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Where Is Truth About Balikenda's Demolished House in Tilenga? :: Uganda Radionetwork

Where Is Truth About Balikenda's Demolished House in Tilenga?

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The demolition of a house belonging to Fred Balikenda on Monday to pave the way for the construction of oil and gas facilities has drawn mixed reactions.
14 May 2024 21:31
Balikenda's House which was demolished by the government for Tilenga oil project. This Photo was provided by PAU.
The demolition of a house belonging to Fred Balikenda on Monday to pave the way for the construction of oil and gas facilities has drawn mixed reactions.

Lawyers representing Balikenda have accused the government, the court, and the Petroleum Authority of denying the victim a fair hearing. 

However, the Petroleum Authority that regulates the oil and gas sector has clarified that a protracted legal process led to the order to demolish Balikenda’s house.  With the counter-accusations, it has been hard for the reader to determine who is telling the truth about the matter.

The Petroleum Authority on Tuesday stated that the recent evictions in Kirama village followed due process. However, lawyers representing Fred Balikenda insist that the court process was flawed.

“Sadly, yesterday May 13, 2024, the AG acted on the granted demolition orders by the acting registrar and demolished Mr. Balikenda’s house without providing fair and adequate compensation further exacerbating his plight.  Now he and his family are left without a place to live,” said a statement from the Africa Institute For Energy Governance AFEIGO.    

On Monday 13th May 2024, the Attorney General armed with a court order obtained from the High Court in Hoima caused the forceful eviction of Fred Balikenda from his land located in Kirama village.    

Fred Balikenda was among the 42 families who were in December last year sued by the government for refusal to vacate land where part of TotalEnergies’ Tilenga project infrastructure is to be located. 

Balikenda became one of the first persons whose house was demolished d from the and where the government and the international Oil companies were putting up infrastructure for Uganda’s oil and gas projects.

Other Project Affected Persons have voluntarily had their homes demolished after receiving compensation in cash, exchanging land for land, or after the oil companies have constructed for them better houses.      Reports indicate that the government has previously compensated Fred Balikenda and that he had reportedly declined to vacate the in question. 

He was demanding two hundred million shillings in compensation for his house and pigs that he said died after the contested land was fenced off.   Civil society actors and lawyers have condemned the forceful eviction of Balikenda. 

The demolition of Balikenda’s house followed an order granted by the Acting Assistant registrar of the High Court of Uganda at Hoima, Emmanuel Bamwiite following the Miscellaneous Application No.67 of 2024. 

The Attorney General’s Chambers filed the application seeking an order to demolish the house that has been sitting in the middle of part of the Tilenga project’s infrastructure. Lawyers representing Balikenda have cried foul saying their client was denied the right to a fair hearing by the court in Hoima.       

The lawyers have said Balikenda is among the 8 people who had applied for a stay of execution of an order by Justice Jesse Byaruhanga in December 2023. T

The judge ordered that the government should evict the 42 households and have their compensation money amounting to over 940 million shillings deposited in court. In response to the outcry, the Petroleum Authority through its Corporate Affairs Directorate issued a statement explaining the court processes leading to the demolition of Fred Balikenda’s house.    

The statement said 2  an Application was filed in the High Court of Uganda at Hoima on 4th December 2023 by the  Government in the matter of Attorney General Versus Kisembo Rugadya & 41 others where the grounds for the application were that the court grants government leave to deposit the compensation sums the in Court, applicant be granted vacant possession of the land parcels.    

It said the decision for the government to resort to legal action followed s various engagements since 2018 with the Project Affected Persons (PAPs.)

It further stated that on December 8, 2023, the High Court at Hoima heard the Application and granted orders to the Applicant to deposit the assessed sums in court, to have vacant possession of the suit land and an eviction order where any of the Respondents refused to vacate the land. It said 41 PAPs have since vacated the land.   

PAU stated that on February 1, 2024, Fred Balikenda was served with a notice to hand over vacant possession of the suit land and the copy of the Court order and he declined service of the same.

“Following the PAP’s refusal to vacate the land after the thirty (30) days’ notice within which to vacate, the government applied to an eviction order in the High Court of Uganda at Hoima on March 28, 2024,” said the statement endorsed by Gloria Ssebikari, the Manager Corporate Affairs at PAU.     

The statement further said on April 16, 2024, Fred Balikenda was served with an application at his home in Kirama, Buliisa District in the presence of the Local Council 1 Chairman, and others.   He reportedly declined receipt and stated that no document should be left at his home since he instructed a lawyer to serve the court process.  

His lawyer, Brighton Aryampa was reportedly served with the application for an eviction order at his law firm; KAMU Associates and Solicitors located in Najjera II, Zuri Mall on April 17, 2024.  

PAU said on April 25, the application for an eviction order was heard at the High Court of Uganda at Hoima, where the applicant was heard on the application for orders.   

The government sought to be granted an eviction order against the Balikenda in respect of land measuring 0.791 acres at Kirama village, Kigwera sub-county, Buliisa District. The government also asked for an applied consequential order to demolish the structures on land measuring 0.791.   

On May 9th, 2024, the court issued an eviction order for the land measuring 0.791 acres at Kirama Village, Kigwera Sub-County, Buliisa District. Balikenda’s lawyers however said the Acting registrar of the High Court issued directions to first hear the application for interim stay of execution filed by Balikenda before the application for the order to demolish his house on May 8, 2024. They say the registrar informed Mr Balikenda’s lawyers that he would be absent from Court and promised to deliver the ruling on the application for interim stay of execution. 

“He did not mention that on the same day, he was also going to hear the application by the AG to demolish Mr Balikenda’s house,” said a statement issued on Tuesday     PAU Statement on Compulsory.

Fred Balikenda's case as per PAU.

According to the Petroleum Authority, land acquisition for the Tilenga Project commenced in 2017 and several engagements have been held with the close to 5,900 Project Affected Persons (PAPs) to enable land access for the oil and gas activities.  

To date, 99% of the PAPs for the Tilenga project have been compensated and/ or relocated while adhering to local and international standards regarding land acquisition and voluntary resettlement.  Fred Balikenda was allegedly covered by Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) 2 for the Tilenga project. He has since November 2018, been actively engaged by the project implementers and Government.  

This process culminated in involuntary relocation from their old house in the project area to a newly constructed house within Buliisa district on 13th May 2024.

In May 2022, the PAP received and acknowledged compensation for the value of his assets (including structures, crops, and trees) along with a 30% disturbance allowance and a 30% uplift.