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Uganda’s Oil & Gas Sector: Securing Land Rights For Project Development

By Ali Ssekatawa

Like an adage goes, “a clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It must go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.” Over the past few years, Uganda’s approach to land acquisition for oil and gas infrastructure has emerged as a beacon of best practices for mega projects worldwide. Amidst the clamour of sceptics and opponents, the country has quietly established itself as a model for efficient and equitable land acquisition processes.

In stark defiance of those who doubted its progress, Uganda’s oil and gas sector has demonstrated a commitment to transparency, community engagement, and sustainable development throughout its land acquisition endeavours. Rather than succumbing to external pressure or allowing controversy to overshadow its efforts, the sector has remained focused on its core objectives, steadily laying the groundwork for a prosperous future.

One of the pre-conditions of the Final Investment Decision (FID) was for the Government of Uganda to ensure that land for the development of the necessary infrastructure to support the development of the Oil and Gas sector is fully acquired and availed to the developers. The developers are TotalEnergies E&P B.V Uganda (TEPU) and CNOOC Uganda Limited (CUL) for the upstream and the EACOP Company for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline corridor.

Uganda’s land law provides that any Project Affected Person (PAP) should be fully compensated before he/she is resettled. The Government through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and continuous oversight from the Petroleum Authority of Uganda, therefore embarked on this arduous journey to acquire land for both the upstream and midstream projects.

 

Status of resettlement and compensation

Tilenga Project

Acquisition of over 2,900 acres of land for the Tilenga project has been completed. 99.1 per cent of the PAPs (4908/4954) have been duly compensated. A few hold outs, accounting for 0.8 percent (42) in number were subjected to the court processes and following a court ruling on December 8th, 2023, the process was cleared to proceed.

Out of 205 resettlement houses for Resettlement Action Plans (RAPs) 2 to 5, 181 houses and land titles have been completed and handed over to PAPs, and construction is ongoing on the remaining sites. Completion of construction and handover of the remaining houses is expected to be concluded by March 2024.

Kingfisher Development Project

The Kingfisher Development Area (KFDA) project covers approximately 1,020 acres of land with a total of 727 PAPs. Compensation for the PAPs under the three RAPs was completed on May 17th, 2023, when the court order to deposit compensation for one untraceable PAP was granted. All sixty-one resettlement houses to Project Affected Persons (PAPs) were completed and have been handed over with land titles.

EACOP Project

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project spans approximately 2,740 acres of land in Uganda with 3,660 PAPs, 177 of whom qualified for resettlement houses. Construction of all resettlement houses for the project was concluded and the houses handed over to the affected persons.

At least 95 per cent of the affected persons have signed compensation agreements, with 91 per cent of these compensations completed. The remaining payments are ongoing. There are 116 cases under consideration for compulsory land acquisition due to reasons such as untraceable individuals, landowner disputes, and refusal of compensation offers.

Refinery Land:

A total of twenty-nine square miles has been fully acquired in Hoima District to host the Uganda Refinery project, Kabalega International Airport, and the EACOP terminal. Additional land for the inland storage terminal has been acquired in Namwambula, Mpigi District. The acquisition of the Right of Way for the products pipeline is currently underway.

With the land acquisition process almost 100% complete, the project continues implementation of livelihood restoration programmes. To comply with international standards, these plans are required to be in place. These will take three (03) years after which post-livelihood and land acquisition audits will be done.

The quality of the replacement houses, the value of livelihood restoration, and the unprecedented human touch will set a benchmark for other public projects, such as road construction, power lines, and any other public infrastructure. No wonder Uganda is receiving benchmark visits from countries like Ghana and Guyana on its land frameworks.

Even with these milestones registered, the process has not been devoid of challenges like the complex land tenure system in Uganda, untraceable and absentee landlords, multiple claims, and sustained opposition campaigns from neo-colonial agents disguised as go-green activists. These have, however, not deterred the sector from progressing and now with the project footprint secured, truly Uganda is on course to have its oil resources commercialised.

Ali Ssekatawa is the Director Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda

 

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