News / Africa

New Wiki Aims to Open up Uganda’s Secretive Oil Industry

A screenshot of a Ugandan oil industry "wiki," the first open source reference for the country's oil industry, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2012.A screenshot of a Ugandan oil industry "wiki," the first open source reference for the country's oil industry, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2012.
x
A screenshot of a Ugandan oil industry "wiki," the first open source reference for the country's oil industry, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2012.
A screenshot of a Ugandan oil industry "wiki," the first open source reference for the country's oil industry, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2012.
— Frustrated by Uganda’s new oil bill and widespread claims of corruption, the Ugandan media and activists are finding new ways to increase transparency in the country's oil sector. These include an oil industry "wiki" -- a website that allows users to add or update content.  The goal is empower the public by sharing knowledge.   

On a hot Kampala afternoon, Jackie Asiimwe stands in traffic handing copies of a newsletter to passing motorists.

Asiimwe is part of a movement called Black Monday, whose aim is to fight corruption in Uganda by mourning its victims.  The country has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals, including one involving the office of the prime minister.  But Asiimwe says it can be hard to get people in Uganda to care.

“Uganda is seen as for ‘those’ people, and unfortunately it’s been made out to seem like if you’re not in politics, if you’re not in power, then really Uganda isn’t yours, it’s for those people, and I have to fend for myself," said Asiimwe.  "And, there needs to be a resurgence of that feeling of, ‘my country is me, and therefore I must care and I must do something about my country.’”

Uganda is also home to recently discovered oil deposits, enough to make it one of the top producers in Africa.  But some see the country as an example of the notorious “resource curse” waiting to happen.

One of the best ways to fight this is through free access to information, says Patience Atuhaire of Uganda Radio Network.  

“The more information that people have, the more they are empowered to say, ‘But look, our government is not doing right in regard to this process or this procedure.’  It’s important to put this out, and then when people have it they will choose what to do with it," said Atuhaire.  

As of this week, the Uganda Radio Network is operating a publicly accessible oil wiki, to which everyone knowledgeable about oil is invited to contribute.  Created with the help of the Berlin-based organization Open Oil, the wiki aims to increase transparency by pooling information from different sources and sectors.

“Journalists, civil society organizations, we hope that they will be part of it," said Atuhaire. "We would love to have government officials contribute, because they have a lot of official information that most people might not know.  We hope every player interested in the oil and gas industry should be able to contribute.”

Oil is a notoriously secretive industry and, in Uganda, calls for transparency have largely been ignored. Production sharing agreements have been kept under wraps for years.  And, according to Dickens Kamugisha of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance, the country’s recently passed oil bill gives too much power to the minister of energy.

The minister answers directly to President Yoweri Museveni and the president has a history of using resources to keep himself in power, says Kamugisha.

“He uses the resources, actually, to patronize, to bring more people on his side.  So as a result, he doesn’t use the resources to provide social services to Ugandans," said Kamugisha. "Instead, he invests the resources in the things that actually keep him around.  So, that’s why I think the minister, given all these powers, under the current circumstances it is not going to help us.”

Mr. Museveni, who has led Uganda since 1986, has been credited with creating government institutions to fight corruption, and has vowed to use oil revenues responsibly.  The new oil bill was intended to increase transparency in the sector.

But public debate over oil has not always been encouraged.  Local government officials have blocked activists from speaking on radio shows, and public demonstrations about oil  have been disbanded.

Kamugisha says this lack of informed debate makes it difficult for citizens to hold their government to account.

“If Ugandans are going to expect anything from the oil, they must demand for accountability from those leaders," said Kamugisha. "And, there is no way they are going to demand for accountability if they don’t have the information.”

The new wiki aims to make that information available to everyone.

But, it is not only the public who will benefit, says Open Oil’s Amrit Naresh.  He says members of parliament voting on oil legislation need to be better informed as well, to help them make better decisions.

“Not every member of parliament is an expert on oil.  Not every member of parliament has read Global Witness reports on the pitfalls of enacting faulty legislation with regards to oil," said Naresh. "So it’s really a resource to inform the debate in parliament and also in the media.”  

Naresh says all information on the wiki must be carefully referenced, says Naresh, so those hoping for a Ugandan version of WikiLeaks will be disappointed.  But, with so much buried in obscure company reports and hard-to-find documents, even so-called public information may come as a surprise.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid