Tuesday, July 9th, 2024 | By

Despite threats and intimidation from oil companies, Rev. Fred Musiimenta successfully won the battle of fair compensation for his land acquired for East African Crude Oil pipeline (EACOP) after 6 years of protesting.

Rev. Musiimenta, a project affected person from Butimba village in Kikuube district says he received his long-awaited revised compensation in August last year after declining to sign what he termed as unfair compensation.

“When they realized that I was determined, they went silent on my demands; the compensation delayed for years. They knew this would make me bow to little compensation but I kept my stand. They later agreed to revise my rates,” said Musiimenta who could not divulge the details of how much he received.

The project affected 3,648 people in Uganda and Kikuube alone has 390 affected people. But according to Rev. Musiimenta, only 4 declined to sign for little pay until the compensation was revised.

The EACOP land acquisition process was overwhelmed by threats and intimidation from Total Energies and its sub contactors according to Musiimenta and as a result many people were intimidated to sign for unfair compensation.

 “The officials could say if you don’t sign for your compensation, your money will be taken to court, you will not win the case against the government and given the expensive nature of corrupt courts in Uganda the residents could not afford the court stress,” he said.

He also narrated that others were tricked into accepting what they now realize as inadequate compensation for their land.

“They would tell them that everyone had already accepted the money and it’s only you remaining and many people ended up signing,” he said

He explained that they petitioned the government in 2021 disputing the compensation rates that were used to define the value of their properties which were not in any way equivalent to the accumulating land prices in the area.

“The government together with oil companies was using the evaluation rates for 2018/2019. When we petitioned, they started threatening us, we kept our stand. We told them to review the rates or take our land on lease terms,” said Rev. Musiimenta.

Rev. Fred Musiimenta, who is the chairperson of Butimba Sustainability Conservation Association (BUSUCA), attributed the success to empowerment and capacity building gained from National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE).

“NAPE has sensitized us on our rights and how to fight for it. That’s why I have successfully demanded for what rightfully belongs to me,” he said.

In what he termed as an indirect land grabbing, Rev. Musiimenta says the oil companies and government were frustrating the host communities with unfair compensation, loss of livelihoods and difficulty in accessing land titles.

He said these coupled with high standards of living will technically knock the poor out of the area and leave the government and the rich in full control of the resources.

He, however, says his group has teamed up to support each other to ensure that the local people get land titles. He said the only hope for the local communities to fight land grabbing is having land titles.