Uganda: Poor Landowners Caught Up in Fight for Land in Oil-Rich Buliisa | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

By: Francis Mugerwa

Date: December 19th 2016

Source: AllAfrica.com / The Monitor

Perched on a wooden stool under a tree shade in his courtyard, Mr Eriakimu Kaseegu, props his cheek in his right palm, seeming to be in deep thought. His home is located in Kisimo Cell, Buliisa Town Council in Buliisa District, some 284 kilometres northwest of Kampala. The area has at least 26 oil wells.

"Ever since oil was discovered in our village, we have become restless," Mr Kaseegu says with a yawn. He hesitates and seems to relapse into deep thought once again.

After a while he resumes his tale, saying that over the past decade, many rich individuals have invaded the area and claimed ownership of land adjacent to the oil sites. The oil prospecting firm Tullow discovered Kasemene-1, Kasemene-2 and Kasemene-3 oil wells in Kisimo cell, Mr Kaseegu's village.

Since oil was discovered in 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.

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.

"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.

Customary land ownership is one of the three ways acknowledged by Article 237(3) of the Constitution, along with freehold and mailo tenure systems.

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.

"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.

New "landlords"

New "landlords" emerged in Kiryamboga village, Buseruka Sub-county in Hoima District when Tullow Oil drilled Waraga-D oil well in December 2013.

Hoima district, located 202 kilometres northwest of Kampala, has over 18 oil wells.

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.

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Photo source: Rachel Strohm via Flickr/Creative Commons (CC By-NC-ND 2.0). Photo: © Rachel Strohm

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