Chinese and French oil companies involved in the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project, to be built from Uganda to Tanzania, say affected villagers are being compensated. But rights groups representing hundreds of families who will be displaced by the project tell a different story.
The $3.5 billion project is projected to run 1,450 kilometers from the southwestern Homia district of Uganda to the Port of Tanga in Tanzania.
On Sunday, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania signed three agreements paving the way for construction of the pipeline, expected to be completed in 2025.
Kitutu Mary Goretti, Uganda's minister for energy and mineral development, says the agreements will be a significant boost to Uganda's economy and its people.
"Other processes are already ongoing, including the acquisition of land for the pipeline and (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) EPC Management activities," Goretti said. "It is important for the people of Uganda to take note of and position themselves to benefit from the extensive activities already going on."
However, human rights organizations say pipeline construction will displace up to 10,000 people, who are not being adequately compensated.
Sewanyana Livingstone, the head of the Foundation for Human Rights organization, says locals are not being heard.
"Of course, the population along the pipeline are interested in compensation. Because they were displaced; they were not heard; they are not party to the negotiation. We are trying in our follow-up activities to see how (French energy company) Total can bring them on board. But at the moment, they seem to be excluded," Livingstone said.
According to the agreements signed Sunday, Total will hold the largest stake in the pipeline with 62 percent. The Uganda National Oil Company and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation will each hold 15 percent, and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, or CNOOC, will own the other 8 percent.
Pierre Jessua, Total's general manager, says the company has not voluntarily delayed the compensation to the affected families.
"It was, I would say, due to the stop-and-go of the project that we had to interrupt the process," Jessua said. "But we never actually took the lands and deprive the people from the land. We have evaluated the land, evacuated the crops from the land, evaluated the buildings which were on the land."
Chen Zhugobia, president of CNOOC's Uganda branch, says very few people in their areas of jurisdiction are yet to be compensated.
"We have already compensated most of the people related to the land. And from my memory, only about 6 households are not compensated," Zhugobia said.
Upon completion, the East Africa Crude Oil Pipepline will be the longest in the world, carrying 230,000 barrels of oil per day from Ugandan oil fields to Africa's east coast.