The Ugandan government and the British oil exploration company Heritage Oil say the country will start oil production next year. Heritage and partner Tullow Oil found crude oil in several wells dug between 2006 and 2008 in the Albertine Basin, a region that spans Uganda’s border with Democratic Republic of Congo.
With Uganda’s crude oil production and refining expected to become a reality, many analysts are calling for transparency and accountability if the country is to benefit from this lucrative resource.
Analyst Tajudeen A. Raheem is a former general secretary of the Global Pan-African Movement. From Nairobi, Kenya, he told VOA’s Douglas Mpuga that Africa’s experience with oil has not been good. Noting, “It’s a famous saying; from oil boom to oil doom. If you look at many oil-rich economies in Africa, apart from Libya, many of these countries – Nigeria being the most extreme example – oil has not meant prosperity for the majority of the people.”
He said it is only the elite whom it (oil) provides huge incomes, which they divert for their own personal use. “So, if the record in Africa is anything to go by, after the boom comes the doom. But one hopes that Uganda and Ghana…prospective oil-producing countries, will learn from the negative experience and turn the boom of oil into prosperity for the people.”
Tajudeen said it is important for the government to be as transparent as possible in the oil sector to avoid any suspicion of corruption. “It would be very wrong for Uganda to sign agreements with oil companies without any oversight of parliament or the involvement of communities where oil is found.”
Responding to allegations that the agreements signed between the government and the oil companies have not yet been made public, Tajudeen said, “There should be a transparent process of the allocation of the monies that are changing hands, the process of allocating certificates, and the concessions.”
He added that these are days of transparency in all government transactions. “I think the people of Uganda have every right to know what is going on; the parliament has the right and the duty to hold the government accountable.”
Tajudeen emphasized that the oil does not belong to the government or the party in power but to the people of Uganda. And the people should know; otherwise “you are going to have a lot of corruption because oil is one of those resources that is capital intensive and highly skilled and therefore does not provide a lot of employment for local people.”
He pointed out that the government comes in at the level of earning royalties and that all stakeholders should be involved in this potential prosperity. He says it can be turned into extreme poverty if not managed well.
Tajudeen also said that in view of the fact that Uganda has been aid-dependent and yet the president exercises great power, there is the potential -- if the country becomes economically independent – for those around the president to think the president must rule in perpetuity.