New Report: Oil In Uganda – International Lessons For Success

Government representative (Honey Malinga, Commissioner at the Ministry of Energy):  This is a wonderful report which highlights nearly all the aspirations of the Uganda Oil and Gas Policy whose goal is to use the petroleum revenues to achieve early eradication of poverty. It should have come out in 1996 when we had just started working on oil. Because since then many CSOs have aimlessly crowded the oil debate albeit with little understanding of the specifics of the sector.

Shadow Parliament Attorney General (Hon. Abdu Katuntu): Uganda has won acclaim as a country with some of the best policies on the continent, but there are miles between policy intentions and actual implementation on the ground. A key example is the annual budget speech, if it were implemented; by now Uganda would be a middle-income country, but it still very far from this. CSOs are important because they remind government of its written policy intentions. How did government engage with the public before CSOs and parliamentarians joined this debate? The Petroleum Exploration and Production Department and the cabinet were operating in a vacuum devoid of public participation or inquiry but because of CSOs, now government is more transparent and is aware that the people are interested in ensuring good outcomes from the sector. We should have more CSOs joining the sector to look at everything, from water, food, environment, everything. We should have CSOs holding decision-makers accountable.

Uganda-oil-exploration

Such was the debate today in Kampala at the launch of Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSEA); it was launched by the Shadow Parliament Attorney General, Hon. Abdu Katuntu. The report commissioned by OSEA but undertaken by Ben Shepherd of the UK-based  Chatham House (remember the Chatham house rule: When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant may be revealed). The report summarised and concisely presented in just 30 pages the key lessons on how to handle the broad political governance issues in Uganda’s petroleum sector.

It recommended among others the need to maintain social cohesion through better access to information, more transparency and independent oversight. It also called for building of a strong neutral political balance to even-out short-term political imperatives which could upset prudence in spending of petroleum revenues and options for long-term management of petroleum revenues. It called for more avenues for public participation in government decision-making processes.

Critics argued that while the report did justice towards presenting the generally accepted practices in dealing with broad political governance issues associated with petroleum resources in Uganda; it remained too remotely connected to ongoing political dynamics in the country. It also failed to effectively capture key issues to do with local communities who are directly affected by these developments. That it presented an elites’ view on the sector and was barely informed by grassroot realities. Nearly all presenters and critics agreed that the report didn’t provide sufficient voice to the unique environmental and natural resource management issues affecting Uganda’s petroleum sector particularly as all current exploration areas coincide with over 65% of protected areas in the country and that the same resources are the bread and water sustaining millions of poor residents in the Albertine Rift for centuries before and certainly for centuries to come if well managed.

The researches acknowledged these short-comings and observed that while it was good to write a report that captures as broad a spectrum of issues, they focused their research on uptown political analysis, given time and space limitations.

It can generally be concluded that in spite of the critics, the report remains an important summary to inform none specialist audiences on the broad political governance issues facing Uganda’s petroleum industry and possible measures on how such challenges can be minimised.

Report is attached: Details at: http://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/papers/view/188959

By Robert Ddamulira – Regional Energy Coordinator, WWF East and Southern Africa Regional Programme Office

 

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