Local leaders from areas to be affected by the Source of the Nile Development Project (SONDP) have welcomed the project’s Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) hence vowing to support its full implementation in a bid to transform their region and the entire country.
The leaders expressed their support for the RAP during a recent National Stakeholders’ Workshop at the Source of the Nile Hotel in Jinja. The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Tourism in conjunction with Strategic Friends International (SFI), the world-renowned but local consultancy firm which developed both the RAP and the master plan for the 20-year SONDP.
At the half-day meeting, the ministry bosses including Uganda Tourism Board Chairman, Hon. Daudi Migereko, the PS (represented by Vivian Lyazi) and Andrew Jimmy Kigozi launched the project’s RAP, which was then explained to participant stakeholders by Dr. Wambaka Kosea (PhD) (PhD), the SFI Head of Party and Programmes at SFI.
The stakeholders included officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Office of the Chief Government Valuer, and Jinja City, Jinja district Local Government, Njeru Municipality and Buikwe district (where the project’s PAPs are currently settled).
The local political leaders noted that apart from anticipating socioeconomic development in their area, they were ably convinced by the consultant’s assurances and track record that their people will adequately be compensated.
The leaders’ assertions followed a presentation by SFI Lead Consultant, Dr. Kosea Wambaka (PhD, PhD) who detailed the contents of the SONDP RAP and also went ahead to detail previous experiences of PAPs in earlier resettlement plans which SFI executed for the oil refinery in Hoima and the Finished Products Refinery from Hoima to Kampala respectively.
INSIDE THE SONDP RAP
According to Dr. Wambaka, the SFI Lead Consultant, the Resettlement Action Plan is intended to help government acquire land which is 400m either side of the Nile and stretching 10km along the river’s course starting from the source of the Nile in Jinja Southern division, Jinja City.
As per the RAP, this area covers parts of Jinja City, Jinja district, Njeru Municipality and Buikwe district. This land is needed to accommodate all the facilities needed to transform the Source of the Nile area into a modern world-class tourism site over a 20-year period starting with this political term (2021-26).
The requisite infrastructure includes: modern roads, a modern pier for tourist boats and ships, high class hotels, malls and shops, cable cars, space walkways, Glass Bridge, source of the Nile cultural village, zip-lining and critical monuments such as that of the Source of the Nile, Mahatma Gandhi. Also lined up for construction are children play facilities, a living museum, and an observation tower among other attractions.
Why Need For Resettlement
Dr. Wambaka noted that while all these amenities need expansive land within the 3km radius of the source of the Nile, government currently has only about 10% of it. Consequently, 90% of the same land is currently privately owned thus the need to resettle its current owners to pave way for the project.
The RAP estimates show that the resettlement will take 18 months, with 6 months dedicated to feasibility studies and the 12 earmarked for actual implementation of the resettlement exercise.
Wambaka noted that during this time, there will be massive sensitization of stakeholders and PAPs, a socio-economic baseline survey to capture the variables of all the PAPs, a cadastral survey of the land, and eventually compensation of the affected persons.
Wambaka assured the leaders who represented the PAPs that compensation rates will be determined by the District Land Boards and approved by the Office of Chief Government Valuer, based on current market rates.
“Compensation can be cash or one may opt for relocation and the valuation and compensation is expected within seven months from now,” he revealed.
The consultant also assured the leaders that there are mechanisms to cater for those who may not wish to relocate or be resettled, provided they can conform to certain standards as prescribed in the RAP and master plan. “We are not going to take over all the properties; much of the properties in the city may remain but will need to be upgraded to a certain required level,” he said.
He said Government will “adequately compensate” land owners for their land and the property therein based on valuation rates developed by
Land owners whose land will be acquired will also be paid a disturbance allowance of between 15-30% pursuant to adequate compensation laws.
He added that the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) harmonizes and provides mitigation measures against the adverse impacts of the new development; including looking at spousal conflicts which may arise from getting abrupt huge sums of money.
“To cater for such we have in place grievance handling mechanisms where our legal department will look into issues of cultural and religious beliefs, among other social aspects,” he said.
Leaders Welcome RAP
Having got a glimpse of the project’s RAP, the leaders expressed unanimous support for its implementation, vowing to sensitize their masses to accept relocation so as to make way for the project.
The first nod of approval was given by UTB Chairman, Hon. Daudi Migereko, who incidentally is among the PAPs since he owns several properties within the radius of the SONDP land.
“This project is long overdue and we can’t wait for its implementation any longer. We are going to do whatever it takes to support the project because everybody can see the benefits that will come with it,” Migereko said. The veteran politician-cum-seasoned hotelier however decried the sluggishness of implementing government programmes in the country, saying this particular project was first mooted decades ago when he was still a junior politician.
“For my case actually, I started sitting in meetings for developing the source of the Nile while I was still a councilor together with the likes of Faith Mwondha. Somehow, however, the project has lagged behind but I hope this time around it is going to take off up to completion,” Migereko said.
He then appealed to local leaders in the project affected areas to sensitize their people to accept the project, saying it is important for the transformation of Jinja, Njeru and the entire Buikwe areas.
“Avoid sensationalizing any glitches which may come up in the project because sometimes those are normal. Let’s simply look at the overall benefit and guide our people to look at the bigger picture of socioeconomic development,” Migereko pleaded.
Migereko’s appeal was echoed by Jinja Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Henry Kitambula, who stressed the need for effective communication on matters to do with the project.
“The Source of the Nile in its current state is a shame to government and every Ugandan who gets tempted to take there a friend/tourist. All you can see there are a few people eating fish and maybe sometimes those on boat cruise. That’s why everyone should support the project to ensure its full implementation,” Kitambula said.
Dwelling on the RAP, he said; “It is the duty of every leader and stakeholder here to give the right information about the resettlement action plan. Please avoid giving wrong information to the PAPs. For instance, if you have not understood something please don’t communicate it. Just consult instead of jeopardizing the project,” he said. Kitambula also warned against speculators who may want to rush to acquire land in the project affected area so that they can sell it at inflated prices at the time of compensation.
On her part, Maria Kasasa, the Deputy Mayor Jinja Southern Division prayed for the fast tracking of the project, saying it presents a very big opportunity to develop Jinja and the entire Busoga region.
She reiterated the appeal to local leaders to interest their people in the project and also persuade them to accept to be relocated as per the RAP so as to free land for the project’s implementation. She however asked the project implementers to ensure that many of the semi-skilled and unskilled labour jobs are reserved for the residents of Jinja Southern Division in line with the Local content laws.
Lydia Kalemeera, the Deputy RCC Jinja Northern division welcomed the project to Jinja, appealing to all Basoga to bear with the inconveniences which may come with it.
The RAP also got a nod from Njeru Municipality Mayor Yasin Kyazze Sitya Loss, who vowed to sensitize his people to relocate and enable the project to be fully implemented.
Why RAP must be supported
The SONDP RAP must be supported in every sense of the word because of its potential to boost the country’s Toursim sector. For the record, Tourism has in recent years overtaken coffee to become Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner. Uganda recorded a 59% increase in international visitor arrivals to 814,508 in 2022, signaling a recovering tourism sector from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the tourism ministry, Uganda earned Shs2.7 trillion as of March 29, 2023.
The largest item of expenditure for inbound visitors in 2022, continued to be accommodation, food and beverage, passenger transport and shopping with a combined share of 68.8% in 2022.
International tourists stayed an average of 7.6 nights in the country resulting in a total of 6.5 million bed nights. Staying with friends and relatives continues to be the largest accommodation type (33.5%) due to Uganda being a major visiting friends and relatives (VFR) market. International visitors spent 10 times more per day than domestic visitors according to the report.
The above figures explain why the SONDP master plan advocates for modern accommodation and transport facilities for the source of the Nile, while the RAP reserves the element for individual people’s homes being upgraded to shelters that can also accommodate international visitors who may choose not to book into hotels.