Tororo Cement, Tepeth Community Yet to Agree on Limestone Mining

2321 Views Moroto, Uganda

In short
The idea to draft a Memorandum of Understanding MoU emerged following a standoff in July 2016. The community blocked Tororo Cement from accessing the site in Kosiroi village over low prices, land compensation and surface rights. The stormy event compelled the state minister for minerals, Peter Lokeris, to hold a crisis meeting with the parties involved including officials for the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.

There is still no agreement between the Tepeth Community in Moroto district and Tororo Cement as the latter continues to mine limestone from Tapac sub county.
  
The idea to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) emerged following a standoff in July 2016. The community blocked Tororo Cement from accessing the site in Kosiroi village over low prices, land compensation and surface rights. The stormy event compelled the state minister for minerals, Peter Lokeris, to hold a crisis meeting with the parties involved including officials for the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.
 
Several months later, however, there is no formal agreement in sight, with individual interests taking centre stage. Michael Lotee, the chairperson of the MOU drafting committee and his political opponent, Albert Lokoru, the Tepeth MP, have used the platform to extend their political rivalry.
  
The political interference has clouded concerns of land acquisition by Tororo Cement. Information obtained on the ground indicates that Tororo Cement did not pay for the land surface rights as required in the Mining Act, 2003.
 
Henry Lorika Lotyang, a community member in Kosiroi demands that Tororo Cement first clears the surface rights issues before any agreement is signed with the community. He acknowledges that whereas Tororo Cement tried to consult the community at first on the 12-square-kilometre piece of land, no money was paid and yet the company has kept on extending its activities to occupy more land.
 
Stephane Adupa, a district councillor for Tapac sub county notes that Tororo Cement now claims ownership of close to 50 square kilometres without any knowledge of the land owners. She wants Tororo Cement to explain how they acquired the land in question. She is also bitter with the cement factory for the office land measuring over two hectares acquired without compensation at Kosiroi trading centre. Adupa notes that the owners of the land were thrown out without any consideration.
 
Both Lotee and Lokoru agree on the issues raised by the community but they note that all have been captured in the MoU draft now in the hands of Tororo Cement for more input. Lotee is optimistic that the MoU will be complete by May this year while Lokoru says it will take some time since it's an important document that requires systematic approach.
 
David Omido, Tororo Cement's manager Logistics and Utilities and who is a common face in Kosiroi, acknowledges that they received the draft MoU but notes that his team is yet to peruse it and respond accordingly.  Omido the man the Tepeth community identifies as key negotiator for Tororo Cement, however, declined to comment on the surface right issues.
 
''I joined Tororo Cement around 2011 and I don't know whether surface rights were paid or not. It's something that I will find out from the Chief Executive Officer,'' Omido said on phone.
 
On the issue of office space that was not compensated, Omido notes that they agreed with the community in the area and settled without any interference. ''At the time, there was insecurity and we lived together with the land owners. Nobody was aggrieved and I am only hearing it for the first time,'' Omido added.
 
Edwards Katto Kagimba, the head of Geological Survey and Mines in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, agreed that there were some errors at the time when Tororo Cement got a mining lease from the Ministry. ''I was not there at the time when Tororo Cement acquired a mining lease but it's an observation made that should be corrected. It appears some people exploited the ignorance of the community there but we shall work on it,'' Kagimba noted in an interview recently.
 
Tororo Cement has two mining leases in Tapac but no surface rights have been paid for any. The Mining Act, 2003 indicates that the company applying for the mining lease should have Secured surface rights of the land that is the subject of the application.