Oil refinery project affected persons get land titles

HOIMA – 73 Kabaale oil refinery project affected persons [PAPs] whose families were displaced as government acquired land for the construction of the oil refinery in Kabaale Sub-county in Hoima district are now landlords again after receiving freehold land titles.

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development through the Ministry of Land, Housing, and Urban Development recently offered the PAPs 127 freehold land titles for the pieces of land that the government resettled them.

The 73 PAPs are part of 7118 people who were relocated from 29 square miles of land which the government acquired in 2012 from 13 villages to pave way for the construction of the oil refinery which will be used to process 60,000 barrels of crude oil into finished petroleum products.

The 73 PAPs received the land titles because they opted for relocation while the remaining PAPs opted for cash compensation to start a new life on their own without government intervention.

Government acquired 533 acres of land in Kyakaboga village in Buseruka Sub-county in Hoima district and distributed it to 73 individuals and their families. The government went ahead to construct a permanent house for each of the households on a total area of 20 acres.

After the construction of the houses in 2017, the government handed the houses to the residents who had been living on the new land waiting for the land titles until last week when they received the valuable documents.

Sadam Tekwako the chairman of Kyakaboga settlement area commended the government for offering the land titles to the resident adding that the delivery has been long overdue.

He noted that many people had lost hope because of the delay by the government to deliver the titles adding that they are now rightful owners of the land.

Tekwako however asked the government to fulfill some pledges. He noted that the government promised to establish piped water and to establish health facilities in the area but to date, nothing has been implemented.

Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development Judith Nabakooba who was represented by the Hoima deputy Resident District Commissioner Michael Kyakashari said that the handover of the titles makes the PAPs rightful owners of the land they stay on.

She noted that the delivery of the land titles is one of the major milestones achieved in the implementation of the oil refinery project.

She challenged the beneficiaries not to sell the land but use it for production to be able to supply produce to the oil and gas sector.

Honey Maringa, the director of Petroleum in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development said that 7118 were fully compensated adding that those who opted for relocation were given houses and those who opted were given money and went away.

He rubbished the claims of people who have continued to mislead the community that the area where they located them was not suitable for settlement.

He noted that the place was properly well planned adding that the area has all the necessary infrastructure such as school, roads, police, market and conducive houses were established in the area. He noted that the residents were given farmland and each individual knows his or her land.

He noted that they also offered livelihood restoration projects such as seeds and livestock.

He noted that 127 out 133 land titles were processed after 6 people failed to provide valid National IDs. He promised that the Ministry is going to work with relevant stakeholders to address the remaining challenges such as lack of water and health facilities.

Pius Wakabi the Bugahya County Member of Parliament commended the government for offering titles to the locals adding that it is difficult for an individual to process a land title and called on the Ministry of getting affirmative action aimed at processing land titles for the locals.

He expressed concern over the increasing land grabbing, saying most of the people in the area do not have the right ownership of the land, which he said gives an advantage to the speculators.

While handing over the land titles to the residents, Peter Aimat Lokeris state Minister of Energy and Mineral Developmenhttpscommended the PAPs for supporting the oil project by accepting to offer their land.

He noted that the process of developing oil sector in the area has not been not easy, adding that as government they are happy that the progress is promising.

He noted the construction of roads, airport, and refinery are developments that they never expected in the area and urged the locals to take advantage of the same, warning the beneficiaries against selling the land titles but instead use the documents to develop themselves.

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Uganda, South Sudan authorities concerned over continuous illegal cross border trades.

AMURU – Authorities in Uganda and South Sudan have raised concerns over the continuous illegal trade across borders in petroleum and drugs.

For years, community members living along the border villages of Palulu, Okidi North and South in Okidi parish in Atiak sub-county have engaged in illegal trade in petroleum, drugs like marijuana.

In October last year, South Sudan authorities raised concerns over inability by the Ugandan authorities to intensify security along the border lines to curb illegal trade.

David Otto, the Commissioner of Magwi County in South Sudan in an interview with our reporter says, they are concerned by the continuous illegal trade in mairungi, sugar and petroleum. Traders normally use the porous borders manned by URA and other security agencies.

According to Otto, despite knowing the porous border points, security and revenue personnel from the two countries have failed to apprehend the illegal traders and yet opt to accept bribes, fueling the business instead.

“What bothers us is the fact that despite the Ugandan authorities knowing that mairungi is illegal in South Sudan, they still can’t stop the trade along the borders. Besides that, I know that we all know the illegal porous border points yet we can’t affect arrests to stop the trade,” Otto wonders.

In a recent cross border meeting held at Nimule, in South Sudan, officials from both Uganda and South Sudan agreed to intensify deployments along the porous borders to curtail the seeming increasing cases of illegal trade between the two countries.

Justine Ocen, a resident of Palulu village in Okidi, Atiak sub-county in Amuru district, blamed the continuous illegal trade on the laxity by the security personnel deployed at the border points.

“People have known that no one resists money and so they (the illegal traders) are giving out money to the security personnel deployed along the border points in order to buy their way to and from South Sudan as they smuggle goods between the two countries,” Ocen notes.

Aggrey Akera, Keith, the LCV Councilor for Atiak sub county confirmed that the illegal trade across borders has been on the rise in recent times with key goods smuggled including cigarettes, sugar, petroleum among others.

Akera fears that since these goods are smuggled, their quality could be compromised and may put the lives of the consumers at risk.

According to Akera, besides quality concerns, security in the entire Atiak sub-county is at risk because in some incidents, the traders have been caught with firearms.

“We know that illegal trade across the two borders is on the rise and this means insecurity is also on the rise. For instance, if guns are recovered with the dealers and sometimes cattle rustlers from South Sudan, this means the security of the people in our community is at stake,” Akera, notes.

“We have also seen a rise in accident cases because the illegal traders believe that the only way to evade the deployed security personnel is to speed up. We recently lost two people who were aboard a Noah car which was being driven at a high speed from South Sudan as they tried to evade Uganda Revenue Authority officials,” Akera further explains.

Geoffrey Oceng Osborn, the Amuru Resident District Commissioner (RDC), told our reporter that currently, new deployments have been made along the border points.

He says, following reports from the cross-border meetings and public outcry on corruption, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), has overhauled the entire staff deployed at the Elegu border post.

Atiak sub-county and Elegu Town Council lie along the border between the Uganda- South Sudan border stretching to Lamwo district where the next legal entry point is located.

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Security Minister Gen Jim Muhwezi bans rural hawkers

Kampala – The Minister for Security, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi has issued a directive banning all hawkers in rural areas.

In a letter to all Resident District Commissioners [RDCs], District Police Commanders [DPCs]and all security personnel around the Country, Gen Muhwezi says, reports from the Internal Security Organization [ISO] have indicated that there are criminals moving around in villages pretending to be hawkers of merchandise.

“We have received information that there are people moving around villages especially in Western region, masquerading as hawkers” read the statement in parts.

Muhwezi says the practice is banned immediately, as it’s a source of insecurity for the country.

“The practice of moving in villages selling items should not be allowed as it is a source of insecurity”

He adds that those who want to trade in the rural areas should do so in the trading areas.

The directive comes barely two days after security in Kampala got involved in running battles with city traders and hawkers in an attempt to clean up the City streets of hawkers and vendors.

On Monday, a combined team of police and the military cleared Kampala streets of hawkers.

Several hawkers were arrested pending court action as Kampala Capital City Authorities [KCCA] grappled with the perennial challenge of vendors on the streets.

Meanwhile, Kampala Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago said, Jim Muhwezi, the Security Minister is not mandated to handle issues of hawkers including stopping them from plying their trade.

Lukwago further says, there are local government units that can handle hawkers through established by-laws that can give the decision a legal backing.

“We have local government units that can handle it. Local Councils should be allowed to act by passing by-laws- that would regulate hawking, Lukwago argued while appearing on NBS television.

Katikamu South MP, Hassan Kirumira says, if implemented, the directive would deny people living in the rural areas an opportunity to access cheap merchandise at their doorstep.

“Our people have been accessing cheap goods from the hawkers, but banning hawkers would mean they have to travel to Kampala or busy markets, which becomes more challenging,” Kirumira lamented.

Kampala Resident City Commissioner [RCC], Hood Hussein says, the directive is timely and would enable them to clean up the city, including towns.

Hussein further noted that rural hawking is not bad as compared to urban vending, but once the hawkers are a threat, then they should be regulated.

“Its government’s responsibility to protect the people and their property. If hawkers are a problem then we need to clean up through laws or such directives,” says Hussein why speaking to our reporter.

Gen Jim Muhwezi’s directive also follows reports of Allied Democratic Forces [ADF] rebel infiltration in the vast part of Western Uganda recruiting youth into rebel ranks.

Last week, authorities in DRC reportedly arrested Benjamin Kisokeranio, a key Allied Democratic Forces Commander in charge of recruitment in the rebel outfit.

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