KAMPALA – Recently, Uganda reached a final decision with TotalEnergies and its partner China National Offshore Oil Corporation and Tanzania to invest more than $10 billion in developing crude oil production in East Africa, the French group said on Tuesday.
The project will cover the development of oil fields, processing facilities and a pipeline network in Uganda, plus an export pipeline through Tanzania to carry landlocked Uganda’s crude to a port on the Indian Ocean.
The deal was inked in Kampala, as part of the long-awaited Final Investment Decision (FID) for the Uganda-Tanzania crude oil pipeline, Kingfisher and Tilenga oil projects in the Lake Albert region.
Uganda discovered crude oil reserves near its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, but production has been repeatedly delayed by disagreements between the government and oil firms over tax and development strategy, and a lack of infrastructure.
The oil, mining and gas industries are central to the economies of many developing counties like Uganda. They have the potential to generate significant revenues for resources and to provide the energy and resources needed to fuel development and economic growth. At the same time industries often give rise to human rights problems so serious that they devastate vulnerable communities.
Having discovered oil, Uganda is now moving towards commercial production. Many oil-related infrastructure developments have been planned, and some have already commenced. Land acquisition for an on refinery is underway, and the construction of an export pipeline from Uganda through Tanzania has been launched. Each of these projects involves human rights risks for communities, workers, and individuals, and these risks will intensify as more projects come on line.
Following these and many more, Avocats Sans Frontiers (ASF) in partnership with Advocate for Natural Resources and Development (ANARDE) with support from the European Union (UN) has for the last two years (2020-2021), been monitoring the impact arising from the extractive industries on human rights, through its project, “Empowering Communities and Civil Society to demand good governance in natural resources management.”
The Project has two key result areas, Result 1 Local populations are able to monitor and frame violations resulting from Els projects through harmonized community-based human rights impact assessment and Result 2: The interests of communities affected by El projects are reflected in policy formulation at the national level.
Launching the two reports about the impact on mining human rights in the Albertine Region and Karamoja at Golden Tulip Canaan Hotel in Kampala on Friday, the development partners revealed a number of challenges faced with the projects-affected residents ranging from displacements, lack of information, lack of water, among many others.
Beatrice Rukanyanga, a resident of Hoima revealed that they are challenged with extractive projects compensation.
“People have been evaluated for compensation but it’s now past two years without being compensated,” she said.
She told the press that in most cases, the project-affected persons tend to have an information gap from the time of evaluation to the time of real compensation.
“There are about 700 people that were affected by the refinery and out of those, 73 opted for resettlement of which some of the people were resettled at Kyakaboga in Maseruka, Hoima district but at resettlement, the government of Uganda had promised them that they would be provided with the land titles. As we talk, since 2018, it has never been done.”
“They are now wondering why that delay. For instance, some of them have now been affected by crude oil pipeline and FID pipeline, they’re wondering, they have not received their land littles, at what level are they going to be compensated? Are they going to be compensated as customary landowners or they were supposed to be compensated as people who hold land titles?”
The Regional Director, Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF). Mr. Roman Ravet said that if you speak to local populations in Albertine, Karamoja, Acholi land, and elsewhere where industrial development is taking off, you’ll notice that they paint a rather mixed picture of the situation so far.
“Whereas it can, and could be, a formidable driver for economic empowerment development projects have so far come with their share of negative impact on the other hand, benefits of these efforts have not trickled down enough to local populations. Everywhere in the country, resentment is brooding about a development process in which many feel left behind.”
More sadly, Ravet says these victims have no opportunities to express their views and voice their legitimate contest.
“Now, this is precisely what this here conference is about reconciling human rights and economic development. Human rights are increasingly seen as impediments by governments and business actors.”
EU’s Nicolas Gonze said that the country gears up to take advantage of new economic opportunities linked to oil production and mining activities, it is important that local communities benefit from these dividends as well, their voices are heard in policy and legal processes, and that development and human rights go hand in hand.
“Yet, grievances from affected communities such as displacements as a result of new investments, inadequate access to information and lack of remedy, child labour, violence, and wider environmental impacts affecting the livelihoods of the communities can be insufficiently addressed.”
He appreciated the adoption of Uganda’s first National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, saying that it is a positive step in preventing business-related human rights abuses.
“The implementation of the Plan is now key and needs to be underpinned by a firm commitment and cooperation from all stakeholders, the authorities, civil society and businesses.”
He said that the conference also marks the end of the EU-supported project Empowering Communities and Civil Society to demand for good governance in natural resources management, which was implemented by Avocats Sans Frontieres and its partners over a period of two years.
“I am pleased to note the results achieved by the project in terms of strengthening the capacity for community-based monitoring of human rights violations in the extractive sector and engaging local authorities and private companies in addressing grievances brought forward by the communities. I hope the monitoring, reporting and dialogue mechanisms set up by the project will be sustained.”
Officiating at the event, Peter Lokeris, the Minister of State for Mineral Development lauded the organizers for putting together this conference, much needed at this critical stage of the development of the oil and mining sector, saying that it is very timely.
He said that it is the mandate of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to establish, promote the development, strategically manage and safeguard the rational and sustainable exploitation and utilization of energy and mineral resources for social and economic development.
According to him, his government is taking all possible channel to ensure that the human rights of everyone, the vulnerable communities are protected.
“As far as the mining sector is concerned, last year the government launched an airborne survey and mineral mapping in Karamoja. The survey will enable the government to establish the available mineral resources in the region. It is intended to improve livelihoods for mining communities as a result of better returns from their activities.”
“The country is also a member of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) so is supposed to be bound by the principles of this organization,” he added.