By Douglas Lukoba Iga
The continental and global happenings such as the South Sudan conflict has swayed peoples thinking and debate on oil production. The Pearl of Africa has so many interesting mineral resources, clean water bodies, good climate and among others rare species of plants and animals.
So many debates arose on the issue of oil and gas deals and agreements that the Government of Uganda made with the oil companies and whether these deals would be of any benefit to the ordinary Ugandans once the oil production kicks off.
However, such debates have now ceased as new political debates allover the country have come up and several issues have deterred many from addressing this issue that, if not made clear to all Ugandans today, shall be a mere curse as it is for countries like Nigeria in the Niger Delta where oil production started as early as the 1960s but its people still suffer in abject poverty with no good schools, roads, the once good water bodies are now all polluted just because no good environment impact assessment strategy was followed and if it was, the devil endangering African governments called “corruption” has swept them all.
Once Nigeria started oil production in the 1960s, its people thought infrastructural development and an end to poverty was achieved and to their disappointment, the figures that the government negotiators indicated were far different from those the government had agreed upon with the oil companies due to corruption.
Other countries that fell prey to these occurrences have been Sudan, Angola, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon all on the African continent.
The only country that has benefited from its mineral exploitation has been Botswana. It is one of the world’s best diamond producing countries and with its good policies and well streamlined governance were the government is open and answerable to the people, the once one of the poorest countries far beyond Uganda in Africa has developed to become one of Africa’s best and glorious economies.
All these it has achieved through fighting corruption and not protecting corrupt officials in government because of their political leanings and have also stood accountable to the people they lead which has boomed infrastructural development, employment creation among other positive achievements.
Uganda should learn from the two examples by evaluating their weaknesses and then draw its programmes to the developments of a mineral blessing like the one Botswana has. This can only be done if the government is answerable and accountable to its people.
Elimination of corruption in oil production requires the involvement of all Ugandans in oil decision making and there has to be transparency in all oil agreements.
The writer is a lawyer with Advocates for Public International Law Uganda -APILU