U.S. Warns Uganda Of "Resource Curse" Unless Oil Industry Corruption Is Checked

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[Black Star News Exclusive]
 
The
United States believes Uganda's emerging oil industry could quickly
become "a resource curse" unless the East African country sets up
monitoring mechanisms to control corruption.

"As Uganda becomes
an oil producing country, it stands at a critical crossroads. It can
either capitalize on its oil resources to become a middle income country
to the benefit of all Ugandans, or it can see its oil become a resource
curse," a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State responded, following inquiries from The Black Star News.

"We hope the Government of
Uganda will put in place the necessary framework and institutions to
ensure that the country reaps the enormous potential benefits of its
oil," the spokesperson said.

Other African major-producing countries such as Nigeria, Gabon and Angola also suffer from serious corruption problems in the oil sector.
Even with reports of rampant corruption and gross human rights abuses, the U.S. remains a strong supporter of the Ugandan regime. The country's ruler Gen. Yoweri Museveni agreed to send thousands of troops to Somalia at Washington's urging.

The State Department spokesperson wouldn't comment
on a report that Jerry Lanier, out-going U.S. ambassador to Uganda,
advised Washington in 2009 to revoke Ugandan prime minister Amama
Mbabazi's U.S. visa over persistent reports of his involvement in
corruption.

Lanier believed Mbabazi and Hilary Onek, the former
Ugandan energy minister and now internal affairs minister, had both
accepted millions of dollars in bribes from Italy's ENI Spa. Lanier
believed the alleged bribes allowed the company to gain an advantage
that harmed opportunities for U.S. companies such as Exxon Mobil.

Corruption
allegations against senior Ugandan officials, in connection to the oil
industry, has increased with intense bidding for oil-exploitation rights
by foreign oil companies in recent years. In a U.S. embassy
cable dated December 17, 2009, ambassador Lanier had warned that senior
government officials, including Mbabazi were "consistently linked to
corruption scandals impacting the international activity of U.S.
businesses, U.S. foreign assistance goals, and the stability of
democratic institutions."

The State Department spokesperson declined to say whether the U.S. had taken any action with respect to Mbabazi's visa.  "In
our discussions with Ugandan officials, we continue to stress the
importance of setting up appropriate financial and regulatory regimes to
ensure that all Ugandans benefit from their country’s oil industry,"
the spokesperson responded.

"We also continue to raise with Ugandan
officials and non-governmental partners the need to reduce corruption
at all levels in order to ensure Uganda’s long-term development and
stability."

Separately, a Ugandan lawmaker Gerald Karuhanga also
alleged in parliament that the U.K.'s Tullow Oil had paid millions of
dollars in bribes to Mbabazi, Onek and Sam Kutesa, the country's foreign
affairs minister.

Kutesa allegedly received $23 million and Onek $7.6 million. Karuhanga said Tullow may have siphoned off as much as $100 million for the officials.   

All
three officials denied the allegations; Kutesa has taken a leave while
investigation over separate corruption allegations continues. 
Tullow also denied the allegations.

Uganda's Gen. Museveni, also denied in a news conference last
year that he too had accepted a bribe from ENI Spa.


"Speaking Truth To Empower."


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