Members of Parliament of Uganda

A group of national and grassroots civil society organisations in Uganda has in a communiqué published today, implored MPs to reject  the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2017 which  seeks to amend Article 26 of the 1995 Constitution to pave way for government to the compulsorily acquire private property before compensating owners.

The group led by Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) says: “If effected, the proposed amendments will worsen human rights violations, land grabbing, displacements, delayed compensation, payment of unfair and inadequate compensation, poverty, land conflicts, food insecurity, destruction of protected among others.”

According to the communiqué, the group instead wants MPs to use their oversight powers to compel government to implement progressive legal reforms.

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“AFIEGO and her partners are committed to mobilise communities across the entire country to oppose this Bill in order to guard against violation of citizens’ rights,” the communiqué signed by over 10 CSOs reads in part.

More so, the participants observe that since the discovery of oil in western Uganda, government’s appetite to compulsorily acquire private land without payment of fair and adequate compensation prior to acquisition has increased to uncontrollable levels.

They argue that the current efforts to amend the Constitution is mainly intended to be used by government to give herself more discretionary powers on when and how much to pay in compensation. These powers will soon be used by government to acquire land for the on-going oil developments in the country, they further added.

“We know that the government and oil companies will need land for feeder pipelines from all the oil wells scattered in different locations including sensitive biodiversity areas such as national parks, forests and others to the central processing facilities (CPFs),” they say.

Land, they further say, will also be needed for pipelines from CPFs to the refinery and export crude pipeline from Hoima to the border with Tanzania. “Land will also be needed for the finished products’ oil pipeline from Hoima to Buloba in Wakiso near Kampala. More land will also be needed by the government for waste management plants, camps, roads, power stations and lines, heating centers and many others,” they add.

They say it is  unfortunate that the government is able to fast track the amendment of Article 26 but for the last four years, the same government has failed to complete the process for the enactment of the new National Environmental law and formulation of the new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Regulations.

They noted that without such new laws, oil development activities will continue as usual making it difficult for the citizens to demand for social, environmental and economic accountability from those in charge of the oil and other sectors that are potentially harmful to conservation.

The participants want  MPs to use their oversight powers to compel the Ministry of Water and Environment to immediately table before Parliament the new National Environmental Bill and formulate new EIA and SEA regulations in order to safe guard biodiversity and citizens against the dangers of oil.

Government on its part says compulsory acquisition of land is necessary for the fast implementation of its infrastructural projects such as construction of roads, railways and others such as hydropower dams.

“The fear that many Ugandans will be rendered landless and their property acquired compulsorily without fulfilling the Constitutional principles of prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation prior to the taking of possession or acquisition of the property, are unfounded,” Betty Amongi, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development said two days ago in a press statement.

Some of the CSOs that signed the communique include; national and grassroots civil society organisations (CSOs) including Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), World Voices Uganda (WVU), South Western Institute for Policy and Advocacy (SOWIPA) and Guild Presidents Forum on Oil Governance (GPFOG),

Others are: Kanungu Youth Initiative for Environment (KYIE), Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA), Green Orgnization – Kyambogo, Empagi Z’abunyoro, Buseruka Twimukye Women’s Organization, Kigezi Coffee Development Academy, GRAFENI BUTIMBA Hoima, Kakindo Orphans-Buliisa .

The CSOs realsed the communique today having met in Kampala yesterday.