'Open Letter to presidents Yoweri Museveni and John Magufuli by the residents of Hoima

As Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and his Tanzanian counterpart John Pombe Magufuli prepare to lay a markstone at the starting point in Kabaale, Hoima District for the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) tomorrow, area residents have written an ‘open letter’ to the two leaders imploring them to address their concerns, poignantly the delayed compensation of over 20 families.

The residents, under the umbrella organization, the  Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA), in their November 8 letter to the two leaders ‘You must do more to involve citizens in oil sector processes’, say that a lot of activities have taken place without their participation, despite being key stakeholders as owners of the land on which an oil refinery and the oil pipeline are to be built.

“For over a month before your impending visit, a number of activities including preparatory meetings by Hoima district and the grading of roads among others have been undertaken in Hoima and the refinery area. While the above activities were ongoing, no formal communication was made to us (ORRA) about what the activities were for,” the three-page letter signed by ORRA Chairperson Innocent Tumwebaze reads in part.

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The members say they were only able to find out about the visit of the two presidents through their informal networks. “We hear that television notices were run regarding the visit but with many of us lacking television sets, we, who are key stakeholders in the oil sector, were left (out),” the letter continues.

In their letter they say they were further burdened with heavy police deployment in the refinery area, making them to live in fear. “These police officers created such fear in us! Without adequate information on what was happening in our area and with a high presence of police officers, children, mothers and indeed some men thought that we were going to be unconstitutionally evicted as has happened elsewhere including in Rwamutonga, Hoima,” they say.

The residents in the oil refinery area are concerned that over 20 families are yet to be compensated while over 70 others are waiting for the government of Uganda to fulfill promises made to them in the 2012 Resettlement Action Plan for the Refinery Project in order to be relocated.

“The promises made to us include providing us with land bought built on a case-by-case basis, land titles and houses for our families. The government of Uganda backtracked on all these promises and is planning on resettling us in a terribly squeezed camp in Hoima that is unsuitable to our lifestyles,” the letter continues.

Other commitments, they say include constructing good murram roads to enable economic activities, building a nursery school ‘to give their children a good start in life’ and providing them with water, electricity and other social services to enable them ‘live like other human beings’. The government of Uganda, they say, is yet to fulfill these promises too.

“Your Excellencies, as we have waited, families have broken down with financially poor fathers who were refused from growing perennial cash crops by the Ministry of Energy since 2012 abandoning their children and wives,” they say, arguing that Parliament should not pass the Land Amendment Bill before their concerns are addressed.

By press time it was not possible to establish whether the letter had been received by the addressees.



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