Oil compensation in uganda exposes deep seated abuse Of Women’s land rights
Oil exploration typically has profound social, cultural and political impacts –negative and positive, in the country as whole and the region of operation. Oil exploration can have a positive effect on development by creating jobs, catalyzing business and providing vital infrastructure such as roads, electricity, building schools and even better health facilities like the Buliisa Health Centre IV.However, if unchecked, the negative effects can supersede the positive. Moreover, women and children in these areas are at a disproportionately at a higher risk of these consequences.
Whereas there has been progress in the compensation processes and media has begun to report on the positives impacts of compensation monies, the disheartening impacts and effects of compensation monies on women afforded little attention. The fact of the matter is, according to testimonials, compensation monies are inflicting more pain than gain for most women in Hoima.
For instance, since compensation commenced, most of the testimonials gathered thus far detail heads of households using the money to buy cars or boda bodas, to start maize mill shops and build semi-permanent houses. Sadly, cases of women benefitting and developing are not existent or if they are, they are not properly captured.
Whilst men predominantly benefit, women are disproportionately being negatively affected. Unfortunately, there are no mechanisms or structures that address or provide remedy for these traumatizing issues and abuses that women are subjected to.
Grace Bigabwenkya, a police officer in charge of the Child and Family Unit in Hoima Police Station acknowledges that she has received several reports of family neglect and domestic violence cases ergo of compensation monies.
“Police intervened after receiving complaints from two women who alleged that their husbands abandoned them and their children after they received compensation” she narrates through her police statements.
In an interview with Oil in Uganda, Evelyn Mwambe, 37, mother of two and a resident of Kyapaloni, Buseruka village reveal that her husband vanished into thin air after receiving compensation monies without his consent.
“My husband secretly signed for compensation without my consent,” Mwambe, who has since relocated to her parents’ home in the neighbouring Nyamasoga village, she is reportedly noted in a police statement.
In Nyamasonga Village, Rogelin Pachudaga, had been married for five years but now shares the same predicament. As for Pachudaga, her husband neglected her and took on another wife in Masindi; 50 kilometres away from Hoima town.
These incidences are revealing indeed. From these testimonials, it seems there are limited open spaces for women to practise and enjoy their rights and the weaker institutions and structures available do not effectively reach out to the rural women to engage them in decision making processes.
Same cast different scripts?
Alewanita Akello, a resident of Bukona A and mother of seven says that she fears her husband will waste the compensation monies on alcohol once they are compensated. She further says that she cannot guide her husband on how to spend the money for fear of being sent back to her home.
These cases present a fraction of the challenges that women continue to experience in relation to access and control of natural resources such as land and compensation monies. Nonetheless, it is evident that the powers of culture and traditions are still a big hindrance to women’s access to and ownership of land.
In 2012, the government, through consultant, Strategic Friends International (SFI), implemented the land-acquisition programme for the proposed oil refinery by acquiring a 29 sq. kilometre piece of land in Kabaale, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima district. Government set aside about 70 billion shillings ($27 million) for the compensation and resettlement component of this project.
Reportedly, the National Budget Framework Paper for the next financial year 2015/16, reveals that out of 2,615 property owners who opted for cash compensation, a total of 1,945, 85 per cent of the community have so far been paid as of December 2014. The framework paper also notes that the remaining 670 project-affected persons are scheduled for payment in the next financial year; three years after the project began.
The government is still undertaking a master plan to construct two-bed roomed houses in Kyakaboga parish, Buseruka sub-county in Hoima district for each of the 93 households who opted to be relocated.
However, it is apparent that the Resettlement Action Plan did not foresee the impacts and negative effects that the compensation pay-outs would have on women. While undertaking the compensation process, the implementing agency- did not observe the constituted laws on equal rights and ownership which would have facilitated more women participation in the process.
According to a report by International Alert, women were not part of the compensation processes and those who were not offered the opportunity to co-sign the forms.
A lack of knowledge and skills related to rights has also played a major role here; leaving many women sidelined during decision making process.
“They do not give consent or sign documents, and the compensation is mostly paid to men. Furthermore, the documents do not have provisions for spousal consent and participation. Bank accounts opened for the compensation process are largely registered in names of men,” Godfrey Nyakahuma, Hoima Resident District Commissioner is quoted by media.
Women are the linchpins of most families and when in control of financial resources, they are more likely to devote resources to developmental activities like food, education and health unlike men who are more likely to spend it on prostitution and alcohol. It is therefore vital that the existing laws are enforced to ensure that women attain support to secure their children’s future.
While the privatization of land titles strengthens individual rights, in most cases women are often left out due to illiteracy, lack of knowledge of their rights and the lack of stringent regulatory frameworks.
According to Wilson Kiiza, an independent researcher on Bagungu culture and history, the Bugungu culture does not allow women to own land and not even the oil discovery will change the norm.
“Women did not own land in the past, Bagungu believed that, a woman will get her land at her husband’s home. However, when they divorce, she had no power of ownership over her farming land,” he notes.
Bagungu land was owned customarily and women had access to land only to collect firewood and cut grass used for thatching.
Even though the 1995 Constitution, National Land Policy and the Land Act 1998 provide for equal rights in as far as ownership of land is concerned, traditionalists argue the customary form of land tenure does not permit women to own or inherit land. This argument may provide one explanation for the misuse of compensation monies thus widening the poverty gap.
Interestingly, it seems that customary practices may continue to override statutory law in recognition and enforcement of women’s land rights, abating unnoticed land grabbing at the family level.
It is however important to note that as Uganda plans to commence oil production, the oil sector infrastructural developments will have even more negative impacts on women that should not be over-looked.
To move ahead strategically and sustainably, women must be granted the opportunity to access information, participate in decision making and become more actively involved in the policy and legal formulations and reviews. There should be an institution that protects women and addresses the hopes, fears, expectations, outcomes and abuses related to women and compensation.
Most importantly, while men are fully integrated into land issues at various levels, specific programs should be introduced to sensitize both men and women on their respective rights. On the longevity perspective, this will reduce the gender inequality over time.
Where does Uganda stand on Land rights for women?
Charles Darwin once stated that if the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. Darwin in his book ‘Voyage of Beagle’, postulate that these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, believe in God and pray that his will be done on Earth! It indeed makes one’s blood boil witnessing how women in rural areas continue to languish in penury.
According to one District Official, land wrangles, disputes and evictions in the districts of Hoima and Buliisa are becoming a ‘normal’ thing’. Land in the rural areas is a symbol of identity and belonging and is essential for livelihoods and well being of many.
Article 26 of the Uganda 1995 Constitution stipulates that every person has a right to own property either individually or in association with others. It is followed by Article 33w which advocates for women empowerment and provides a legal framework for gender equality.
However, in reality, two decades after it came into force, it is evident that women scarcely benefit from these legal elements. The 2001 and 2004 Land Act amendments provides for the protection of spouses by right of occupancy on family land. Sadly, even with these amendments, the Act does not still address the issue of co-ownership rights!
Whereas the National Land Policy 2013 acknowledges the inadequacies in the existing land laws, it does not also advocate for women land rights; but recommends a basis upon which Government can take steps to redress discrimination and disparate impact and suggests for law reform and practice change at the policy implementation level. Arguably, I would will not blame the lack of enforcement for the continuous land disputes but will state that a contributing factor is lack of knowledge of the citizenry regarding their land rights.
A recent report titled ‘Spousal Consent Section in the Land Act in safeguarding women land rights; case study of Hoima district’ reveal that 75 per cent the 100 respondents are not aware of their land rights. It reports that one of the key problems relating to women and land rights is the lack of knowledge, especially on their statutory rights.
The report further reiterates a key issue previously raised by scholars; that women for ages have been denied rights to access, utilize and own lands. They have been disenfranchised by the existing patrilineal system and prevailing male chauvinism regarding land ownership. This ideology that land belongs to men has played a significant role in disenfranchising women from owning, accessing and utilizing land and hence has negatively impacted on women land rights.
It is also evident that communal tenure is slowly fading and rich and unscrupulous persons have also capitalised on the ignorance of land rights in these area to either grab land or buy it cheaply. Most efforts geared to solve this injustice however seem to have hit a dead end!
In all sense of aphorism and axiomatic assertion, giving women access to land will be a commanding means to battle poverty and hunger. So; whereas it would be prudent to commend the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development for trying to address the land issues, there should be a collective effort among all actors including parliament, if Uganda is to realize this long post dream! Often, there is a level of autonomy and empowerment and security that comes with knowing your rights and being able to act accordingly!
8 Children Dead, 63 Severely Malnourished Due To Forceful Evictions in Uganda’s Oil district
Eight children have died and 63 others anguish from severe malnutrition at Kijayo LC-1 camp in Munteme parish, Kiziramfumbi sub-county in Hoima District following forceful land eviction earlier this year.
On 28th February 2015, over 5000 people were evicted from 1860 hectare piece of land in Kiziramfumbi after it was leased to an investor for sugarcane plantation.
Namara Scovia, a 7 year old girl is the latest child to succumb to severe malnutrition while at the camp. According to her death certificate, Namara passed on the 10th of August and the cause of death, as stated by the medical officer at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital, was severe acute malnutrition and pneumonia.
Kijayo camp is located approximately 40 km away from Hoima town and about 7 km away from Kiziramfumbi sub-county headquarters. The 4acre piece of land where the group is currently residing belongs to Church of Uganda.
According to Buryahika Stephen, head of Kijayo camp, Namara is not the only child who has lost her life due to malnutrition. Seven others between the ages of one to seven years have died due to malnutrition and lack of proper feeding.
“At the camp, we depend on charity! We are now living like homeless people because everyone wants to get rich from this oil,” Buryahiko narrates, adding that the discovery has brought more harm than good.
He further adds that sadly, the 63 others will suffer the same fate if no urgent attention is rendered to them.
Benon Tusingwire, Executive Director Navigators of Development Association, a local community based organization notes that the camp has only two clinics which appear to be slack since the community members cannot afford UGX 30,000 (less than 10 USD) to acquire treatment for their children.
“These people do not have jobs, they do not have any land to cultivate and no source of livelihoods, they cannot afford to buy food to eat and any medication for their children,” he added.
According to Turinawe Rogers, father to late one year old Atugonza Prosper, the children are dying because there is no food and proper medication for them at the camp.
He reveals that the situation at the camp is sickening and worrying because they are not allowed to bury their children at the camp because it is not their land.
“We are not allowed to bury at the camp. One is expected to bury their loved ones at either their relatives or at the cemetery,” he stated.
According to Buryahika, the land in question is claimed by Kimera Herbert; a local tycoon (now deceased) who is using a different land title to evict them.
“Kimera claimed he owned this land but it is not true. He (Kimera) used a land title for some 10 ha piece of land to evict,” Buryahika revealed in a recent interface meeting in Hoima.
“He used police to chase us out of our land like we were dogs,” he said, adding that the police looted their livestock and destroyed their crops.
On 4th July 2014, the High Court of Uganda issued an interim order restraining the respondednt (Kinera Herbert) from “erasing, demolishing or destroying the existing gardens and structures of the applicant but is at liberty to carry out his activities on the undeveloped part of the suit land.”
The land dispute in Kiziramfumbi started in 2012 when the late Kimera threatened to evict the residents branding them as ‘squatters.’ Further investigations reveal that the community upon receiving the eviction threats filed a court case at the Masindi Magistrate court to halt any evictions.
According to Nkunzi Tanazio, 31 and father to late Namara, the land under dispute is a communal land and has been his home for the last 16 years. He further recites that Godfrey Nyakahuma, the Residence District Commissioner’s efforts to solve the issue have been fruitless.
“He (RDC) came here at the camp and asked us to take our children to Hoima Referral hospital for treatment after seeing the condition they are in,” he said.
The Kijayo community filed an application in the High Court of Uganda challenging the investor for violation of rights and damage of property. The hearing of the application is slated for 2nd September 2015.
According to Buryahika, the community in their file demands UGX 108bn (about 320,000 USD) as compensation from the investor.
In a recent “Up against Giant” report launched by Transparency International Uganda and Civic Response on Environment and Development, oil based investment and its associated benefits have inspired an unprecedented amount of land grabbing in the region with powerful rich elite and District land boards officials fraudulently acquiring land titles over communal lands.
African Development Bank writes off 600 Million dollars in Zimbabwe debts
Zimbabwe Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said on Tuesday the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) had agreed to cancel the southern African nation’s $601 million in arrears to the bank.
“The African development bank has set aside some funds to help Zimbabwe clear its arrears to the bank,” Chinamasa told a news conference.
Zimbabwe owes foreign creditors $9 billion and has been struggling for five years to recover from a catastrophic recession, widespread food shortages and hyperinflation.
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