Oxfam Urges Fair Compensation for Ugandans Affected by Pipeline

(Bloomberg) -- Uganda should fairly compensate landowners affected by a pipeline that will transport oil to an Indian Ocean port after accusations that some people reimbursed for earlier public projects were left worse-off, Oxfam International said.

The London-based charity said it’s concerned that “community participation, livelihoods and land rights could be overlooked in a quest to meet the schedule for land acquisition” for the 1,445-kilometer (898-mile) conduit that will link Uganda’s western oilfields with Tanga in Tanzania. Total SA, China’s Cnooc Ltd. and London-based Tullow Oil Plc are developing Uganda’s 6.5 billion barrels of oil resource, with the planned pipeline crossing eight districts and 296 kilometers in the country.

“Oxfam is interested in seeing that extractives projects benefit host communities and that governments and citizens in resource-rich countries get a fair share of their natural resource wealth,” Gerald Byarugaba, extractive industries coordinator at the charity’s Ugandan office, said in an emailed response to questions. “Available information points to some irregularities that left some project-affected persons worse-off,” he said, referring to earlier government projects, without naming them.

Oxfam said there isn’t yet an estimate for how many people will be affected, although the government plans to secure the land by June 2018. Lands Minister Amongi Betty Ongom didn’t answer calls to her mobile phone while Energy Minister Irene Muloni’s phone was switched off when Bloomberg sought comment.

2020 Completion

The pipeline, estimated to cost $3.55 billion, is set for completion by the time oil production begins in Uganda’s western Lake Albertine basin in 2020. It’s part of the East African nation’s plan to achieve middle-income status, the World Bank’s definition for a country with a gross national income per capita between $1,045 and $12,736. Gulf Interstate Engineering Co. is carrying out a feasibility study on the pipeline, which will be funded through equity and loans by partners in the project including oil companies.

Ahlem Friga-Noy, a Uganda-based spokeswoman for the project’s lead sponsor, Total, didn’t respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.

The Africa Institute for Energy Governance, a non-governmental organization in the capital, Kampala, said on its website it sued the Ugandan government in 2014 because of allegedly inadequate compensation given to those moved from land on which an oil refinery was planned. It didn’t provide details on the outcome.