-Residents Claim Being Coerced Into Signing Agreements
By Insight Post Uganda
A growing feeling of discontent is cropping up again over the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project in Kyotera District, as a group of Project-Affected Persons (PAPs) claim they were coerced into surrendering their valuable property including land for the multi-billion dollar enterprise.
This revelation surfaced during a meeting at Bigada Village in Kakuuto Sub County, Kyotera District, held over the weekend, where residents had the opportunity to air their grievances to Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Uganda.
The heart of the matter is that residents allege they were forced to sign compensation documents, and the money they received does not align with the value of the land taken.
For instance, one Cosmas Yiga, a resident of Bigada Village, is the proprietor of over five acres of land in the area. Shockingly, EACOP officials purportedly intended to compensate him with a mere Shs3 million, an offer that he outright rejected.
“I refused to sign the compensation papers and instead petitioned the office of the Leader of the Opposition to come and listen to our grievances,” stated Yiga.
Notably, he tried to persuade other PAPs in the region not to relinquish their land hastily, but many did not heed his warning.
Another case exemplifying this predicament is that of Frank Ddungu, a resident of Nkoni village, who was offered only Ugx300,000 as compensation for a 50 by 100ft piece of his land.
When he dared to decline the inadequate offer, he alleges that he was threatened with the prospect of the land being forcefully taken, especially given the presence of the military, compelling him to reluctantly sign the compensation documents.
Adding further disconcertment to the narrative is Ms. Teddy Nakiryowa, another affected resident, who recounted how EACOP officials initially mapped out a specific portion of land impacted by the project, only to return at a later date and expand the demarcations without her consent.
This abrupt expansion left her with a smaller section of land, where her residence was located, leaving her in a state of helplessness.
The residents lay the blame on Mr. Jude Ssali, the LCIII chairperson for Kakuuto, accusing him of orchestrating the land acquisition scheme.
Muhammad Ssengoba, a landlord, expressed bewilderment that tenants on his land received compensation, while he, the landowner, was apparently neglected.
In response to these damning allegations, Jude Ssali, who also holds the position of Liaison Officer for EACOP in the district, denied the claims, asserting that all PAPs willingly signed the compensation papers.
According to Ssali, the initial valuation of banana plantations at UGX33,000 per plant was revised to UGX83,000.
However, the residents’ plight did not go unnoticed. Mpuuga confronted Ssali, questioning his decision to align with EACOP against the interests of his electorate.
The LOP disclosed that Ssali had informed him that he received an allowance when accompanying the EACOP team, raising concerns about his commitment to the people who entrusted him with leadership.
As the discord surrounding land acquisition for the EACOP project in Kyotera intensifies, the concerned district leaders, Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society Organisations in the region assert that these allegations clearly highlight the importance of a thorough and impartial investigation into the compensation process and the treatment of PAPs in this critical development project.