EACOP Project: Residents Evicted By Persons Targeting Compensation

Net picture of EACOP construction

By Denis Kasule: Residents of Kapaapi, Lwenyana and Lunga villages in Kapaapi sub county, Hoima district, are now one week living in wilderness, after they were left homeless by a group of six people who claim ownership of the land the land on which they have been living.

It was a horror and a nightmare to residents last when strangers emerged claiming that the land which they have been calling home for more than 30 years belongs to them. Without explanation on how they acquired the land, the strangers used excessive force and erased down everything that belonged to the locals.

Victims led by Deus Mugume and Enock Kakuru, accuse a group led by Aston Muhwezi, and William Ndahura, for having fraudulently acquired land tittles of the land measuring five square kilometre and has occupied by more than 20,000 people.

Mugume said that Muhwezi with his team forged the land titles with the help of the authorities in the area, and officials from the ministry of lands. When they succeeded, problems started.

But the locals said Muhwezi’s team only owns 2.5 acres of land in the area, but they claim ownership of all the five square kilometres. Muhwezi and team have been telling residents that they want to develop their land. The culprits have resorted to burning down occupants’ houses, taking their animals, and thus turning them into destitute.

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“These are land dealers from Kampala, with strong connections behind them. The Hoima deputy RDC was physically present when my house was being demolished, and my goats boarded onto his official car which also had the Regional Police Commander in it.”

Mugume adds that: “After all these atrocities against us, I am now falsely accused of kidnap. I can’t go back home to my family, and I have spent three weeks in Kampala in fear of being arrested.”

Enock Kakuru another resident who is affected recalls that during the covid-19 pandemic induced nationwide lockdown, a group of people approached them saying that they were the legitimate owners of the land onto which they were living.

Kakuru added that the group which approached them claiming to own the land, later forced them to sign land give away agreements. The agreements indicted that the residents had given out the land freely for development.

“We are calling on government to help us out, we have lost everything including houses and animals because of these people. They even disregard court orders, saying it is only God who can stop them,” Kakuru said.

According to Steven Tashobya, another affected person, residents reported the matter to the police and other authorities, but nothing has changed. The residents said none of their tormentors has ever been questioned by authorities including police.

Tashobya added that this land is part of the passage for the East African Oil Pipeline project, (EACOP), and they suspect someone wants to forcefully take it away from them in order to be compensated. Locals said they are willing to give way once they are compensated.

Joseph Kabuleta, the founder of the National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED) said he decided to bring out the locals to the media in Kampala so that EACOP project can be halted until all affected people have been identified and compensated.

Kabuleta added fraudsters, are using the loopholes in the Ugandan land system to defraud people’s land in the areas where the project is to be implemented. “These people are people are directly affected by the issue of oil and the pipeline and they have been residents in a place where the pipeline is supposed to pass,” Kabuleta said.

Locals said since 2020, no one is willing to compensate them and now they have been completely chased away by a group that is connected to people with authority and power to forcefully take their land.

Uganda is expected to start extracting oil in 2025 after the construction of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). However, the project has faced resistance from a number of especially environmentalists.

A number of people are being evicted by powerful people who want to be compensated. Rights and environmental activists have put the number of people going to be affected by EACOP project to more than 100,000 even though Total and others companies including the government of Uganda put the number to less than 2000.  

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