The abuse of the Refinery Affected People’s rights poised to worsen, AFIEGO warns

Friday, August 15th, 2014

The abuse of the Refinery Affected People’s rights poised to worsen, AFIEGO warns

The abuse of the Refinery Affected People’s rights poised to worsen, AFIEGO warns
Press Release, 05th August 2014

Kabaale, Hoima-Uganda– The human rights abuses endured by the refinery affected people of Kabaale Parish, Buseruka Sub County-Hoima Uganda for the past two years will get a lot worse unless the families who asked for relocation and those who rejected inadequate rates of compensation currently living in isolated ghost villages are rescued immediately before disasters in form of famine, falling houses, lack of health care, education services, clean water, gangs of criminals and snakes roaming the area strike, AFIEGO warned yesterday.

“The over two years of delay by the government to adequately compensate all the oil refinery affected people in Kabaale has exposed the families remaining in the area to untold suffering, and any more delays may result into a disaster no-one can estimate the gravity before the end of 2014,” said Dickens Kamugisha, Chief Executive Officer-AFIEGO. If the government does not urgently fulfil her constitutional duty of adequately compensating all the affected people where those who want relocation are resettled in a new area with basic services such as houses, clean water, schools, health centres and roads while those who rejected unfair rates are paid fair and adequate compensation to enable them buy land elsewhere as a matter of urgency, the nightmare endured by the families over the past 2 or so years will be only the beginning. It will worsen and go out of control.

If it cannot compensate the affected people to leave the affected villages, Government should immediately restore basic services for the families especially the vulnerable groups including the over 500 women, 293 children, 170 elderly and 90 widows currently languishing in the villages with no means to access shops, water, schools, health services, no access roads and foot-passes and living at the risk of being attached by dangerous snakes and hungry dogs. “The help to these people must start now.” Micheal Businge, AFIEGO’s Bunyoro Field Coordinator, said yesterday.

“Continued lamentation of government that there are no funds to complete the compensation and relocation when the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) being implemented stops the affected families from using their land for any development and the failure to provide social/basic services to the local communities in the area is clear evidence of an oil curse and only serves to confirm the level of impunity for constitutional violations and human rights abuses amidst oil development. These deliberate violations are against Article 26 of the Constitution which protects people’s rights to property and states that the right to property can only be interfered with only after payment of fair and adequate compensation to the affected person”, Ms. Resty Namuli-AFIEGO’s legal officer, said.

The above violations have made it so far impossible for other groups to provide a lasting solution to the suffering being faced in the refinery area. In addition to going to court, AFIEGO together with the group leaders of the affected people has moved in to support the roofing of the houses of the elderly women who had started living in the open, transporting the sick to Hoima town for treatment, supporting the repair of the broken boreholes, sensitizing the people to avoid mortgaging their possible future compensation through loans, supporting the affected families who have some land outside the refinery area with fruit tree seedlings (mangoes, ovacados, guavas, oranges, pawpaws and others) and clearing foot passes from the nearest feeder roads to some households. These are not complete solutions but they are intended to mitigate the suffering and misery as we wait for the court decision to stop the government’s excesses.
Our response
As the affected people remain stranded, AFIEGO is working with the group leaders of the PAPs to identify the most vulnerable people/families and availing them with any badly needed help possible. In the last one month alone, AFIEGO has helped 31 women and children to get to health centres in Hoima for some treatment, supported a repair of a borehole, encouraged 8 families to send back their children to the nearest primary schools and persuaded other 11 families to avoid loans. AFIEGO, under her public litigation for social justice and human rights initiative is facilitating over 80 families to attend Kampala High Court hearings regarding their refinery case. We need your support to keep the people actively involved.
“Last month, AFIEGO was able to facilitate 30 affected families to attend the first hearing where the High Court ordered against any evictions of the affected people. After the case hearing, we travelled with the people back to Kabaale and visited 39 families considered to be at the highest risk. We found, the number one priority for everyone we talked to was accommodation, food, drugs, and education for children and fear for wild animals. They are already hurting as many of their children have missed the whole year of 2014 and not sure whether they will go in 2015 because the children either cannot walk long distances through the bushes to the nearest schools or they can’t walk on empty tummies as they have no food. They also can’t send the children to schools while still in Kabaale as they expect to be displaced any day. Those who risk planting short term crops such as beans and sweet potatoes are also in tears as the animals cannot allow them grow to maturity. If you visit Kabaale, the community’s suffering is beyond any imagination”

To make it worse, many of the families are being evicted from the trading centres where they have been taking refuge after running away from their falling houses located in the bushes where neighbours left them some months ago. Now, the people who got their compensation and left their houses in the trading centres have come back to take away the materials from the houses to build new ones where they shifted to. Sadly, it is mostly widows and children who are being pushed out of those houses. The current help we are giving is just a drop in the ocean” AFIEGO is currently designing projects that will enable us increase our capacity to engage with the government and other stakeholders to mitigate the human rights violations.
“While the new 2014/15 budget should give hope to provide funds to complete the compensation of the affected people, we doubt the readiness of the government to consider the refinery affected people’s polite as a priority. Already, contrary to the Constitution, last month, the parliament dominated by the ruling party MPs including the MPs from the oil region authorised the government to access half of the annual budget (over UGX7 trillion) in the first quarter of the financial year before any discussion of the budget by the House. These are signs which clearly indicate that both the executive and parliament are not about to stick to the rules of governance and without good governance, the citizens will continue to be sacrificed by those in authority” Dickens said.

AFIEGO will continue to work to not only ease the current suffering witnessed in Kabaale “we will also work to ensure that a new law is put in place to address the injustice in compensation across Uganda” our target is to ensure that every affected citizen across the nation should be guaranteed prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation and where this fails, the court system should be accessible, reliable and affordable for everyone to access for redress with confidence and trust.

“in terms of numbers, more than a third of the affected people are still languishing in the ghost villages of Kabaale, over 78 children between the ages of 3 to 17 have missed going to school for the 2014, 53 families have no houses you can call home and no food. Mr. Kamugisha said.

AFIEGO (Africa Institute for Energy Governance) has been operating in Kabaale, Buseruka-Hoima and the Albertan Graben a whole since, 2007. We also work in the rest of the country building the capacity of communities, institutions and influencing policies to work for the citizens. The commencement of the oil refinery development process through land acquisition in Kabaale made it inevitable for us to work with the communities in the area. We are using experiences and lessons from related projects to ensure that our efforts produce maximum results for the affected people.

Media and other line staff contacts
Patience Akumu (communications-Kampala): + 254-414-571597,
Resty Namuli (Legal education officer): +254-414-571597,
Micheal Businge (Hoima): +256-773-769450,