Refinery affected persons threaten to strike

KAMPALA, Uganda—Uganda’s Principal Judge, Dr Yorokamu Bamwine, has directed the Land Division of the high court to quickly dispose of the refinery-affected people’s court case before the locals go on strike as they had planned.

“Protesting at court does not appear to me as the most appropriate solution to the delay. In my view, fast tracking its disposal would be better option. I have in the spirit of fostering its quick disposal re-allocated the file to another judge,” Dr Yorokamu Bamwine, said in a letter dated March 29, 2018.

Bamwine’s directive follows the delayed hearing of the oil refinery-affected people’s court case by the Kampala High Court. The affected people are from Kabaale Parish in Buseruka Sub county in Hoima  District  where the Government plans to erect  the  multibillion oil refinery plant. 

In a March 28th, 2018 letter, the refinery-affected people had informed him that 20 refinery-affected women and 10 children representing 7,118 oil refinery-affected people would camp at his chambers until the High Court starts hearing their case without any further delay.

In March 2014 the affected people filed a civil suit No. 343, the refinery-affected people sought court’s intervention to stop the violation of their rights to prompt, fair and adequate compensation that government was abusing when it began on the compensation process of the refinery-affected persons by under valuing their land.

Innocent Tumwebaze, a leader of the refinery-affected people said the delay by the high court to handle their case has frustrated them up to the extent of taking a decision to demonstrate.

“We expected the High Court to handle our case quickly to protect the rights of 7,118 oil refinery-affected people. These people include; 3,514 women, 1, 334 children under five, 926 pupils and 408 vulnerable persons including the elderly, chronically ill and persons with disabilities. Any justice-minded Ugandan should have handled our case quickly but the High Court disappointed us, “He said.

He added: “If the courts of Law gave attention to their case then, the affected people would have been compensated good rate.”

 “We filed the case in 2014 when the compensation process had nearly just started [in June 2013]. We saw how our rights to prompt, fair and adequate compensation provided for under Article 26 of the Uganda Constitution being violated. We thought that if court quickly heard our case and made a decision stopping the under-compensation and unfair payment of low rates, the majority of our people would receive adequate and fair compensation,” Tumwebaze said.

According to Information from the affected people, the office of the principle Judge allocated the case to some judges, however, the judges assigned to the case disappointed the refinery-affected people through their unwillingness to hear the case.

 “The denial of justice to the refinery-affected people by the High Court judges led to the perpetration of injustices and human rights abuses that no justice-minded judicial officer should subject any citizen, let alone human being to,” Tumwebaze said.

Some of the injustices that they say they have suffered from include, under-valuation of property because the valuation methodology set by the Chief Government Valuer (CGV) was ignored by the Ministry of Energy.  This resulted in monetary losses to the refinery-affected people whose customary land in five villages was under-valued in addition to losses to the taxpayers.

They also suffered from use of unapproved and outdated compensation rates of the FY 2011/2012 that were not signed by the Hoima District Land Board (HDLB) contrary to Section 59 of the 1998 Land Act. Which all,  resulted in the under-compensation of the refinery-affected people among other Injustices