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"We Are Fighting For Our Rights" Say Tilenga Land Owners :: Uganda Radionetwork

"We Are Fighting For Our Rights" Say Tilenga Land Owners

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They are demanding that the Judiciary is not used To Deprive them of adequate and fair compensation.
07 Mar 2024 17:23
Some of the project affected person who were sued by the government speaking to journalists in Kampala .

Audio 5

  Some of the Forty-two Tilenga and East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline Project Affected households say they were denied audience by the Judiciary.   

They had sought to meet Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, and top judiciary officers to express their dismay with the way their compensation matter has been handled.

One of the Projects Affected Persons, Kamuturaki Seremos said they were disappointed that the Chief Justice, the Principal Judge, and the Minister of Justice Norbert Mao denied them an audience.  

  He said they had hoped that the meeting with the Minister and the judiciary leadership would help to discuss grievances stemming from the December 2023 lawsuit brought against them by the government.

  “I speak on behalf of all the PAPS (Project Affected Persons) that were sued by the government in 2023. And affected by the unfair judgment. We are not happy with all these offices” said Kamuturaki.

///Cue In “Based on…..    Cue out… been taken by the devil”///

The government of Uganda represented by the Attorney General dragged the landowners on December 4, 2023.

The Ministry of Energy asked that the court allow it to compulsorily acquire the land and deposit compensation for the project-affected persons (PAPs) in court, pending resolution of their compensation concerns.

  Hoima High Court Judge, Jesse Byaruhanga on 8th December 2023 ruled that the Project Affected Person’s compensation be deposited in court, to allow TotalEnergies E&P (U) BV to take over the land.

The French company is acquiring the land on behalf of the Ministry of Energy for the construction of the refinery. Part of the land will be crossed by the Est African Crude Oi Pipeline.

The Project-Affected Persons (PAPS) expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling. They later appealed against the ruling. The Court of Appeal is yet to hear the matter.

Kamuturaki expressed concern that the Court has not heard the matter yet the households are living in fear of eviction.

////Cue In “In other words things are …..

Cue Out…the poor people like us”/// 

The 42 landowners had refused compensation rates offered by the government for them to relocate and allow the development of oil infrastructure under the Tilenga project by TotalEnergies. 

Justice Byaruhanga Jesse Rugyema allowed the Ministry of Energy represented by the Attorney General over 950 million shillings should be deposited at the court to enable it to take over close to 60 acres of land located in Hoima and Buliisa districts. The land covers households in Kirama Village, Kigwera Sub County. 

The Project Affected Persons insists that compensations being offered by the government is fair and adequate as required by the constitution   Jealousy Mugisa Mulimba, one of the land owners has insisted that the Judge hurried to rule on the matter and therefore denied him and other land owners the right to be heard.

He has the government to buy him land in another part of the country. “They stopped us from using that land in 2018 up to last year 20233 when they took us to court. We are facing challenges. We have children and we are supposed to take them to school like those ones who have ties. But if you have stopped me from using the land , and I’m not a businessman, where do expect me to get money,” said Mugisha.  

////Cue In “ Sometimes I ….. 

Cue Out…still, we are not interested in money”///

He said while the government has insisted on paying about three million shillings in compensation for an acre of land, the prices of land in Bulisa and Hoima have shot up to the extent that one cannot find alternative land at the amount of compensation.

“For us, we are not fighting the government. But we are fighting for our rights to be respected. As the money is in court, we are in appeal. We are asking that court my quickly listen to our voices” Mugisha pleaded

///Cue In “ Where I come from… 

Cue Out…..to get another land”//

/ “So let them buy land even at one hundred million shillings. My interest is land for  land in exchange for land. Even if they bring me to Kampala, I’m ready”   

Dickens Kamugisha, the CEO of the African Institute of Energy Governance (AFIEGO) said the ruling in the oil land case in Hoima opened up the old debate about compulsory land acquisition.

Kamugisha explained that in 2021, the judiciary illegally allowed the government to deposit the households’ compensation in court. That ruling according to Kamugisha set a bad precedent that should never be repeated.

“It is also sad that the government has continued to use and misuse courts to destroy citizens' right to own property and/or get adequate compensation,” he said. Kamugisha said he hopes that the appellate court can look at what is fair and just to make the right ruling.

“If we lose the case, we still have the constitution and Ugandans can tell the judiciary that you can’t be used against the citizen”  said Kamugisha.

Kamugisha doesn’t dispute the fact the government has power to compulsorily acquire land. He however insists that the government must first compensate the affected landowners. ///Cue In “the compensation must….. Cue Out….courts how they should decide”///

Kamugisha added no law provides that project-affected persons’ compensation can be deposited in court. The ruling by Justice Byaruhanga Jesse Rugyema sparked off what appeared like a rift between members of the Uganda Law Society. Some lawyers protested and refused to attend the opening of this year’s law year conference. 

It was one of the reasons why the Bar and Bench meeting was held. The Judicial Service Commission has yet to come out to explain whether any action has been brought against Justice Byaruhanga Jesse Rugyema.

In January, human rights lawyer Eron Kizza said Justice Byaruhanga violated established legal principles by delivering a verdict in the land case within four days, without allowing the accused parties to respond or contest the matter.

“When a judge, oozing impunity, deliberately denies parties to a case/suit an opportunity/right to be heard, to contradict the evidence, to file their submissions; and hastily makes orders for the benefit of TotalEnergies Exploration and Production Uganda to prejudice of Ugandans’ homes, gardens, residences, livelihoods, dignity and property, he is undermining rule of law and fundamental human rights and freedoms,” said Kizza.