Houses Handover

Houses Handover

It was a few minutes past 10am, but already the weather was quite hot, probably typical in this part of the country. A breeze blew in from nearby Lake Albert, easing the heat on the people seated in two tents erected directly opposite each other. In one big tent, sat local communities who were beneficiaries of the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP); while in another tent, sat government officials and oil company executives.

We were in Buliisa, one of the three districts where Uganda’s upstream oil and gas activities have intensified. Specifically, we were in Kirama, Kigwera sub-county. The houses handover launch ceremony, under the TilengaProject, was the reason for the Kirama mid-morning meeting on Monday, June 12, 2023.

The local communities were accorded the opportunity to address the gathering before the officials spoke. Lean Brian Sunday was among them. He had struggled with school fees until he got a TotalEnergies scholarship, which sponsored his Advanced Level education.

“I don’t know where I would have been without their support! My parents did not have enough resources after senior four. My career has been shaped by TotalEnergies,” Sunday stated. After the Advanced Level at Namilyango College, he pursued a degree at Kyambogo University before a drilling and completions course in France.

Similarly, Robert Konyezi was grateful for his daughter’s education; just like Casbert Arinaitwe, who was sponsored to study, “mechanical engineering and coded welding.” At 28, he has a modern, four-room, permanent house with solar power and other amenities, all thanks to TotalEnergies’ RAP targeting Project Affected Persons (PAPs). Arinaitwe was a beneficiary of one of the resettlement houses for RAP 2-5 primary residents that chose in-kind compensation, in the form of replacement housing.

Accordingly, Jomati Katusabe, who has two wives, got two houses, including a land title for each of the houses. For many of the beneficiaries, it was a total transformation—from grass thatched, mud-and-wattle dwellings, to modern houses each with a toilet, kitchen, solar power and a water tank!

The Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa, was the guest of honour during the handover ceremony of 105 PAP houses. Nankabirwa, a shareholder in UNOC, (the shares are held by the sitting minister) which partners with TotalEnergies on the TilengaProject, hailed the livelihood restoration projects including housing. This, she argued, was a testimony to the projects’ positive impact on the people.

Responding to a PAP’s appeal for support on basics like household items (they thought the houses would be furnished) she advised PAPs that they ought to support themselves, given the new structures they have moved into.

“These are investors. They cannot provide everything!” Nankabirwa admonished, adding that in order acquire their basic needs, the PAPs needed a mindset change to tap into oil and gas opportunities. For example, she noted Buliisa needed a vocational institute to facilitate acquisition of skills, which would improve livelihoods.

Nankabirwa asked the PAPs, who have been compensated, to avoid delaying projects. She also advised those who are unhappy to seek redress via the grievance procedure.

These 105 houses, that have been built, await occupation. Clad in a navy blue suit, TotalEnergies General Manager, Philippe Groueix disclosed that 100 more PAP houses would be completed later on.

“I hope that this marks a new beginning for the people who have accepted to move. This is enshrined in our pillar of people development and well-being,” Groueix remarked.

Groueix mentioned employment of 1,600 people from “host communities” providing improved crop breeds for farmers, capacity-building and financial literacy as some of the extra benefits for PAPs. Another PAP, Stella Faucan, had earlier hinted at this when she said that NAROCAS, which is a cassava breed, distributed as part of the livelihood restoration project, was tastier and had high-quality yields. Groueix also announced that the project was considering providing electricity to 8,000 households, either through the national grid or solar power.

In conclusion, Buliisa MP, Allan Atugonza and the District Woman MP, Norah Bigiirwa-Nyendwoha, appreciated the PAP houses. Bigiirwa-Nyendwoha appealed for more capacity-building for the PAPs and collaboration in activities like tree planting. District Chairman, Fred Lukumu, appreciated the government for the infrastructure, which will not only facilitate oil and gas, but other activities as well.

The writer is the Senior Corporate Affairs Officer at Uganda National Oil Company

Caption for the UNOC Photo: Energy and Mineral Development Minister, Ruth Nankabirwa holds a land title for a PAP resettlement house in the Tilenga Project.

Barrel Reporter

Barrel Reporter is an experienced writer who has worked in the Oil and Gas sector for several years, and has a keen interest in current projects in Ug...

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