The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) has slammed as unfair and malicious a report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) that people affected by companies developing oil projects in Uganda have lost their land and livelihoods without fair compensation.
In their report titles: “Our Trust is Broken: Loss of Land and Livelihoods for Oil Development in Uganda,” HRW accuses TotalEnergies of displacing families in five districts of Uganda allegedly causing them devastating impacts on their livelihoods from the land acquisition process.
The report adds that despite numerous public statements, policies and plans from TotalEnergies and its subsidiaries like the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) to identify and mitigate negative impacts in the project, the situation on the ground for many families who are losing land is grim.
“The land acquisition process has been marred by delays, poor communication, and inadequate compensation. Households are much worse off than before. Many expressed anger that they are still awaiting the adequate compensation promised by TotalEnergies and its subsidiaries in early meetings in which company representatives extolled the virtues of the oil development.”
Adding: “Many families, particularly along the pipeline corridor said that they were not being offered the option of replacement land and instead were pressured to accept cash settlements that were below the cost to replace land. For those living in the Tilenga oilfields who have withstood the pressure and insisted on replacement land in line with international standards, have had their land expropriated through the Ugandan courts that have deposited compensation funds in lieu of replacement lands. Those families, who have purchased replacement land with their compensation, have typically bought less land, with poorer soil quality, located farther away, and with land costs steadily increasing in many of the areas of proposed oil development, partly due to land speculation.”
Now, PAU says the report is biased and follows the pattern of similar attempts to discredit Uganda’s national programme on grounds that are not based on available information or engagement with Ugandan institutions.
The Authority adds that even where detailed responses are provided as admitted in the report, facts are ignored and replaces with a false narrative that the oil and gas developments are bad for Uganda’s national interest, pose a danger to the environment and should be defunded.
Mr Ali Ssekatawa, the Director Legal and Corporate Affairs at the PAU, says Uganda’s resettlement and compensation policies are a model in the region and meet the highest standards in the world.
He says the more balanced situation which the report fails to give fair treatment is that Uganda is working to build a one-of-a kind oil and gas sector based on the highest standards of care and focused on creating lasting value for its people
“From the project’s conception, the world’s leading experts have been working to create a project that seeks to limit impact on the environment and mitigate against the effects of climate change while also seeking to harness the significant economic opportunity that this project provides the country which has the possibility to transform the economic futures of millions of East Africans. These aspects, and all the realities of the socio-economic impacts the project brings, are unfairly ignored by the HRW report,” Mr Ssekatawa responds.
“We would like to invite anyone who has questions about compensation to come and see for themselves what is being done. The legal action taken by activists in France, and such reports as the one issued by Human Rights Watch are a distraction and it will be shown to be frivolous once all the facts are known. We ask the public to ignore the HRW report and treat it as malicious and misguided,” he adds.
Uganda’s Albertine Graben region has been known since the 1920s to have potential for petroleum. The first commercial discovery was confirmed in 2006 and approximately 1.4 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil is estimated to be in the present area which lies in Bunyoro region on Uganda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
More than $10b being invested in the joint venture will be used to develop several upstream facilities for the Tilenga and Kingfisher projects in Buliisa and Nwoya and Kikuube districts respectively as well as for building of the 1,445km East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) from Lake Albert (Mwitanzige) in Uganda’s mid-western Hoima district to the Port of Tanga at Chongileani in the neighbouring Tanzania, according to Mr Ssekatawa.