It is a few minutes past 10:00AM but it is quite hot, weather probably typical of this part of the country.
A breeze glides from nearby Lake Albert, easing the heat on people seated in two tents directly opposite each other. In a big tent, and probably for good reason, are local communities-beneficiaries of a resettlement action plan (RAP) while in the other tent are officials from the Government and oil companies.
This is Buliisa one of the three districts where the Uganda’s Upstream oil and gas activities have intensified. Specifically, it is Kirama, Kigwera sub-county.
The local communities are the day’s focus. Accordingly, they are accorded the opportunity to address the gathering before the officials speak.
Lean Brian Sunday is among them. He struggled with school fees until he got a TotalEnergies scholarship, which supported his Advanced Level education.
“I don’t know where I would have been without this support. My parents did not have enough resources after senior four. My career has been shaped by TotalEnergies,” he 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 her daughter’s education just like Casbert Arinaitwe, who was supported to study “mechanical engineering and coded welding”.
At 28, he has a modern four-room permanent house with solar power and others, thanks to TotalEnergies’ RAP targeting project affected persons (PAPs). Arinaitwe’s is among 205 resettlement houses for RAP 2-5 primary residents that chose in-kind compensation in form of replacement housing.
A total of 105 houses have been built and await to be occupied. The launch and handover were the reason for the Kirama mid-morning meeting. 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 is a total transformation-from grass thatched, mud and wattle dwellings to modern houses with a toilet, kitchen, solar power, and water tanks.
The Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Hon Ruth Nankabirwa was the guest of honor at the handover of the houses recently.
Nankabirwa, a shareholder in UNOC which partners with TotalEnergies on the Tilenga project, 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, PAPs, she advised that they ought to support themselves, given the new structures they have moved into.
“These are investors. They cannot provide everything,” she said, adding that they (PAPs) needed mind-set change to tap the oil and gas opportunities and therefore acquire the basic needs.
Buliisa, she noted, needed a vocational institute to facilitate acquisition of skills, which would improve livelihoods.
Nankabirwa asked PAPs, who have been compensated to avoid delaying projects. She advised those who are unhappy to seek redress via the grievance procedure.
Earlier, TotalEnergies General Manager, Philipe Groueix disclosed that an extra 100 houses would be completed by August 2023.
“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,” he said.
Groueix named employment of 1,600 people from “host communities”, providing improved crop breeds to farmers, capacity building and financial literacy as some of the extra benefits for PAPs. Stella Faucan had earlier hinted at this when she said that NAROCAS, a cassava breed, distributed as part of a livelihood restoration project, was tastier and had high quality yields.
Groueix also announced that the project was considering providing electricity to 8000 households either through the national grid or solar power.
Buliisa MP, Allan Atugonza and the District Woman MP, Norah Bigiirwa-Nyendwoha appreciated the PAPs houses. Bigiirwa-Nyendwoha appealed for more capacity building for the PAPs and collaboration on activities like tree planting.
District Chairman, Fred Lukumu appreciated the Government for the infrastructure, which will not only facilitate oil and gas, but facilitate other activities too. END