Uganda’s Oil Find; Curse Not Blessing

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Is it a coincidence that Anaka and Purongo are now areas of massive oil reserve finds described as "world Class and above commercial threshold"?

[Oil, Blood, Tears] 

Since capture of power militarily by the National Resistance Army Army/Movement (NRA/M) guerillas in 1986, Uganda became ruled by cliques and associates.

The control and domination of power have been concentrated in the hands of a few; everything seems to be controlled by a president, Yoweri Museveni, who had promised to stay in power for only four years up to 1989.

Also since 1986, the Acholi ethnic community has suffered through endless rebellions. The population has been interned in government-controlled concentration camps for decades. In one case the population of Anaka was expelled by the army, ferried and dumped across Karuma Bridge of the Nile River; all this was supposedly to protect people from the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Is it a coincidence that Anaka and Purongo are now areas of massive oil reserve finds described as "world Class and above commercial threshold"?

In 2006, Museveni summoned a few Acholi leaders and showed them that huge Oil deposits existed in Acholi, particularly Amuru district. Since then, no one else was briefed on the developments. The "exploration" had begun secretly and the areas well protected not by the regular army, but by the Presidential Guard Brigade (PGB), which reports to Museveni’s son, also a senior army officer. Recently he appointed his wife minister in charge of a gold-rich area. The nepotism is incestuous. Yet, the Acholi, including owners of the land, remained confined in Bantustans.

In 2008, some people were relocated to "newly created camps" assumed to be near their original homesteads, instead of resettling them. This was a strategy to deny them their land as there are plans at work for land grabs. The government continues to insert pressure on Acholis to deprive them of their land and award them to oil companies and sugar cane growers, without their consent.

Even the much-celebrated and Western financed PRDP program meant to rehabilitate the war devastated northern part of the country has now been postponed. In addition to the foreign share of the reconstruction fund, the Uganda government was to come up with its own contribution; it never did and the program lies in limbo.

The northern part of the country remains isolated, and the population unattended to; yet vast chunks of their land are to be given away for sugar cane growing to the Madvhani Sugar Corporation and to U.K. and Canadian oil companies.

Oil exploration continues; the population or their leadership is not informed. These private oil companies’ workers are well-protected by the Presidential Guard. There is always security for foreign investors. There was no protection or health care in the concentration camps when, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2005 that 1,000 excess deaths per week were occurring.

The plunder is buttressed with and clothed in "legalese."

There is Uganda Mining Law Act passed in 2003 in a period of political confusion, including a sham Constitutional Reform process that preceded the 2005 lifting of presidential term limits.

This law restricts the benefit of royalty to a mere 3% three only for Acholi; this oil, like for Nigeria’s Delta region, is more of a curse rather than blessing. The 3% has already been claimed by Wild Life Authority (WLA). Such is the politics of marginalization and exclusion from the soil of Uganda, which policy Museveni outlined to his army commanders in late 1985. When deals were signed with the oil companies, the government invoked "state secrecy" to seal the contracts’ details.

We must draw lessons from what has happened in Nigeria’s Delta region.

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