Ngwedo sub-county leaders voting on a compensation process for their properties during oil developments
Buliisa district leaders resolved to seek audience with President Museveni to share their concerns regarding the oil and gas development impacts in their midst.
They also want to lay strategies of reaping more benefits from the ongoing oil and gas developments.
During a district dialogue engagement held on 20th February 2018 at the district headquarters, the leaders said they have a wide range of concerns over the oil industry which they want to discuss with the head of state.
This followed sharing of numerous issues generated through a series of dialogues undertaken in the sub-counties and town council of Buliisa from throughout the month
The district dialogue was thus a next step engagement that was supported by ActionAid Uganda and organized by Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO) and Lake Albert Children, Women Advocacy Development Organization (LACWADO) in partnership with Bunyoro Albertine Petroleum Network on Environmental Conservation (BAPENECO) and the civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas issues (CSCO). The issues shared generated a lot of debate and some recommendations.
Challenges Faced in Buliisa
There are many unresolved problems that were raised by local communities. For example, the Buliisa Sub-county Chairperson, Lt. (Rtd) Kubalirwa Nkuba said many residents have filed cases against oil companies operating in the district but the cases take long to be resolved thereby creating uncertainties.
"This breeds anger and anxiety in the population, he said. Oil cases should be expeditiously handled by a special tribunal or court, he recommended.
Mr. Julius Manyireki, a District Councilor representing people with disabilities said since oil was discovered in the district, several meetings have been held between locals and oil companies but despite this, issues raised remain persistent.
The leaders unanimously agreed that matters affecting residents need to be brought to the attention of the President and seek his intervention sooner than later before conflicts on the ground get worse.
The leaders decried the increasing cases of land grabbing, difficulty by locals to secure jobs and contracts in oil companies as well as irregularities in the process of compensating people whose land and properties are affected by oil and gas infrastructural projects.
"We need a comprehensive skilling programme supported by Government and oil companies because our people need skills to join the oil industry," said Isaac Nkuba, the Chairperson of Buliisa District NGO Forum.
He shared that there is limited involvement and participation of local communities in decision making on matters regarding people's livelihoods in relation to petroleum developments.
He emphasized that, "the people are being left behind only to face impacts like poor compensation, lack of information, and threat to livelihood options among others".
He argued that many people feel alienated and this can easily result in confusion and conflicts thereby creating friction between the people and the oil developments.
Regarding capacity building of local youth, he proposed the need for a deliberate Government programme of equipping existing schools in the district with equipment and science teachers who deserve a hard to stay allowance in order to motivate them to work comfortably in the district.
Ms. Magdalena Namutebi, the Biiso Sub-county Councilor proposed a gender sensitive approach in handling oil matters.
"The women have been sidelined. We need affirmative action," she said. She called for an increased number of scholarships in oil courses to be awarded to girls and women to get entrepreneurship skills to enable them compete in oil businesses.
Jane Akugizibwe concurred with Namutebi about the skilling approach.
"Let us lobby oil companies and Government to set up a vocational training institute for women.Oil companies should also provide loans to women at low interest rates because many women are failing to pay back loans in commercial banks that have high interest rates," Akugizibwe emphasised.
The district will host one of the two oil Central Processing facilities (CPF) and infield pipelines that will evacuate crude oil from various oil fields located in the park and within the communities into the CPF. The feeder pipeline will also move from Buliisa district to Kabaale Parish in Hoima district where Government plans to set up a holding terminal for crude oil and an oil refinery among other infrastructure. Crude oil for export will be fed into an East African crude oil export pipeline which was launched in November, 2017 by President Museveni of Uganda and his Tanzanian counterpart President John Pombe Magufuli.
The Buliisa District Chairperson, Hon. Agaba Simon Kinene said leaders and project affected persons need Government support to visit oil producing countries for learning and sharing experiences. "We should position ourselves to tap the dollars that will accrue from the oil and gas production" he said.
This can only happen if we get more exposed to how oil and gas undertakings operate and how local communities can be strategically linked to the same to enable them gain better benefits, he added.
He asked oil companies and NGOs to regularly hold engagements with various stakeholders in the district for information sharing as well as creation of platforms for discussing issues openly thereby enabling consensus building.
He pointed out that Buliisa district is highly impoverished despite being the host of huge oil resources. He thus requested that livelihood improvement programmes in the district need to be enhanced in order to improve the welfare of people affected by oil developments. This, according to him, will be very helpful in addressing many challenges that the people are facing and will enable management of their expectations overall.
The District Chairman greatly appreciated the support by ActionAid for the dialogues that were organized from the Lower Local governments and linked the discussions with the Higher Local Government (district level).
"I thank ActionAid for partnering with Government in a positive way", said the Buliisa Resident District Commissioner Mr. Peter Bisoborwa.
He pointed out that there are many escalating land conflicts in the district and urged the people to revive their traditional justice system of resolving conflicts amicably instead of always rushing to court where challenges of case backlog and adjournments affect expeditious access to justice.
While commenting on the proposal by leaders to meet the President, he advised that the District Council should sit with Members of parliament who hail from the district and make a joint write up which he will forward to the President's office for further action.
"Give me your resolution with reasons why you need to meet His Excellency and I will forward it" he said.
He encouraged all participants to remain vigilant and play their part in ensuring that the oil and gas project is protected. He also pointed out that the government is committed to ensuring peaceful resolution of issues and that it is important for the people to maintain the peace in order for development to happen in Buliisa.
Oil in Uganda correspondent, Bunyoro and Didas Muhumuza