Joan Kansiime’s dream of becoming a doctor was shuttered after the land grabbers forced her to drop out of school while she was in form two.
She was among the over 200 children who went through the inhumane conditions in the internally displaced people’s camp for two years following an eviction of over 250 families from a 600-acre piece of land in Rwamutonga village in Katanga parish in Bugambe sub-county, Hoima in 2014. They were evicted by two business men; Joshua Tibagwa and Robert Bansigaraho to pave way for the establishment of an oil waste treatment plant.
The children suffered the consequences including lack of basic education since their families could not afford paying school fees and other basic school requirements. Unable to attend school, Kansiime lost her hopes of reaching her ambitions and resorted to casual labor for survival.
“I was a13 year old senior two student at Buseruka secondary school when we were violently evicted. When we went in the camp, my parents could not raise school fees since eating itself was hard. So I forgot anything concerning education,” Kansiime narrated.
She explained that life was not easy for children, teens and youth in the camp as young girls got married at young age for survival, would walk long distances for food while others resorted to drug abuse. However, she is happy that she sailed through it all though going back to school became history.
Even after returning to their land in 2017 after winning a legal battle in Masindi High Court, Kansime could not return to school.
“We started from scratch when we returned. All we were thinking of at that time was to plant food crops for survival because hunger was almost killing us in the camp,” she said.
Kansiime’s story does not differ from that of Innocent Tumwebaze who was among over 1000 people who were displaced from 29 square Kilometre land that the government earmarked for the Oil refinery project in Kabaale parish in Buseruka Sub County in Hoima district 2014.
Tumwebaze who couldn’t pursue his studies after dropping out of school in Senior four decided to earn a living through farming. At 28, he is now a married man living in Kyakaboga village in Buseruka where people who opted for resettlement were relocated to.
With oil infrastructural development that requires more land, many people in the Oil region are faced with evictions and displacements to pave way for development. The challenges that come with such heavily fall on vulnerable groups including children and youth.
This has triggered some of the youth like Kansime and Tumwebaze; who have experienced such challenges to form groups to help the teens and youth raise their views, concerns and hopes and influence decision makers.
Kansime says her group- Rwamutonga Children and Youth oil affected group was formed after realizing that the young were at risk of violence, abuse, and exposure to harmful practices like child labor and drug abuse amidst oil boom. She said they want to convey the massages through advocacy drama.
“My wish is to see the young people enjoy their rights not like what befell us. Though most of us dropped out of school, we can still get together and be organized to advocate for children’s rights,” she said.
Tumwebaze, a member of Kyakaboga youth and children resettlement group says the young generation has not been involved in development processes yet if involved they can take part in innovative ways of finding solutions.
He notes that the youth can also contribute to environmental conservation efforts and mitigating climate change impacts which affects everyone irrespective of gender, race or age.
“Like women, many children and youth trek long distances to collect water and firewood but I believe when we sit together, we can say, let us start making charcoal briquettes as a solution to firewood. So finding solutions are one the reasons we decided to form a group,” innocent explained.
During the meeting that brought youth groups working under National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) recently in Kampala, together with NAPE partners, Fund for Global Human Rights (FGHR) Peruth Atukwatse, the Project Officer in charge of the youth said the young generation needs to be groomed to take part in finding solutions to challenges like human rights violations, environmental degradation, gender inequality among others so that they grow up being responsible citizens.
“We want the youth to champion conservation efforts and gender equality among others, so that those who are being born may learn from their positive efforts. And this can be done when they come together to learn from each other,” she said.
She says NAPE plans to engage the youth in conservation efforts and social issues by involving them in nature tours to expose them to beauty of natural resources, intergenerational meetings to learn more knowledge from old people and carrying out debates on social issues.
Other groups that attended the meeting include Kaiso-TonyaYouth group, Kigaaga oil affected group from Hoima district, Kakindo Orphans Care from Bulisaand Kasenyi Youth and children palm oil affected group from Kalangala district.
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