The controversy surrounding the delayed implementation of a palm oil project in Buvuma District has taken a new twist with government shifting the blame on local leaders.
Government accuses the leaders of conniving with residents to demand exorbitant compensation for their land.
The project, which was unveiled in 2008, has failed to take off despite the establishment of a demonstration garden at Kawafu Village in Buvuma Town Council.
“Local council leaders were supposed to identify land, confirm to us that the land has no encumbrances and protect it against encroachment, but they abandoned all those responsibilities and started de-campaigning the project, leading to unprecedented delays,’’ Mr Kyofa Kabuye, the coordinator of the Vegetable Oil Development Project, said during a stakeholders meeting at Kitamiro Village, Buvuma Town Council at the weekend.
He said local leaders were also tasked to ensure that residents who receive compensation vacate the land to pave way for the project, but some decided to connive with residents to demand double compensation.
“We sat in several meetings [with them] and discussed a number of issues but after they conducted other meetings in their villages emphasising that residents will not vacate their bibanja though they were paid and we have evidence, these are double standards,’’ Mr Kabuye said.
However, Mr Ronald Wanda, the district vice chairperson, denied the allegations, saying the delay was a result of late release of compensation money.
“As leaders, we have done our part as far as land acquisition is concerned. We have mobilised people and many have over the years surrendered their land, but the only challenge we face is late release of funds for compensation,” he said.
Mr Charles Aisu, the Busamuzi Sub-county chairperson, alleged that some local leaders have selfish interests.
“We don’t know what their intention is, but what we see indicates that they are working towards failing the project,” he said.
Legislators on the parliamentary committee on agriculture last year advised government to swiftly implement the project, warning that any further delays would give unscrupulous individuals a chance to grab land earmarked for it.