganda Community Green Radio Kiboga, highlighted the importance of women's involvement in combating environmental degradation.

Baz Waiswa, the editor of Earthfinds, an environment and extractives publication, trained the participants in the use of digital media to tell environment stories. 

He demonstrated how the participants can create their own blogs to tell community stories and the use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and TikTok among others.

Waiswa also conducted an afternoon session where he introduced the idea of using shareable podcasts to voice out the issues concerning the environment. He demonstrated how to create and set up podcasts. 

The Executive Director of WEMECO, Peter Akugizibwe Araali, encouraged female journalists to use the available media tools and skills learnt at the training to put out stories that are impactful and can influence change in the way communities engage with the environment.

He said that reporting on the environment offers female journalists opportunities that can scale them up. “There are organizations that are willing to collaborate with journalists like you. When this happens, you are able to get funding to facilitate your journalism and stories output,” he said. 

Akugizibwe said the main objective of the female journalists’ workshop was to equip participants with the knowledge and skills to enable them to understand how to deal with climate change by using new media tools like blogs, social media and podcasts.

Charles Batambuze, a member of WEMECO, and represented the WEMECO board chairperson, Ndeezi Doreen, thanked organizations that facilitated the workshop and the participants and encouraged them to put the knowledge acquired into practice.

Oil Projects Affected Persons Renew Call For Speedy Trial Of Compensation Cases

Fred Balikenda, a resident of Kirama village, in Kigwera Sub County, Buliisa district is a bitter man. His anguish stems from the discovery of oil and gas in his home district Buliisa. 

While the country is basking in the possibility of reaping billions of American dollars from the discovered oil and gas, Balikenda is counting losses and homelessness. 

When the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and the government of Uganda embarked on the development phase of the country’s oil sector, Balikenda’s land in Kirama village was identified to host an oil well. 

The process to acquire his land commenced and has since dragged on to no end leaving him distressed, bitter and broke. 

Balikenda and TotalEnergies, the operator of the Tilenga Project in Buliisa, agreed that he, and his 12 children, should be resettled at a piece of land which had been identified in Kirama. 

But years later, this hasn’t been achieved because, according to TotalEnergies, there were delays in acquiring land to resettle Balikenda. 

This has left Balikenda with no place to confidently call home because of the delays in resettling him. 

While TotalEnergies is building a house for him at a new site, the oil company has fenced off his old land leaving him to live in a cage of sorts. 

This restrictive fencing off by the French company has led to the death of his two (pregnant) pigs that have been a source of his income.

Also, because TotalEnergies has started developing his old land to prepare for the digging of the oil well, Balikenda cannot undertake any economic activity on the land. 

His children are not going to school because he has no income to facilitate their education and the family constantly hopes to be relocated. 

Balikenda is now demanding that TotalEnergies compensates him for the lost pigs and poultry, land, time and rights abused. 

TotalEnergies which is in constant dialogue with Balikenda has offered to rent him a house in Kirama village as it waits to complete the construction at the site where he is supposed to be resettled, an offer Balikenda turned down. 

The story of Balikenda is one of the many oil and gas Projects Affected Persons (PAPs) in Buliisa, Hoima and Kikuube districts have faced and live to tell, with sad faces.  

To get redress, Balikenda and other PAPs, with the help of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) have taken these matters to court, but even there, justice has not been forthcoming. 

Recently, AFIEGO and partners wrote to Dr Flavian Zeija, The Principal Judge, informing him of their planned protest showing dissatisfaction with Uganda’s judiciary for the delay in deciding Civil Suit No. 059 of 2021.

The affected PAPs, with support from AFIEGO, in March 2014, filed a case under Article 50 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution seeking redress over the violation of their constitutional rights including the right to receive prompt, fair, and adequate compensation before the acquisition or possession of their land.

And today, 9th March 2023, AFIEGO and some of the PAPs addressed a press conference in Kampala at Hotel Africana indicating that they had petitioned the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Norbert Mao, the chief justice Alfonse Owinyi Dollo and his deputy, Richard Buteera, over the delayed hearing of their compensation cases.

Through the petition, the PAPs and AFIEGO want the judiciary officials to intervene and stop the ongoing injustices caused by delayed hearing of their cases to save the oil-affected communities from further suffering. 

They also issued an ultimatum.

“Within one month from to date, if the judiciary fails to respect the people’s constitutional rights such as a right to a speedy trial, hundreds of the oil-affected persons will walk from the villages and protest at the offices of the Chief Justices, Deputy Chief Justice, Principal Judge, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Inspectorate of Government and other authorizes,” the PAPs warned.  


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