Oil Refinery PAPs To Protest Over Delayed Justice

Oil refinery Project-Affected Persons (PAPs) have written to Dr. Flavian Zeija, The Principal Judge, High Court of Uganda, informing him of their planned protest on 21st February 2023 p at the Kampala High Court to show dissatisfaction with Uganda’s judiciary for the delay in deciding Civil Suit No. 059 of 2021.

The protestors will be 20 women and 10 children representing 7,118 oil refinery-affected people of Kabaale parish, Buseruka sub county, Hoima district. According to the letter to the Principal Judge, they will travel from Hoima and camp at the Kampala High Court until they get assurance 'that the High Court will stop facilitating injustice against us.'

"It is our humble plea that our case is heard and determined as a matter of urgency. The High Court, through delays, has denied us justice for nearly nine years and this has caused untold suffering to our families and children and has left us a broken and destitute society. We want justice now. We cannot wait any longer."

The Case

The affected PAPs, with support from Africa Institute for Energy Governance (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.

"At the time of filing of our court case in 2014, the government had embarked on acquiring our land in Hoima district, Buseruka sub-county, Kabaale parish. The land acquisition process commenced in 2012 and the affected households were 1,221 with 7,118 people. Of these, 3,514 were women and 1,344 were children under five (5). In addition, 181 were elderly among others,”

“Government, through the 2012 Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for the oil refinery project and through several meetings with the project-affected people (PAPs), committed to paying us and all the affected people promptly, fairly, and adequately in conformity with the 1995 Uganda Constitution. However, the government through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) failed to adhere to the commitments,”

“This was true so much so that when the Auditor General (AG) undertook a Value for Money audit of the oil refinery project in 2017, he concluded that the government had failed to pay prompt, fair, and adequate compensation to the PAPs,”

“The AG noted as follows in the 2017 annual report for the Office of the Auditor General, “There are concerns that the eight months’ compensation project which began on June 13, 2013, and was expected to have ended by February 13, 2014, is still far from completion with significant delays in compensation of over four (4) years.” Furthermore, the AG noted that 96% of the oil refinery PAPs were paid outside of the above-mentioned prescribed timeframe,”

“We the PAPs who sued the government are among the 96% who suffered delayed compensation. Notably, these delays in compensation went on until early 2018 when some of us received our compensation,”

“The AG also noted, “Unapproved rates were used for the compensation of almost all PAPs,”

“Whereas compensation commenced in FY 2013/14, the rates used were for the FY 2011/2012 which were unapproved and obsolete.” This resulted in under-compensation; even the PAPs compensated in 2018, including those who are party to the suit, were compensated using the obsolete rates,”

“The delays in compensation also resulted in unfair compensation which saw many PAPs, including those of us who are party to the said suit, failing to replace all the land we lost to the government. Many of us were only able to buy small plots of land that are infertile because these are what we could afford. This has affected our farming and family incomes, causing poverty,”

“When we filed our court case, we had hoped that the honorable court would expeditiously hear it to stop the injustices that government was perpetrating against us. Instead, the judiciary committed more injustices which continue to date. These injustices include: delays, changes in judges and transfer to different courts,”

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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