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Oil exploitation conflict in Buliisa District, Uganda


After obtaining their exploration licences for Uganda in 2004, Tullow Oil made their first significant oil discoveries in 2006 in the Lake Albert Rift Basin. In 2007, Tullow took operational control of the exploration and appraisal of exploration area 2 (EA-2), which comprises the Buliisa district.

The oil extraction has caused an increase in conflicts in the region. Due to the activity of companies like Tullow Oil, land has become an even more important commodity in the region. Several reports indicate that the digging of seismic wells and drilling, as well as other oil exploration activities, have led to displacement, changes in ownership of land and land acquisition conflicts in the region around the Albertine Graben. Different incidents were reported by local media since 2006, especially around the area of the Kasemena oil wells.

In 2009 when it was testing the Kasemene oil wells, Tullow Oil agreed to pay Buliisa residents to vacate their homes during a short period of time, after protests took place.

In 2010, more than 400 pastoralists were reportedly evicted by Uganda from land where oil had been found, after the government accused them of illegal occupation. The group then petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the eviction, which the government had been struggling to go through with for the past three years. The case was dismissed by the court.

In 2011, violence emerged in Kasenyi, Buliisa District, when members of the Bagungu people indigenous to the area were protesting land acquisitions for Tullow Oil. A group of about thirty men allegedly started to beat up several villagers, a few men were arrested and detained for less than a week when the police arrived. Reports of violence involving the police also emerged.

In 2013, residents of the Nguedo Sub Country, Buliisa District threatened to block oil exploration activities on their land because of poor compensation received by Total for crops destroyed during seismic surveys, previously executed by the company.

Moreover, Tullow Oil blamed its sub-contractor, Saracen Uganda Limited, when two trucks of human waste were allegedly dumped in Kakindo village, Buliisa District in 2013. Local residents were pushing for compensation for the problems caused by the waste dumping, such as discomfort and diseases.

Tullow Oil said that they had conducted an investigation and ordered their sub-contractor to clean up the area. This was not the first time that the company has been accused of dumping waste in the area, although Tullow claimed that they have not been dumping toxic drilling waste in the game park and in inhabited areas.

There is also a conflict between oil extraction wildlife, the Albertine region houses 10 of Uganda’s 22 national parks and protected game reserves, such as Murchison Falls National Park.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Oil exploitation conflict in Buliisa District, Uganda
State or province:Buliisa District
Location of conflict:Buliisa District
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Tullow's exploration area 2, which Buliisa hosts, stretches over an area of 102,500 hectares in the Lake Albert Rift basin. By 2010, Tullow Oil had discovered around 900 million barrels of recoverable resources in the Lake Albert Rift Basin. In 2009, they were producing 10,000 to 20,000 barrels of oil per day.

Project area:102,500
Level of Investment: Investment from 2009-2010: 343,000,000 USD
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Around 400 people
Start of the conflict:01/01/2006
Company names or state enterprises:Total Mocambique from France
Total SA from France
Tullow Oil Plc from United Kingdom
Relevant government actors:Supreme Court of Uganda
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:• Buliisa Women’s Environmental Protection and Savings Group
• Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO):
• Uganda Land Alliance:
• African Energy Institute for Governance (AFIEGO):

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Waste overflow, Oil spills, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsPotential: Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Land demarcation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:In some cases, compensation was increased after local residents protested the amount proposed by the companies. In many other cases evictions and land-grabbing occurred without any compensation and protests were repressed.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Oil Refinery Procurement and the New Property Rights and Compensation Law: AFIEGO Statement on Oil Refinery Procurement and the New Property Rights and Compensation Law, 1 September 2014.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

KUTEESA, Annette (2014), Local Communities and Oil Discoveries: A Study in Uganda's Albertine Graben Region, 25 February 2014,

African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) (2014), Policy Brief: Property and Compensation Rights in Uganda, Policy Briefing Paper No. 13, August 2014,

Uganda Land Alliance (ULA) (2011), Land Grabbing and Its Effects on the Communities in the Oil Rich Albertine Region of Uganda, The Case of Hoima, Buliisa and Amuru, September 2011,

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Uganda to auction more oil blocks this year, Oil in Uganda, 15 June 2014,

Tullow Oil Agrees to Pay Buliisa Residents to Vacate Homes for Oil Well Testing, by Jonathan Akweteireho, Uganda Radio Network, 30 January 2009,

Uganda: Buliisa Farmers Angry With Total, by John Kibego, The Observer (Uganda), 6 November 2013,

Thugs attack Buliisa villagers who say their land was stolen, report by CM, Oil in Uganda, 27 June 2012,

Tullow Oil PLC – Group Licence Interests.

Huge oil reserves confirmed in Buliisa, by Ibrahim Kasita, New Vision, 22 April 2010,

Buliisa Residents Threaten To Block Oil Activities, by Fredrick Kivabulaya, Uganda Radio Network, 22 October 2013,

Contractor dumps human waste in homesteads, by Isaac Imaka, Daily Monitor, 9 July 2013,

Environmentalists Urge Oil Pollution Safeguards in Uganda, by Douglas Mpuga, Voice of America, 24 May 2012,

Buliisa women look to save money – and their environment, FW, Oil in Uganda, 24 September 2012,

Tullow tests Buliisa oil wells, by Francis Mugerwa, Daily Monitor, 8 September 2011

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Kasemene 1 Oil well site and Crude Oil offloading area in Bugungu Community, Civil Societies' Visit to Oil Sites: PEMO's Observations, Field Visit: March 2013.,%202013.pdf

Meta information

Last update18/08/2019