“It is the greatest that government has done for us since we were informed of being affected by the oil refinery project 2012,” says Mr Julius Ochokdhogu.
He speaks to Kazi-njema News while in his garden planting beans down the valley, some 300 metres away from his home in Kyakabooga resettlement village. Mr Ochokdhogu along with his family members says, he is now sure of land security and the fear to establish long term enterprises has vanished. He has started planting trees that he feared for all the four years of resettlement without a land title.
“We did not know the actual owner of this land. We thought that anytime government would change its mind and say – vacate. But now with the title in my hand, I am sure this land is mine,” adds Mr Ochokdhogu.
Contrary to the days before land title issuance on May 19, 2022, when he feared to plant perennial crops like cassava and coffee, he has stated implementing long term plans.
Mr Ochokdhogu and his family missed a lot in the four years when he was without any land ownership proof in the resettlement, seven years when he vacated the 29 square kilometre oil refinery land before resettlement.
Light at the end of the tunnel
The 42-year-old father of eight has now identified the need to prepare to tap into the oil industry in his capacity through the supply of goods and services.
“I have started planting cassava to boost my food security and income. I am also planting trees for future investment because of a lot that is anticipated to change due to our adjacency to key oil projects. We missed a lot but I think it is not yet too late. I have a 4.56-acre piece of land with its certificate of title in my hands,” he says.
Mr Ocokdhogu is working to expand his settlement from the resettlement area to the farmland for convenience given that his family has grown.
“I am planning to build houses for my growing up children here on the farmland but I might also decide to vacate the other houses and completely resettle myself here for convenience and get an environment for income generating projects,” he says.
Ms Christine Afoyorwoth, too, says she was highly amused when she saw the Minister of State for Energy and Mineral Development, Peter Lokeris, hand over the certificates of land titles to Project Affected Persons (PAPs).
Mr Sadam Tekakwo, the Kyakabooga village chairman, too, has credited the government for the land title issuance saying that the community questions about land security have vanished.
According to him, land title issuance has sent a signal that thought late, impending promises like a health centre and improving water supply services will be fulfilled.
“It was not possible to borrow money from anybody because we never had assurance and ownership but now I can decide to mortgage my land and do business,” he said.
Ms Grace Gipatho, is also happy that the family is secure on land though she expressed the need to further sensitise men to avoid unnecessary mortgaging or selling the land since the land title especially for her case indicates the husband’s name alone.
Mr Salvatore Opar says with assurance of land tenure, he has started utilising his 2.5-acre-piece of land to buy more land before the land price soars further in the region.
The PAPs including Innocent Tumwebaze say with the land title achievement, he does not regret having chosen resettlement against cash compensation basing on experience of cash abuse by some PAPs who chose it.
The long journey to land title certificate achievement
Of course, the government continued promising that land titles and other packages were to come soon and progress was being made saying it was a process not an event. However, the PAPs have attributed the success to many factors without excluding multiple petitions to different government organs.
Mr Innocent Tumwebaze credits Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and government leaders for continuously encouraging them to use legal means to seek justice.
“Sometimes we thought of resorting to violence but CSOs that kept closer to us discouraged violent methods. Government leaders also warned that we would spoil everything if we went violent,” he says.
Lessons from Kyakabooga Resettlement Village after land title issuance
Many PPAs who spoke to Kazi-njema news said they have been impressed to see that the mistakes made whose effects are still reflected in their life have been corrected during land acquisition for subsequent oil projects.
Mr Christopher Opio, the Coordinator for the Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA), urges government to continue improving even on impending issues like delayed compensation that have been evident on the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.
“Issues like distribution of food to PAPs when compensation delays are evident on the Tilenga and EACOP PAPs contrary to our situation. I feel happy when those people are not taken through our experience,” says Mr Opio.
“People affected by the Tilenga, Kingfisher and EACOP projects who chose resettlement have their houses built in places of their own choice contrary to ours. I have no doubt that it is because of our petitions that government avoided the same in subsequent projects,” he says.
Mr Opio also identifies the need for community members to always team up to defend their rights and learn to seek support from relevant government offices and CSOs relevant to their situation.
Despite impending grievances from the PAPs including a court case by few who were not satisfied with the compensation rates, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Mr Peter Lokeris, praises Kyakabooga resettlement area as beautiful as compared with none of its similar in the country.
While speaking at a community engagement in the Kingfisher Development Area last month, Mr Samuel Mugisa, the Social Affairs Coordinator at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), said the government is determined to work towards ensuring that all the grievances and needs of the oil project affected people are respected.
“As government, we shall never ignore community grievances and needs. We want meaningful participation and perception of the oil industry by the host communities and Ugandans at large,” he said.
The oil refinery project affected 7,148 persons of whom 73 households comprising of 1,253 persons were resettled to Kyakabooga resettlement village about 10 kilometres away from the acquired oil refinery land.
At least 127 of 133 land titles have been handed over to the respective persons for both the farmland and the house built for the resettled family or individual.
The remaining six had some minor issues including missing or lacking national identification cards – a need for the certificate of title to be issued by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
This feature has been pieced up by Kazi-njema News in partnership with Hoima Caritas Development Organisation (HOCADEO) – a development of Hoima Diocese.