EACOP: Whose land is it?

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: EACOP: A boon or curse for East Africa?

By Soraya Aybar Laafou, David Soler Crespo, Pablo Garrigós

Posted on Monday, 7 November 2022 13:09
Total Energies’s workers build one of the first drilling pads in the Tilenga site where over 400 oil wells will be located on 6 October 2022. This site holds three oil blocks, and two of them will be exploited by the French company. Moreover, Tilenga borders the DRC where new oil blocks will be licensed at the end of the year opening Central Africa's great reserves to the global market. (Photo: Pablo Garrigós)

Since EACOP set foot in Uganda and Tanzania, Project Affected Persons (PAPs) have cited delays and unfair compensation for their land. In Uganda, farmers fear the economic consequences of the absence of crops, whilst in Tanzania local communities lack information.

This is part 2 of a 7-part series

For a few years now, it has been common to see paved roads in and around the Ugandan city of Hoima. The contrast between the reddish dusty roads and the black concrete is striking. After several bends, inevitable potholes and a haze of dust, you find what looks like a perfectly planned and recently built residential area.

Houses are separated from one another by a couple of metres and a gated community centre – which is yet to be inaugurated – in the middle of the area. A primary school and a police station are located at the far end. All houses are an exact replication of one another. On the inside, each has a living room and three bedrooms, while on the outside, there is a small kitchen and a shared toilet for every four buildings.

This is the Kyakaboga Resettlement where the Ugandan government has relocated 70 out of 2,550 property owners. It is within this 29 square kilometre-land that the Hoima airport and the Kabaale Oil Refinery Station, structures vital to the oil developments in the area, are being constructed.

Even though residents admit that the quality of these houses is a significant uplift compared to their previous huts, they say their life has worsened. “Now we are all crammed together. As farmers, we keep animals and we need space. We are not living in a place suitable for our community,” says Tumwebaze. “There was a farmer with 15 family members who had a new house built here. However, he decided to move to a self-built iron sheet house in his plot to be closer to his crop[s].”

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) developers have reported a total of 13,161 Project Affected Persons. However, these numbers do not include people affected by oil fields in Tilenga and Kingfisher, the refinery or the airport. External organisations, such as Inclusive Development International, estimate 120,000 people will be affected.

Absence of fairness and cooperation

Despite their issues, residents at Kyakaboga are considered to be privileged. In other areas along EACOP’s route, affected communities are only being offered compensation for the 30-metre-wide area they will occupy. Reverend Fred Musimenta’s house is less than 100 metres away from the path of the pipeline, which will go through his own backyard. He is one of the eight neighbours who, four years after the initial survey, still declines the compensation offer made by NEWPLAN, the contractor for the French company Total Energies.

If I accept, the money will not be enough to buy land in other areas,” says Reverend Musimenta, who believes oil companies will make enough money off the project to pay fairly. “I am not against the project, I am against unfair compensation. They are being […] greedy.”

Due to the EACOP pipeline, Reverend Fred Musimenta, a resident of Kidoma, will be evicted. Musimenta, together with other seven members of his community, has rejected the monetary compensation proposed by Total Energies. After that, he was threatened and intimidated to accept it. However, he remains convinced that the French corporation will comply with Ugandan regulations: “I am not against the project, I am against unfair compensation. They are being truly greedy”, he adds. (Photo: Pablo Garrigós)

Residents and NGO representatives in Uganda seem to agree that the French company has a case to answer. “Total is to blame. When we were with Tullow, they were paying good compensation,” says John, one of the six PAPs affected by the first Resettlement Action Plan (RAP1) who still refuses to accept compensation after he lost a court case. The case had been filed after they were evicted to pave way for the construction of the Central Processing Facility at the Tilenga oil fields. British company Tullow Oil started explorations in 2004 and found oil five years later, but in 2017 they sold their shares to Total Energies. However, when contacted for their response, Total Energies refused to comment.

Jennifer Baitwamasa, a coordinator at Navigators of Development Association, and Maxwell Atuhura, CEO at Tasha Research Institute, both say there have been no complaints over relocations at the Kingfisher oil facilities are managed by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).

However, in Tanzania, things work differently. In the final stretch of the project in Tanga, there are still no visible constructions, but compensatory schemes and relocation to new houses are already going on inland. “Most of the people affected have been paid their compensations, especially in priority areas where communities have been given new houses, new farmlands or money,” says Devotha Cassian, the human rights impact assessment coordinator at the Northern Coalition for Extractives and Environment (NCEE)  in Tanga. “PAPs are reallocated following their preferences and choices.”

 Lack of information

“I don’t actually know how the pipeline will be constructed beside my house,” says the reverend. Although access to information is protected under both Ugandan and Tanzanian law, contact with Total comes in dribs and drabs. According to a report by Oxfam, communities lack information on specific details around timelines, technical considerations, environmental impacts and compensation procedures. “We are completely ignorant about what it’s going to happen,” the reverend says.

Communities know about EACOP, but not fully

In Tanzania, lack of information is also an issue. “Communities know about EACOP, but not fully,” says Cassian. The NCEE representative claims that most communities are not aware of the extractive situation and how it affects the environment and climate change. He believes that a lack of information may lead to friction with both private companies and the government. “Public information also depends on the challenges you’re dealing with. In this project, there is a lot of politics and conflict[…] of interest,” she says.

Despite delays and information gaps, Reverend Musimenta says: “Standing firm will make them understand that we are human beings. Our faith will give fruits.”

*Halima Athumani contributed to this article.

This article was developed with the support of Journalismfund.eu

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