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Civil Society Find Gaps in Oil Land Acquisition Framework

The appeal comes barely two months after oil exploration giants Total, CNOOC and Tullow developed Ugandas Albertine Graben land acquisition and resettlement framework bringing the country another step closer to exploiting its vast oil reserves.
14 Feb 2017 13:06
Oil rig operators hired by Tullow Oil in the Albertine Graben.

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Civil society organizations are pushing for a legal framework to guide land acquisition, compensation and resettlement of project affected persons especially within the Albertine Graben.

The appeal comes barely two months after oil exploration giants Total, CNOOC and Tullow developed Uganda's Albertine Graben land acquisition and resettlement framework bringing the country another step closer to exploiting its vast oil reserves.

The framework, which is already endorsed by the Lands and Energy Ministries details rates for compensation for land, grass thatched houses, granaries and graves among others,  which will guide the joint venture partners to permanently acquire land as they move to development and production stages of oil.

Dickens Kamugisha, the chief executive officer of Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) says that the framework contains a number of positive aspects especially because it seeks to standardize and guide the process of compulsory land acquisition in the Albertine region to follow World Bank standards in land acquisition processes among others.

He said that if well used, the framework may enable communities to know what to expect in the event that their land was acquired and how to defend their rights against any possible abuses.

However, Kamugisha says that the framework is not legally enforceable because some of the international standards within are not in the Ugandan law.

He wants government to enact laws and guidelines for land acquisition, resettlement and compensation in the country. He says the Land Acquisition Act of 1965 which partly guides land acquisition if often at odds with the 1995 constitution and the 1998 Land Act as amended.   

Kamugisha says the framework remains silent on issues of land grabbing that have been rampant in Hoima and Bulisa among others.

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Kamugisha says the oil companies in their framework insist on using what he calls cut-off dates as one of the principles of land acquisition and resettlement yet article 26 of the Uganda Constitution does not allow use of cut-off dates in Uganda.

He explained that any acquisition or possession of someone's property can only take place after payment of prompt, fair and adequate compensation to the affected person. He says the use of cut-off dates has been responsible for untold suffering of the project affect persons

Winfred Ngabirwe, the executive director of Global Rights Alert, in an interview with Uganda Radio Network said the framework drawn by the three oil companies is a good start because it shows the investors are being cautious and they want to do the right thing.

She however thinks that the government should have taken the lead to put in place a legal framework to guide land acquisition, compensation and resettlement of project affected persons. 

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Ngabiirwe says the framework is also silent about environment protection in the Albertine Graben which is said to have 70 percent of the country's conservation area with forests, Lakes and wildlife. She says it is also narrow in addressing pertinent legal and policy frameworks on the environment.