Journey to Lake Albert Basin, Western Uganda
Posted by vmsalama on February 8, 2014
I’m in Uganda as a fellow for the International Center for Journalists, learning about this incredible country and all of its successes and challenges. This week, along with my Ugandan colleague and New Vision journalist Ibrahim Kassita, embarked on a long and grueling journey to the Lake Albert Basin in Western Uganda to examine the plight of residents near a proposed oil refinery site. The paved road you see in picture two is brand new, paved especially to allow workers to access the refinery site. It is the first road many of the local residents have ever seen. When it was built, many residents who lived along the roads were offered either monetary compensation or a new house. We could not find any residents who had already received their new house, but we did find people who had received money.
We came across these women at a well station and decided to discuss the project with them. Not only did they share some interesting insights on how the compensation scheme stands to leave women and children out, since the men receive the money and often squander it. They also informed us that this well is the only clean water source within 10 kilometers. The women gather every few days, often bringing their children along, to fill several yellow containers full of water. They then have to lug them back on foot. Many of the wells in the area have stopped working and some are set to be destroyed once building begins on the refinery site.
After a few hours of travel, we met Fideli Donge and his family, who together total about 60 people. They have been promised a home as part of the compensation plan — they live within a kilometer of the refinery site. However, they are still waiting for word from the government and have been given no indication of when or where they will go. They have a 20 acre farm on the land Donge has lived on for 50 years. They will likely lose their crops — the sole source of income and food for his large family. He is extremely sick and frail, and told us that he wants to die knowing that his family has a roof over its head.