A new report examining the potential of Uganda’s newly discovered oil reserves was released this month by International Alert in Uganda. The findings reveal that the country has a unique opportunity to harness the power of oil for peace and development.
The report was launched at an event in central Kampala attended by leaders of civil society, media and districts, oil representatives, parliamentarians and the Minister for Oil of the Government of Uganda, Hon. Peter Lokeris.
Speaking at the launch, Alert’s Director of Programmes for Africa, Mr Phil Vernon said:
"We are pleased and sincerely grateful for the collaboration of the Government, parliamentarians, civil society and figures from Uganda’s oil industry in this groundbreaking piece of research. We hope it makes a significant contribution to harnessing the immense potential of oil for Uganda."
Minister Lokeris commended the report and answered questions from all sections of the audience, including human rights activists and environmental NGOs among others, on the issues it raised for the Government of Uganda. Minister Lokeris concluded by looking forward to working with Alert and others to meet those challenges.
Based on a year of extensive consultations with a wide range of individuals and institutions at national and local levels, the research reveals that government, development partners, companies, civil society and other key stakeholders have not yet fully understood the potential risk of oil discovery to steer clear of the so-called “resource curse”, whereby countries that have discovered oil or mineral reserves have experienced conflict as a result, that has afflicted so many other oil-producing countries.
Mr Vernon also added:
"It is clear that the discovery of oil, taking place within a context of a variety of tensions that exist on both sides of the DRC-Uganda border, represents a potential risk of conflict and presents a peacebuilding challenge for local communities, the government, private sector investors, donors and civil society."
"It is equally clear to us, however, that with a proactive approach that takes into account conflict risks, the dual dividend of peace and development can be realised through the equitable and transparent exploitation of this resource."
"We call this approach Investing in Peace – and we look forward to continue working in partnership with those in government, civil society and industry to ensure that the people of Uganda see the return on that investment that could transform their lives."
The publication, Harnessing Oil for Peace and Development in Uganda: Understanding National, Local and Cross-border Conflict Risks Associated with Oil discovery in the Albertine Rift, recommends increased transparency and principled leadership to promote broad economic opportunities of oil discovery for peace and development in Uganda.
Feedback on the report from other peers in Uganda included this from WWF:
“I appreciate the quality of the report International Alert produced on Harnessing oil for development in Uganda, it is well researched, greatly referenced and factual, balanced and logical to read."
“..its the best paper I have read on Conflict; it doesn't just criticize but also provides useful insight and mitigation measures to follow so as to avoid the conflict risks."
Robert Ddamulira, WWF Uganda
A sad backdrop to the launch was an unwelcome but very relevant reminder of Uganda’s challenges. An ethnic dispute related to a proposed cultural event escalated quickly into rioting and armed confrontation, which resulted in around 20 deaths and numerous other injuries and damage to property.
Delegates taking part in the debate at our event referred to the clashes as evidence of the urgent need to invest time and resources into ensuring that Uganda’s newly discovered oil wealth is transformed into the development opportunity it should be, rather than the source of conflict that it could be.