By Gerald Tenywa
Uganda is set to apply for Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in order to promote good governance and management as they build the oil industry, according to Peter Lokeris, the State Minister of Energy.
He was speaking as the chief guest at Makerere University at a conference organized by Publish What You Pay (Uganda), Publish What You Pay (Norway) and the Global Rights Alert.
“Nobody is refusing us to sign these things for sure we will sign the EITI,” Lokeris told a well-attended meeting in which academicians and Civil society activists from different African countries said Government had stifled citizen participation in management of natural resources.
EITI is a voluntary mechanism, which requires countries to declare the income they earn from their extractive industries and companies operating in those countries also declare the payments they make to host governments.
It helps governments, Civil Society Organisations and private sector players to minimize corruption and misallocation of the revenue from the minerals.
The seminar entitled, “Towards a transparent and accountable natural resource regime in Africa: Awakening citizen’s participation” also had paricipants from different African countries such as TZ, Mozambique, Kenya, South Sudan and Ghana.
Also the mandate of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to speak on behalf of citizens was questioned on grounds that Governments will keep on ignoring the CSOs since they act as intermediaries.
The strategy should change with CSOs creating awareness and then citizens will be able to defend their rights.
“What we are discussing is not new,” one of the participants said. “We get a lot of lip service from CSOs.
They do not have the mandate of the people and they are not doing what Government is telling them to do.”
Dr. George Lugalambi, the Media Programme Officer for Revenue Watch Institute noted that the political structures of the countries like Ghana and Tanzania were similar to Uganda.
But what is different is the attitude of the political structures. He pointed out that oil and gas in Uganda have been branded as a security matter.
“You close out certain questions when oil is regarded as a security matter,” said Lugalambi, adding that a dangling stick was hanging over CSOs and the media.
Dr. Wilber Ahebwa, department of tourism at Makerere University, people around the protected areas and mining areas are so miserable and poor.
Why? Is participation enough? Can something be done?
This, according to Professor Byaruhanga Rukooko of Makerere University takes place where protecting the interests and the privileges of the people in power is paramount.