By Spy Uganda
Kampala: The delayed process to compensate communities who are currently affected by the East African Crude Oil Pipeline-EACOP project in the affected districts of the greater Masaka sub-region has triggered mixed reactions and controversy.
The project is veiled with exaggerated expectations and fears among the affected persons, who are now waiting for the government to compensate them for the loss of their properties that are positioned within the corridor of the planned East African Crude Oil Pipeline.
Some people from the affected communities have expressed their dismay about the project saying the delay has cost them a lot which won’t be compensated by the government.
”We won’t eat the Oil, our families have been starving since this process began and the government won’t compensate our family for all we have lost in the name of the oil pipeline” one of the locals who preferred anonymity said.
Paulicio Ssonko, a member of a local Resettlement Committee in Sembabule district noted that several groups of project-affected persons-PAPs have got different understanding and insights about the project, which he said was created by the implementers who lacked coherence in their communications.
Districts including, Lwengo, Sembabule, Kyotera, and Rakai are part of the ten districts through which the proposed pipeline will pass to connect the oil wells in the Albertine region of Uganda towards the refinery at Tanzania’s port of Tanga. At least 1,901 people out of a total of 3,792 persons who will be affected in the route opening are residents within the four districts of greater Masaka, in which the East pipeline was demarcated to pass.
Ssonko noted that the companies that carried out the evaluation of PAPs and demarcation of the pipeline route were not consistent in the messages and guidelines they gave to communities, especially in regards to the required portion of land and the cutoff date for utilization of the land that will be taken up. Many people, according to Ssonko, abandoned chunks of their land after the demarcation and are now demanding compensation.
In April this year, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania signed three agreements paving the way for the construction of the pipeline, expected to be completed in 2025.
However, human rights organizations said pipeline construction will displace up to 10,000 people, who are not being adequately compensated.
Sewanyana Livingstone, the head of the Foundation for Human Rights organization, said locals are not being heard.
“Of course, the population along the pipeline are interested in compensation. Because they were displaced; they were not heard; they are not part of the negotiation. We are trying in our follow-up activities to see how (French energy company) Total can bring them on board. But at the moment, they seem to be excluded,” Livingstone said.
According to Chen Zhugobia, president of CNOOC’s Uganda branch, very few people in their areas of jurisdiction are yet to be compensated.
“We have already compensated most of the people related to the land. And from my memory, only about 6 households are not compensated,” Zhugobia said.
However, Engineer Herbert Mugizi, the Senior Petroleum Engineer at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, said some of the inconsistencies are a result of procedural interruption of the project activities which occurred in 2019 adding that the government and all project implementing partners currently working out of modalities fixing all the cited gaps, towards ensuring the project moves on as intended without any encumbrances, and that the government will listen and address all public fears regarding the project.
Upon completion, the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline will be the longest in the world, carrying 230,000 barrels of oil per day from Ugandan oil fields to Africa’s east coast.