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Fostering Fair and Adequate Compensation in Uganda’s Oil sector

UWONDA SAVERIO OTWODA SILVIO V. TOTAL E&P UGANDA LIMITED, Civil Suit No. 77 OF 2016, High court of Uganda at Masindi.

Oil exploration and production world over leads to land expropriation, displacement of masses and is in most cases followed by a host of human rights violations. The project affected persons never get fair and adequate compensation or proper resettlement in accordance with international standards. Over the last decade there have been several high profile cases in the extractive industry where activities have been criticised on human rights grounds. Examples include accusations that Royal Dutch Shell has been complicit in abuses committed by the government and military in Nigeria.

In Uganda’s mineral rich Bulisa district, property of about one hundred and five (105) people was affected when Total E&P and or their agents who in the process of constructing access roads to oil wells, destroyed their crops which included cash cotton and food crops such as maize, sim sim, groundnuts and peas and did not compensate them for the loss caused even after a demand notice was duly served on them. In so doing they violated the human rights of the 105 people namely; the right to life which is a fundamental right because without it the enjoyment of other rights is impossible, the right to a livelihood; the right to food and the right to protection from deprivation of property, all rights enshrined in and guaranteed by the constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 and they also go the very root of their being.

Following a series of interfaces with the affected communities in Bulisa we gathered complaints and we tried our very best reach out to Total E & P to make good the loss but they shunned the idea of amicably settling the matter. A conclusion was then reached to file a suit against Total E & P. the case is at hearing stage and soon the project affected persons will be able to testify

The idea to take on the suit is backed by our desire to enforce the ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework which affirms the State duty to protect against human rights abuses, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.  The need for greater access by victims to effective remedy has been developed and must be followed by investors when making investment decisions. This framework calls for prudence on the side of the investor and demands that due diligence should be initiated prior to the start of a new project or relationship, for example consultation with potentially affected groups, should be continue on an ongoing basis because human rights risks may change over time, tis should cover the adverse human rights impacts caused by the company’s own or its partners activities and draw on either internal or independent external expertise.

As is the norm the suit was referred for court assisted mediation in a bid to settle the matter amicably but the mediation did not yield anything fruitful to the affected communities.  The suit has been fixed for hearing.