By Ireen Twongirwe
It’s important to note that Uganda is a 3rd world country and most of the citizens are vulnerable. Having this in mind, it means that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer for this case therefore, the vulnerable will continue to suffer till end of the world.
According to research, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project which will start off in 2022 in Uganda which will displace about 14,000 households and their property. In this include women, elderly, men, disabled, girls, boys, pregnant mothers who are very delicate to move in this situation.
It’s clear that the oil companies, government leaders and other relevant stake holders promised the affected persons to be compensated for their grabbed land but even now, they haven’t been compensated.
Further, rural women face particularly strong obstacles to their control over and use of land. They often do not have the same level of access to extension services and other forms of support as men.
The risk of losing their land can also discourage women from investing in it, making land less productive. It’s clear that when women have access to assets, it increases their ability to start and grow businesses by giving them collateral they need to secure credit, it also allows them to invest in their families, changing outcomes for their children.
In addition, the Ministry of Land, Urban Housing and Development (MLUHD) drafted a copy of the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy (LARRP) aimed at addressing the challenges related to the legal and institutional frameworks governing both compulsory and voluntary land acquisition to protect affected people against risks of impoverishment and increased vulnerability. But this had never been effective and so they continue to live in a night mare.
However, it’s important to note that vulnerable women are still facing challenges in accessing land due to the absence of land laws/policy.
Land valuation irregularities
There are irregularities in the valuation and disclosure of compensation rates. Compensation assessment (valuation) challenges due to a lack of policies, guiding principles and standards for the processes and methods used to value lands, structures, crops, business operations, and other property. More so, cut off dates.
The affected communities were stopped from using their land since 2018 and 2019 when government placed a cut-off date. They were stopped from growing key income-generating crops such as perennial crops and any development activities like building temporary structures before being compensated.
In addition, Unfair and inadequate compensations to the Project Affected Persons (PAPs) who have been displaced. Unfair compensation seldom allows a PAP to replace his or her assets affected by land acquisition. This is because most the affected persons do not know how to read and write.
There is also limited understanding by affected community members of the legal requirements, procedures, processes and rights under compulsory land acquisition implying increased vulnerability with individuals, families and communities becoming prone to misinformation, speculation and deception thereby getting highly exposed to manipulation, violations and abuse.
There is need to promote gender equality and equity. Involve women in community consultations and negotiations on resettlement but engage with men and women separately to develop resettlement and livelihood restoration packages to compensate for impacts of displacement, recognizing the differing ways in which women and men hold and use their lands and recourses and the fact that women can find it difficult to make their needs known in some cultures.
More so, the affected communities should be adequately informed and consulted on all matters that affect them and will participate in decision-making related to the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation phases of the land acquisition and resettlement activities.
This will include providing access to appropriate advice on resettlement options and livelihood restoration to ensure that they understand their rights, responsibilities and options in regard to land acquisition.
Further, the government should avoid acquisition of public places like school and markets and also protected areas like forest reserves and water bodies.
Lastly, there is urgent need to sensitize and empower vulnerable women, men on the ongoing project so that they should not again sign documents they don’t understand in the way of taking away their properties.
In a nutshell, I call upon oil companies and the involved government leaders to provide adequate compensation to the affected persons before they start off oil exploitation. And to the Ugandans especially those affected to remain vigilant towards this project.
For God and my country,
Ireen Twongirwe is the Executive Director, Women for Green Economy Movement Uganda. (WoGEM Uganda)