AFIEGO's Report Accuses EACOP Of Impoverishing Project Affected Persons

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project has, to a great extent, impoverished the Project Affected People (PAPs), a research report released November 7, 2023 by Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) reveals.

The NGO says the research was conducted between April and November 2023. Two hundred and thirty-seven (237) respondents from 31 villages, 16 sub-counties and six of the ten EACOP-affected districts in Uganda participated in the research.

The participants were drawn from districts of Hoima, Kikuube, Kakumiro, Mubende, Lwengo and Kyotera. They included EACOP project-affected persons, local council leaders, women, the elderly and cultural as well as opinion leaders.

The research assessed the impact that the EACOP project has had on the affected people’s access to land, the productivity of the replacement land that the affected people acquired after being displaced for the EACOP and the changes in income the affected people experienced after being displaced for the EACOP.

The research also assessed whether the EACOP had enhanced the affected people’s access to social services such as schools, health centres and cleans water among others. The EACOP-affected people’s access to employment opportunities in the oil and gas sector was also assessed among others.

The Chief Executive Officer of AFIEGO, Dickens Kamugisha, argues that the Ugandan government and other promoters of the oil and gas industry in Africa have made arguments that the industry is needed to promote socio-economic growth; however, this has not been the case. "Our research shows that instead of improving the socioeconomic conditions of the affected people, the EACOP led to a regression in the affected people’s lives.

We hope that the Ugandan government and other stakeholders will use this study, and others that highlight the impact of the oil and gas sector on the affected people, to promote better investment choices. It is best to invest in sectors that have a positive socio-economic impact on Ugandans.”

Amina Acola, a lawyer, says the study showed that the EACOP project developers have contravened various rights that the affected people should have enjoyed as guaranteed under Uganda’s Constitution. "Among others, the affected people’s property rights and their right to make a living were negatively impacted by the project. CSOs can support the affected people to seek justice through litigation among others,” Acola said.

Comfert Aganyira of AFIEGO explains that the study also demonstrated a failure by the EACOP project proponents to comply with key provisions under the International Finance Corporation (IFC) standards, especially standard 5 which provides for restoration of project-affected people to the same or a better position after their displacement. We hope that financial institutions will take note of this while deciding whether to participate in the EACOP project or not, she stated.

The following are some of the research findings as indicated in the report.

• That 96.6% of the EACOP-affected people who received cash compensation and bought replacement land between 2022 and June 2023 did not get land equivalent to that taken for the EACOP project.

• The above failure arose from the fact that the affected people received delayed, inadequate and unfair compensation. 78.1% of the respondents that participated in the study indicated that the EACOP compensation they received was delayed, unfair and inadequate. 

• In addition, the people indicated that the value of land in their local areas appreciated in value. For instance, 7% more affected persons indicated that an acre of land in their local areas cost between UGX 11 to 20 million after their displacement while 13.1% more people indicated that an acre of land cost more than UGX 21 million after their displacement. This made buying equivalent replacement land difficult.

• The research also found that the majority of the affected people’s replacement land was less productive than that that they owned before the EACOP. For instance, 41.4% indicated that their replacement land was of low productivity while 33.3% indicated that it was of medium productivity. Only 11.4% noted that their replacement land was productive while 3.3% indicated that their land is very productive. Changing seasons, contributed to by the fossil fuel industry, were also cited as a barrier to good crop productivity.

• In relation to crop productivity, the research found that the affected people experienced changes in crop harvests after their displacement for the pipeline. The most notable change was seen in the affected persons who used to harvest over 51kg of crops per year. A decline of 14.8% was see in the above persons.

• The research assessed the changes in income experienced by the affected people. The study established that there was a reduction in the PAPs’ income after their displacement. For instance, the number of affected persons earning an average annual income of over UGX 300,000 per year declined by 20.8% after the people’s displacement.

• The study also established that 49% of the EACOP-affected people that participated in the study obtained loans. When asked what the loans were acquired for, 65.8% of the respondents indicated that they wanted to feed their families, 28.7% indicated that they wanted to enhance their businesses and 5.4% indicated that they wanted to buy replacement land or complete their resettlement houses. Among others, access to food was difficult for the affected households due to land use restrictions placed on the affected people’s property due to the EACOP project.

• In relation to social services, the study found that 37% children of school-going age from the households that participated in the study were out of school. 21% of these were girls while 16% were boys. In addition, only 15% of the affected people that participated in the study had access to safe water.

• Further, none of the research’s respondents, majority of whom were of working age, were employed in the oil and gas sector.

Oil Project-Affected Persons Protest Over Delayed Justice

Households whose land in Hoima district was acquired for the Kabaale Industrial Park, commonly known as the oil refinery project, yesterday protested against the Ugandan judiciary’s failure to dispense them with justice. The protest took place in Hoima district.

Those whose land was compulsorily acquired by TotalEnergies for the Tilenga Industrial Area in Buliisa district also held a protest against the judiciary. The protest took place in Buliisa district.

The households filed cases in Uganda’s High Court and Court of Appeal in 2014 and 2021 respectively. The households sought court’s intervention to protect their right to receiving prompt, fair and adequate compensation that is provided for under Article 26 of Uganda’s 1995 Constitution.

Unfortunately, since filing of the court cases, the people have never received justice.

“Court was supposed to hear our case yesterday [February 9] but when we arrived at the Hoima High Court, we were informed that our case file is still at the Masindi High Court.

On November 10, 2022, however, the Masindi High Court told us not to go back to Masindi. They informed us that our case would be heard at the Hoima High Court,”  Innocent Tumwebaze, the chairperson of the Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA), says.

He adds, “To make matters worse, even if the file had been at Hoima High Court, no hearing would have taken place because the judge was absent.”

Margaret Nankya, an oil refinery-affected person, says, “Why are the courts failing poor communities? Do they want to contribute to the oil curse? If poor women’s land is taken and the women aren’t paid fair and adequate compensation, then women are condemned to poverty. This is unacceptable and courts must stop such injustices. It however looks like they are not interested in protecting us.”

John Tundulu, one of the Tilenga community observers, says, “Justice is not for the poor: this is the conclusion that the judiciary perhaps wants us to arrive at. When government sued us in 2020, the judiciary quickly heard government’s case and said that we must take the inadequate and unfair compensation that TotalEnergies was giving us for our property.

We filed an appeal against this unfair judgement in 2021. The appeal has never been fixed for hearing nearly two years later. This is despite us writing to the Deputy Chief Justice requesting that we be given justice.”

The Ugandan government sued the nine Tilenga Industrial Area-affected households that rejected TotalEnergies’ low compensation because Total acquired their land on behalf of the Ugandan government.

The Tilenga- and oil refinery-affected people have promised that after their protests in the Bunyoro sub-region, they are going to hold demonstrations at the offices of the Principal Judge and Deputy Chief Justice in Kampala before the end of this month.

“The oil-affected people must be listened to. The Ugandan government and its partners including TotalEnergies as well as China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) must walk their talk on respecting human rights.

They tell financiers and other stakeholders that they are implementing their projects in the most sustainable and human rights-compliant manner but this is far from the truth.

They are trampling on communities’ rights and institutions such as the judiciary that should be holding them accountable are only looking on,” Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, the CEO of Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), says.

AFIEGO has empowered the people since 2011 to defend their rights.

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