Petition by the communities Affected by the interconnection power projects,Uganda-Kenya and Uganda-Rwanda projects.April 2012

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Petition by the communities Affected by the interconnection power projects,Uganda-Kenya and Uganda-Rwanda projects.April 2012

21st April 2012

The Honorable Minister, Republic of Uganda

Re: A Petition by the Communities Affected by the Interconnection Power Projects, Uganda-Kenya and Uganda-Rwanda Projects,

Introduction

  1. Dear Hon. Minister, we wish to thank you for giving us an opportunity to meet you and more so, thank you for the dedicated service you have provided and continue to provide to our country since the time of your appointment as a minister of energy. As citizens, we are proud of your service and we pledge our continued support to your work. We also recognize that the opening of Bujagali dam to the grid is another huge milestone for the ministry and the country at large.

The power project: The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) through the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) is implementing two key initiatives aimed at guiding the development and trade of power in the NELSAP region – The Nile Basin Initiative Regional Power Trade Project (RPTP) and the NELSAP Power Program. In Uganda the project is being implemented through the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd, with two projects: the Uganda sections of the 172 km, 220 kV Mbarara-Mirama Hills (Uganda) – Shango (Rwanda) Electricity Interconnection Project and the 256 km, 220 kV Jinja (Uganda) – Lessos (Kenya) Electricity Interconnection Project.

2. While we support the above power projects, we are concerned about the manner in which the project developers, particularly, the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) is implementing the project.

The objective of this petition is to present to you the problems we are facing as a result of UETCL’s failure to follow the national laws and respect our rights as the project affected communities, and we request you to use your mandate as our representative to ensure that our problems are addressed.

3. THIS PETITION is a product of an assessment that was carried out in 7 districts of Ntungamo, Mbarara, Jinja, Iganga, Mayuge, Bugiri and Tororo where the above project is being implemented by UETCL. The assessment was conducted to document PAP’s support and concerns about the project. More so, the petition is also a product of 3 regional dialogues that took place in Ntungamo for Mbarara and Ntungamo, Iganga for Jinja, Mayuge and Iganga and then Tororo for Bugiri and Tororo affected people and their local leaders. The intent here was to validate the assessment findings, form regional committees to provide leadership to the affected people in each project area and finally generate agreed regional recommendations for the National Policy Makers/Stakeholder forum. The National Policy Makers/stakeholder Forum (NPMF) took place in Kampala at Fairway Hotel on 22nd March 2012. It brought together key selected stakeholders including central government, Parliament, Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), district leaders (LC5, RDCs, etc), local communities/project affected people, religious and cultural leaders, civil society, regional bodies/Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), NELSAP and others. The assessment, the regional dialogues and the forum were all co-organized and facilitated by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) and the Uganda National Discourse Forum (UNDF), and partners in the affected communities. The forum was officially opened and closed by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD). Once again, the overall goal of the above initiatives was to ensure that all stakeholders (government, project developers, affected people, local leaders and others) identify and examine the project related problems facing the PAP and mutually agree on how to address them/provide solutions.

4. WE DO APPRECIATE that the ongoing government’s electricity development initiatives present tremendous opportunities for development; however, we are concerned about impunity being meted on us by UETCL staff involved in the project implementation processes.

6. WE ARE CONCERNED about the lack of transparency in the project processes regarding people’s rights such as compensation, resettlement and others. Indeed, the failure of UETCL/project developer to respect the affected people constitutes the single biggest challenge undermining the many possible benefits of the proposed project.

8. WE OBSERVE that areas such as Busoga and others that host the Owen falls and Kiira dams which have been the source of over 95% of Uganda’s electricity for the last 40 or so years to day remain the poorest regions in the country. This makes such projects rather irrelevant to the citizens.

9. WHILE WE TAKE NOTE of the efforts of UETCL in taking the project forward, we observe a number of areas where UETCL is failing and thus impacting on our lives and survival negatively.

We are a law abiding citizens all what we are doing is to call upon government to implement her own laws that guarantee and protect our our rights. Article 26 of the Constitution together with other enabling laws including the Electricity Act, the Land Act and the Land Acquisition Act clearly provide for our rights to property and how such property can be taken away by the government/local government for national development. The following are actions of UETCL regarding the above power projects which are violating our rights in as far as the above laws are concerned:

  • Secrecy: The communities where UETCL is implementing the project do not have accurate and timely information regarding the project. The UETCL staff who do evaluation and assessments just go to individual households with their documents written in English and tell people just to sign and no tell or discuss with any other person.
  • Intimidation: UETCL is using threatening language to intimidate the poor People (PAP) who don’t have the necessary information about the project and their rights to sign compensation documents which they don’t understand the implications. They tell them to sign or else the government would take the property without any compensation because the law allows it.
  • Ignorance about the laws and policies: While its common law that ignorance of the law is no defense, we think, it is against public policy for UETCL/government to use laws and policies which the local communities don’t understand. People don’t know anything about the laws which provide and protect their rights and therefore live at the mercy of companies who are interested in profits rather than public good.
  • Poverty: Most of the people in the project areas are poor to equitably negotiate with companies such as UETCL for a right compensation. To make it worse, UETCL is taking the advantage of poverty by effecting compensation payments during difficult days such as Easter, Christmas or when children are going back to school. As a result, the affected people are compelled by conditions of need and poverty to accept such payments even when they are not happy.
  • Low Compensation rates: UETCL is using low rates to compensate the affected people. In some districts such as Mbarara, UETCL used rates of Isingiro district to compensate Mbarara people which resulted into unfair compensation because Mbarara property is more expensive than Isingiro. This is also irregular.
  • Discriminatory compensation: UETCL is awarding different rates on the basis of know who. Poor people are given less than the people who are considered rich and well connected to government.
  • Late payment of compensation and failure to consider inflation effects: At the moment, UETCL has no specific time frame within which evaluation, assessment and compensation payments to the PAP must be effected. Payments take 2 or more years and when its done, they don’t consider inflation effects.
  • Lack of ERA Offices and Electricity Dispute Tribunals (EDT) in the districts: While the law allows any person/people affected by UETCL actions to petition ERA or appeal to EDT, such services/offices are not in any of the affected districts. So, any person aggrieved who wants to challenge UETCL must come to Kampala where ERA and EDT offices are located. Most of the affected people cannot affordable this and as a result, it leaves PAP at the mercy of UETCL and her informal purported resolution mechanisms (sub county resolution committees) which are always biased against people. And there are also lacking in most of the affected areas.
  • Un-affordability of traditional courts: In absence of ERA and EDT offices to provide redress to the aggrieved, the affected people are expected to go to traditional courts for justice. However, the poor affected communities/people cannot afford the expensive and technical traditional courts. This is a violation of people’s right to justice.
  • Lack of involvement by the local leaders: UETCL does not involve leaders such as district, Sub County, parish and others in the exercise.
  • Stopping the affected people from using their property before resettlement or payment of compensation: once UETCL has identified and assessed the property, they immediately tell the affected person/people not to do any further development on the said property. As result, people, for example who hard started building cannot complete their houses and others cannot use their land for cultivation. As noted above, most of the UETCL exercises whether its assessment, compensation payments, etc take years and the people’s capacity to challenge such practices is lacking because of lack of information, lack of ERA and EDT offices in the communities, un-affordable court system and others, this is sinking people into more poverty and misery, food insecurity, etc.
  • UETCL make affected people to sign but does not leave behind any copy to the affected person: in some cases, UETCL makes people sign for files and thereafter, take them away leaving no copy to the property owner. This creates suspicion among the PAP that UETCL is doing it to change the records in the process because 2 or more years which UETCL take to complete the process is enough for people to forget.
  • Notice and marks to the property: While the law provides that a developer/licensee must mark the land/property he or she wants to take and give notice to the affected person, UETCL is not giving these notices. And its being abused. For example, in Ntungamo where UETCL plans to build a power station, the UETCL staff went and paid the land owner without giving him a notice specifying the exact part of the land they wanted. After paying, they entered the land in his absence and fenced off six acres in the middle of his cattle farm which has rendered the entire land useless. The person is planning to go to court.
  • Lack of transparency by UETCL: UETCL is isolating communities/people using its individual disclosures which deny people an opportunity to speak and negotiate together to strengthen their voice to bargain for good compensation. UETCL is not open with information, payment time and others.

11. IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE CONCERNS, we the affected people, through this petition, take this opportunity to ask you to do the following for us:

a) Use up to date and current rates only: Direct UETCL to use up to date and current rates of the specific affected districts for any compensation regarding the above project.

b). Fix time for up dating compensation rates: Parliament should use her oversight powers to ensure that all districts always put in place up to date compensation rates before every end of March of each year as the law provides.

c). Time frame for paying compensation: use your oversight powers to ensure that government put in place a time frame within which a person’s property is assessed and compensation paid. This time should not exceed four (4) months and any delay beyond the period of 4 months should attract interest.

d). Direct UETCL to always give written notice and copies of assessment to the affected people: All PAPs should always be given a written notice with a sketch of the property, and a copy of any document where a PAP puts his or her signature.

e). Put in place assessment and compensation regulations: Parliament should use its oversight powers to ensure that the government puts in place regulations for the assessment and compensation as required by section 20 of the Land Acquisition Act, cap 226. No project developer should have a say on a property where compensation has not been paid.

f) Establish ERA offices in the affected districts: Government should establish ERA branch offices in each affected district at least to last until the end of a project to ensure effective regulation of licensees and easy access to justice to the PAP.

g). Establish Electricity Disputes Tribunals (EDT): Government should establish EDTs in the respective districts affected by the above power projects to enable people dissatisfied with ERA’s decisions to access affordable justice.

h). Affirmative action for the affected people: Government should design and integrate an affirmative action to enable PAPs to access affordable electricity as a reward for the inconvenience suffered and their support of the electricity projects.

i). Ensure participation of the affected people in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes: The above projects should be based on EIAs where people especially the affected

communities are involved and final reports have been translated into relevant local languages and distributed widely to the affected.

j). Sensitization of communities by the government: Government should educate and sensitize people on laws and policies to enable people know and protect their rights for development. UECTL should also sensitize and provide accurate and timely information to the project affected people from the beginning up to the end of the project.

k). Investigate the actions of UETCL regarding the above projects: Parliament should urgently investigate the actions of UETCL in the assessment and compensation processes regarding the above interconnection power projects to stop the ongoing violation of rights of the affected people.

Conclusion: Once again, we all support the project but all what we want is for the developers to stop violating our rights and urgently address the injustices their actions have occasioned on us.

We Thank You.

For God and My Country.

Signed by 189 project affected people from 7 districts.