Oil facility affected persons in Buliisa District vow to continue defying government over low compensation

About 811 residents of Kasinyi village in the oil rich Buliisa district in Western Uganda, affected by the crude oil Central Processing Facility (CPF), have vowed not to surrender their land unless Government increases compensation for their property to at least 6 million shillings (about 1500 dollars) per acre.

The government of Uganda has consistently insisted on paying an amount not beyond 2.1 million shillings (about 580 dollars) per acre.

In a meeting with Government ministers this month, the affected persons vehemently rejected government’s proposal to increase the compensation per acre to 3.5 million shillings (about 970 dollars).

At the meeting, that sat at Buliisa District local government headquarters and attended by over 300 Project Affected Persons (PAPs), the Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development Betty Amongi issued a directive for CPF work to start mid-January despite protests from the affected persons.

Mr. Jealous Mugisa, the Chairperson PAPs- Resettlement planning committee believes Minister Amongi’s directive is not the answer to their pleas.

“We feel this command is militaristic not democratic. She says surveying must start immediately whether you agree with the 3.5 million or not.  I feel everything should be done in accordance with 1995 Ugandan Constitution”, Mr. Mugisa asserted while talking to Community Green radio.

We won't relent: One of the CPF affected persons in the oil rich Buliisa District Western Uganda. Residents are vowing never to leave until government pays what they term as 'appropriate compensation' for their property.

Article 26 of the Ugandan constitution which is again under threat, is explicit about the process of lawful land acquisition and provides for fair and adequate compensation to the relevant parties to ensure that citizens’ rights to property are not violated in the process.

“I cannot give my piece of land at 3.5 million shillings. My land is too big for a compensation of that amount.  I’m frustrated that am robed of my fertile land but I can’t also easily surrender the crops and other property unless they increase to 7 million”, vowed Ms. Teopista Atugonza another PAP of Kasinyi village.

NAPE has been working with in Buliisa district to empower them to fight or demand for their rights through Sustainability school programmes.

Late last year, community members of Ngwedo sub-county in Buliisa where the Central Processing Facility (CPF) is to be established were protesting against Government directive to Total E &P to start work.

Compiled by Dorcus Drijaru

Communities in Buliisa District applaud Ugandan President for his hesitation to sign the Bio-safety and biotechnology bill into law

“If there was an option of choosing whether to support president Museveni or not regarding the GMO law, I would mobilize a long queue for him not to sign”. These were words of Ms. Eveline Babyesiza, the vice Chairperson of Buliisa Town Council Community Green Radio listeners’ club at the close of 2017.

Ms. Babyesiza’s pledge and commitment is hinged on two grounds; her community’s experience with Genetically Modified food species versa vis the indigenous food species and the fact that on December 21 2017, the Ugandan President wrote to the Speaker of Parliament expressing his reservations about the Bill that the house had passed earlier in the year.

The law is intended to provide a legal and regulatory framework for safe development and application of biotechnology in Uganda.

“Our indigenous food species are so nutritious to a level that no GMOs can reach. Our great grandparents ate indigenous food and lived longer. I’m 100% in support of our indigenous food species”, Ms Babyesiza explained to Community Green radio.

Jackson Aliguma believes the Genetically Modified foods being imposed on communities can not ensure sustainable food supply.

“Every time we plant these imported seed varieties, they simply dry up. I encourage communities to continue planting our indigenous food species to ensure sustainability in food supply”, Aliguma explains.

Food sovereignity: A seed multiplication garden for indegenous food species established by the community in Buliisa District with help from NAPE and partners. PHOTO CREDIT: ALLAN KALANGI

Relatedly, the Executive Director, National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE Frank Muramuzi has told the national media that the president’s action brings new hope to the country.

“We appreciate the President (Museveni)’s attitude of rejecting the Bill so that it can be improved because if it had become law, all the indigenous species would disappear. Having genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will not promote our food sovereignty,” Mr. Muramuzi told the Daily Monitor newspaper.

NAPE and Community Green radio have been working with communities in the Albertine region to restore indigenous food species. Several seed multiplication gardens and traditional granaries have been established in Hoima and Buliisa Districts. NAPE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom in February 2015 to produce indigenous food species in the kingdom. The radio has been mobilizing communities to voluntarily provide seeds in the campaign dubbed ‘ Food security and Sovereignty’. Communities have offered free land where multiplication gardens have been established.

"Food sovereignty", a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996, asserts that the people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution, rather than the corporations and market institutions they believe have come to dominate the global food system.

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty prioritizes local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability.

In April 2008 the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), an intergovernmental panel under the sponsorship of the United Nations and the World Bank, adopted the following definition: "Food sovereignty is defined as the right of peoples and sovereign states to democratically determine their own agricultural and food policies."

Story Compiled by Julius Kyamanywa