By PHOEBE MASONGOLE
The disastrous effects of this mining is already paying a large toll among the over 1,000 residents in Kawowo sub county in Kapchorwa and Buwekunda in Bulambuli.
Those who have threatened hostility due to delayed compensation are from Kaboryot and Kapchela in Kawowo Sub county in Kapchorwa.
Sadly, Kampala Cement only started holding meetings with communities years after they started exploration in the area.
Residents Decry Delayed Compensation
In 2018 38 families headed by Chesang dragged Kampala Cement to court for environmental pollution, that has so far left 13 people dead, and dozens hospitalized.
The residents accuse the cement plant manufacturers of causing unbearable suffering due to the mining exercise. The houses have been cracked due to the persistent blasts, leaving scores of families in dire state.
Though Court ordered that each family be compensated with UGX 9 million (USD 2,400), this promise is yet to yield fruits. Kampala Cement was duly required to pay UGX 342 m (USD91,000) to the 38 families that sued.
The court case mediation number 39 of 2022 arriving from civil suit number 37 of 2021was between Kampala Cement vs Chesang Stone, and 37 others.
The families are being represented by Ben Kiprotich from Kasumba & Shield Company Advocates.
Water that is seen as a common resource that allows these indigenous people to move forward as a people and for life to flow, has greatly been polluted due to the exploration.
Speaking with strength, Irene Mugoola, resident of Naboongo sub county in Bulambuli district describes the delayed compensation as a thorn in their flesh.
” We are staying in badly shaped houses due to cracks cause by mining, the cracks keep in deepening every day” she said.
She says the mining activities contribute to dust that pollutes the air they breathe.
The vibration from machines and flying rocks from sites, she says have made their houses dilapidated and un-habitable.
Speaking with a booming dramatic voice is John Mbuka, a resident of Kaoryot village in Kapchorwa district, an area affected by floods
” Whenever we plant crops the floods wash them away yet we incur a lot during the planting, last year we were told to be patient and wait for compensation but go date nothing has been done” he said
The locals in the areas have no kind words for government. They accuse government of playing ‘dirty’ tricks on them.
Last year Internal Affairs Minister Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire met the residents and assured them that government would compensate them since Kampala Cement was delaying.
“If the company has failed to compensate you, we as government, we are set and ready to compensate you because we want development, but development with responsibility,” Otafiire was quoted in the (Daily Monitor)
This promise is what is brewing anger among the locals who once blocked the 2km access road built by Kampala Cement leading to quarry.
The land was utilized minus compensating the locals. Joel Khauka, a resident of Kawowo sub county said company is convening with government and leaders to disrupt we communities
” This seems to be a planned deal because they have never fulfilled their promises and whenever we inquire we are arrested and beaten by police” he said
Khauka said further: ” If the company is using force and lies to extract mineral from our own community this will not work, we are going to be hostile because this land belongs to us.”
Kampala Cement Defiant
Though Members of Parliament on the Natural Resources Committee ordered Kampala Cement in November 2019 to halt their operations in the area over environmental degradation, these orders have been defied to date.
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Tom Chesang the Chairperson Sabiny Youth Association said they are just waiting for court to handle the matter.
“The court instructed the company to compensate and pay all the damages caused to the communities come next month and we are eagerly waiting” he said
Aisa Scovia Muduwa, the General Secretary of the affected families, said that Kampala cement factory has repeatedly promised to compensate them in vain.
“We agreed with them that they go on with mining on request that they are prepared to compensate us but we have been taken for granted and this hurts us so much,” she said
Stanley Baylor the RDC Bulambuli district said they are having mediation meetings with the communities.
“We are organizing for meetings with Kampala cement and we want to hear clear resolution from them on how to solve all these matters and we have also tasked them to go slow as the court decides” he said
Kampala Cement Responds
The lawyers representing the cement firm noted that the compensation to the affected communities will be delayed until proper figures are calculated.
Brian Kabafunzaki said: “I don’t want to be held unprofessional because the case is in court and the court is doing its work.”
The firms Communications Director said they are making every effort to reach an agreement with the community and guarantee their right to prior consultation.