OIL: Bunyoro NGOs’ Unbothered By Govt Warnings

Civil Society Organisations-CSOs in Bunyoro are unbothered by government warnings over what it calls misleading statements regarding oil governance.

Ministers, particularly Ernest Kiiza for Bunyoro Affairs, have been critical of CSO activities saying they at times interfere with government programs in the oil sector. On Tuesday, while meeting people affected by the proposed oil refinery in Buseruka Sub County, the minister warned CSOs against what he called misinforming the residents.

His colleague, State Minister for Mineral Development Peter Lokeris, made a similar statement saying external forces were likely driving activities of CSOs in Bunyoro to destabilize government programs on oil especially the construction of a refinery.

But the organizations say they are not bothered and they will not relent on their cause of enlightening people on their right to fair treatment.  Michael Businge, the regional Program Assistant African Institute for Energy Governance-AFIEGO maintains that their major role is to empower communities to stand for their rights.

Businge says they cannot just look on as people lose their property and are displaced without fair compensation. Government is in the process of compensating people Kibaale, Buseruka Sub County where an oil refinery is to be built. Although government rules out unfair compensation, Businge says such information is not given to people as an assurance.

Businge refutes claims that they are funded to destabilize the refinery project. He says they are aware of the benefits of the facility but insists this should be done with respect to rights of the affected persons.

Vincent Nyegenya, the Field Coordinator National Association of Professional Environmentalists-NAPE, says the Association has deployed six community educators in Kabaale area to specifically do capacity building among community members on their rights.

Nyegenya says government now wants to scare them away so that the community remains ignorant and easy to exploit.

Because of injustices normally associated with oil activities as seen in Nigeria, the Albertine Graben has seen a growing number of Civil Society Organizations; all geared towards promoting advocacy and community empowerment to hold government accountable.

In Bunyoro the CSOs are critical of discreet government operations where people have less knowledge on activities in the oil sector, unfair compensation for those displaced by oil exploration activities, and inadequate measures to guard against likely environmental hazards among other issues.

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