Residents return to earmarked oil pipeline land

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Mr Benoit Gilbert (Total) and New Plan delegates visiting Lwengo communities before Total pulled out.

Several residents affected by the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project in Lwengo Town Council, Lwengo Rural and Ndagwe Sub-county have lost patience and returned to the demarcated areas to cultivate crops.

The decision partly stems from the delayed compensation of the affected families and lack of activity on the land because if the Coronavirus Disease (COVID19) lockdown which has impacted in their lives.

Mr Yisito Kayinga, the Executive Director- Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE), says majority of the people affected by the pipeline project did not receive any government relief.

He says this has forced the affected people to return to their land and grow maize, beans, tomatoes, sweet and Irish potatoes since they are uncertain when the pipeline activities will resume.

Mr Kayinga says: “It is unacceptable to keep the land and houses idle. Total Uganda contracted New Plan Limited to carry out the mapping and valuation exercise.”

However, government suspended the oil pipeline project in September 2019 following the collapse of Tullow-Total deal, which slowed the project.

In 2020, government entered a joint venture partnership and resumed the project. The new deal was expected to be signed early this year.

However, Energy and Mineral Development Minister, Ms Mary Goretti Kitutu Kimono, says the matter was left to the president adding that she has nothing much to comment on the matter at the moment. 

Although different Civil Society Organisations have advised the affected residents to exercise patience and wait for the compensation process, they have also asked government to openly announce its stand on the pipeline deal.

Mr Kayinga appealed to government to update the residents and their local leaders about the progress of the pipeline.

Mr Cosma Kyebanja, Vincent Kasajja and Annet Nankasi are some of the affected residents in Byanjiri Village, Kitto Parish in Lwengo Rural. They say they “could hardly feed their families in the Covid19 lockdown yet the land was idle. 

Mr George William Mutabaazi, the Lwengo Local Council 5 Chairperson, says “it will be difficult to control the Projected Affected Persons-PAPs whose land has remained idle for long since the pipeline deal flopped.

He explains that the suspension of the oil pipeline activities have since triggered mixed feelings among the affected residents.  

Mr Mutabaazi also reveals that government has not engaged the affected communities on the next course of action adding that the PAPs have to keep track of the pipeline process through regular sensitisation, which is not done.

Mr Godfrey Mutemba, the Lwengo District Environment Officer, says the residents will not be compensated for the crops they have planted on the land during the project break. 

He explains that the compensation will only cover the crops that there were recorded in the mapping and evaluation exercise.

The environment officer asks the residents to be patient and wait for New Plan and Total to resume the oil pipeline activities.

In Kyotera, Ms Agnes Namusiitwa, the Kakuuto Sub-county female councillor, says “government did not return to explain to the residents what was happening”.  

She explains that residents in six villages of Nkoni, Kiganga, Bigada, Kyakachwere, Nabigasa and Kabigindu were left in space forcing them to reuse their land.

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