By Rukiya Makuma
Since the discovery of commercial viable oil and gas reserves in 2006, there has been a lot of anticipation about the revenues and benefits that will accrue. The feeling has been widely shared across the country with many people saying the revenues should be shared evenly. So far, 3.5 billion barrels of oil reserves have been confirmed in Uganda and they are expected to yield at least $2b per year for 30 years once oil production commences.
In addition to transforming the economy and transforming the lives of people through providing numerous employment opportunities at the different stages of oil production, revenues from oil are also expected to drive Uganda’s GDP growth in the years to come.
In order to achieve this and make Uganda’s oil a success story; the most outstanding call has been on the Government to ensure good governance in the smooth running of the sector. This has also been propelled by numerous campaigns for the Government to sign unto and become a member of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). EITI is a principle which requires countries to declare incomes they earn from their extractive industries and companies operating in those countries also declare the payments they make to the respective host governments as a way of minimising corruption tendencies from extractive revenues as has been witnessed in other countries that have fallen prey.
The campaigns have yielded some results because, on several occasions, the Government representatives have come on board to re-affirm its position in committing to the principle and to also re-assure Ugandans it will operate transparently in all of its dealings.
There have also been many reminders to make information available to the masses; the need for local content has also been emphasised but including citizens’ participation in the sector has been often ignored and yet if bad decisions are made without involving people’s opinions, it is us the locals who will suffer the adverse effects arising from those decisions.
In Uganda, Global Rights Alert and other CSOs have played an important role in promotion of proper management of oil and gas resources and mitigating negative social-economic, political and environmental impacts and sensitising the citizens hence bridging the gap of lack of information, but despite this citizen participation has remained minimal.
Whereas the Government needs to draft measures to see how citizens can get interested in the sector and participate actively, it is also time citizens got involved because productive citizen participation helps improve policy outcomes because, if more voices are heard, somehow the people in power get compelled to act on the demands of the people.
The writer works with the Global Rights Alert