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.