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Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Uganda's oil land-grab
Since oil was discovered in Uganda’s Bunyoro sub-region in 2006, the value of land adjacent to the oil the sites have increased dramatically. The discoveries triggered a rush for land acquisition by investors and speculators. Over the past decade, many rich individuals have invaded the area and claimed ownership of land adjacent to the oil sites.
Oil wells were discovered in communal settlements, game parks and on the shores of Lake Albert. The area is mainly inhabited by fishermen, subsistence farmers and hunters, who lived on customary land and had no formal documentation to prove the ownership. Consequently, investors continued to acquire land for oil-related projects such as oil waste treatment plants, central processing facilities, pipelines, industrial parks and other petroleum- related investments.
This has raised the stakes for land ownership and the rights of customary land owners are at risk as the wealthy and influential elites attempt to gain titled land in what is called the Albertine graben. Many customary land owners in the oil-rich Albertine graben claim the rich and politically connected individuals are processing freehold land titles on their land without their consent and approval.
"Although, we have owned this land communally since time immemorial, there are rich people coming here claiming to have land titles for our land in anticipation that government intends to set up an oil Central Processing Facility (CPF) here," said Mr Kaseegu, who is also the Kisimo LC1 chairperson.
"New land claimants who had never expressed interest in the land before oil discoveries have emerged in Buliisa district, threatening the interests of residents who have owned land communally for so long," says Mr Angalia Mukonda, the chairperson of Buliisa Elders Forum.
According to the Kiryamboga village chairperson, Mr Geoffrey Nnsi, more than 400 families who owned the land under a joint customary ownership since time immemorial permitted Tullow Oil to prospect for oil in the area.
But the residents were shocked, he says, when they received a copy of a letter from Ntambirweki Kandeebe & Company Advocates indicating that the land where the oil well had been discovered belonged to Gids Consult Ltd as a registered proprietor with a title (FRV 146 Folio 13).
"Our clients have found drilling rigs and fences on their land. There are also vehicles belonging to you and other equipment parked on our clients' land," Mr Ntambirweki Kandeebe wrote to the Tullow Uganda General Manager in a letter dated February 27th, 2014.
"You have gone ahead to construct roads on our clients' land without our clients' knowledge and permission thereby impeding their use of land and interference with their freehold ownership," he stated.