Category: Policy Work

Climate change in Africa and implications for Uganda

This paper provides a brief overview of climate change in Africa and its effects specifically on Uganda. It examines some of the climatic change implications for the country (i.e. drought, resources pressures and local violence, rising temperatures and increased diseases, food insecurity and species extinction). Some suggestions on how the Uganda government may help tackle climatic change at the local and global levels are provided.

Climate change in Africa
Africa is the continent that will suffer most under climate change and global warming. African countries are amongst the poorest of the developing countries and are least equipped to adapt to the potential effects of a changing climate. The tragedy is that Africa has played virtually no role in global warming with the problem caused mainly by the economic activity of the rich northern industrial countries. It is important not to forget the penetration of multinational corporations from developed nations into Africa due to rapid economic globalisation; having set up operations and extracted the continents fossil fuels and wealth while simultaneously emitting greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, although Nigeria and South Africa are the main emitters of greenhouse gases in Africa, accounting for almost 90% of the emissions on the continent, Africa can by no means, compare to the emissions from the industrialised countries. Three-quarters of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), generated from human activities comes from burning fossil fuels (i.e. oil, gas and coal). There are imbalances in the sources of the burning of fossil fuels as the world’s richest countries consume over the levels of their population. The US produces 24% of the world’s CO2 emissions yet has only 4.5% of the world’s population. Conversely, India has 16.7% of the world’s population yet only produces 4% of the CO2 emissions. Figures from the World Resources Institute (2000) calculated that Africa’s 812 million people produce only 0.8 metric tonnes of greenhouse emissions per person compared with 3.9 metric tonnes per person globally. Africa has contributed less than any other region to the greenhouse gas emissions that are widely held responsible for global warming.

Unfortunately, there has been a failure of industrialised governments to help developing countries adapt to climate change. Africa has been largely overlooked in much of the global discourse and policy development relating to climate change. The continent has no official mention in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or in the Kyoto Protocol, the two principal documents formulated by the United Nations to tackle global climate change. The assumption is that Africa’s interests are covered as part of the wider group of developing countries. The Kyoto Protocol requires calls for a climate-proof model of development and massive emissions cuts to avoid possibly disastrous change. Unfortunately, the US one of the main contributors to climate change did not join the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 but proposed a plan with incentives for U.S. businesses to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This was based on fears of slowing economic growth. With the US economy already in a troubled state with looming economic collapse, it is questionable if the US will invest in and adopt measures to reduce emissions or continue polluting while leaving poor countries to face the impacts of climate change?

The hegemony of the G8 developed nations in international forums such as the UNFCCC means that global climate policy is being chosen for its compatibility with the existing neo-liberal economic system rather than its effectiveness in reducing emissions. Carbon trading mechanisms (CDMs) has been essential to this approach. It turns the earth’s carbon-cycling capacity into property to be bought or sold in a global market with governments allocating permits to big industrial polluters who then trade these ‘rights to pollute’. CDMs allow developed countries to purchase emission credits against their own reduction targets by investing in projects that reduce or sequester emissions in Southern countries. The market is growing rapidly with the World Bank valuing CDMs at US$21.5 billion for the first three-quarters of 2006, up 94 per cent on its value of $11.1 billion in 2005. However, there is no evidence that climate change can be tackled while maintaining an economic growth pattern based on the ever-increasing extraction and consumption of fossil fuels. Carbon trading encourages the industries most dependent on coal, oil and gas to delay shifting away from fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed nations. There is little incentive for redefining production processes and questioning the need for such facilities but rather a continuation of pollution via the right to pollute. Yet for G8 countries seeking to demonstrate their commitment to climate action, these inherent problems of emissions trading are swept aside in favour of a system that sustains the economic dominance of the most powerful industrialised nations with climate changes continuing to impact on poor nations.

The increased emission of greenhouse gases and climatic change will have devastating impacts on the African continent. Climate unpredictability will lead to food insecurity and subsistence farming difficulties. The average number of food emergencies in Africa per year almost tripling since the mid-1980s. Cereal crop yields could fall between 10 to 30 percent by the 2050s compared to 1990 levels. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change will soon cause major droughts and uncertain rainfall in Africa’s sub-tropical and tropical areas. Other impacts of climate change in Africa include, temperature rises with many areas over the continent being greater than the global average with a predicted rise of four degrees Celsius by the 2080s. Temperatures could rise to seven degrees Celsius in southern Africa and eight degrees Celsius in northern Africa. Significant changes in rainfall could be experienced across the continent, especially with the area around the Sahara and in southern Africa with desertification likely to increase around the Sahara. Rising temperatures, widespread water stress, increased frequency and severity of droughts and floods, and rising sea levels will severely damage progress on development goals in Africa. Diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and cholera may increase. As many as 67 million more people could be at risk of malaria epidemics by the 2080s. About 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa could die of diseases directly attributable to climate change by the end of the century.

Uganda, climate change and CDM projects:
Increase in conflicts and human rights abuse
Uganda, as a developing country and as a party to the Kyoto Protocol, has undertaken CDM projects, especially in the forestry sector. Despite the disadvantage of carbon trading which continues to allow developed nations to pollute without tackling the root problems of climate change, the Face Foundation, a non-profit group established by Dutch power companies, would receive carbon credits for reforesting the Ugandan park’s perimeter. The project is part of a growing trade in voluntary carbon offsets, in which environmentally concerned consumers pay to have others remove an amount of carbon equal to what they emit. Vendors earn carbon credits by planting trees, which capture carbon from the atmosphere, or by modifying existing factories to consume fewer fossil fuels. However, planting trees in Uganda to offset greenhouse-gas emissions in Europe has resulted in farmers being evicted from their land to make room for a forest. Farmers have been fighting to get their land back since being evicted in the early 1990s and have pressed their case with lawsuits. The conflict between the farmers and the paramilitary Ugandan Wildlife Authority has even reached violence with beatings and torture of farmers while the government claims that the park is a natural park. As representatives of people’s movements and independent organisations noted in the Durban Declaration on carbon trading, the carbon market creates transferable rights to dump carbon in the biosphere far in excess of the capacity of these systems to hold it. Billions of dollars worth of these rights are to be awarded free of charge to the biggest corporate emitters of greenhouse gases in industrialised nations who have caused the climate crisis and already exploit these systems the most. The costs of future reductions in fossil fuel use are likely to fall disproportionately on the public sector, communities, indigenous peoples and individual taxpayers.

Climate change implications for Uganda
People in developing countries like Uganda, whose contribution to global warming has been minuscule, are feeling the impacts of climate change first and worst. Some of these climate change impacts on Uganda include (but are not limited to) the following:

Increased drought: A cause for competition and violence over scarce resources
Climate change resulting in increased droughts in Uganda has impacted on resources leading to competition and violence over limited resources. Droughts have resulted in lowering of the water table, leading to drying of boreholes, with the rural poor and the cattle corridor most affected. This has already witnessed violence between different tribes in Uganda. The population in eastern Uganda continues to grow as the environment deteriorates, putting more and more pressure on a land that grows ever drier. With more people forced to share fewer resources conflicts between pastoral communities have occurred. Violent cattle raids are a traditional method of restocking herds among pastoral groups. The semi-nomadic Karimojong are pastoralists who protect their cows, violently if necessary. A well-established small-arms trade has also sprung out of the regional insecurity, with guns flowing in from neighbouring Sudan and Somalia. Uganda is in the process of disarming the tribal warriors, but on October 2006 an attempted cordon-and-search operation left 27 people dead, 16 of which were Ugandan soldiers, with the Karimojong village then bombed by the military killing a dozen people. Caught between a government that sees them as a problem to be solved militarily and a harsh environment that is becoming ever drier, the Karimojong face a difficult future. While Ugandan pastoralists who live in arid regions suffer, it is the Western countries like the United States which refuse to sign on to global protocols like Kyoto to reduce greenhouse gases and who are the cause of rapid climatic change and conflicts in Uganda.

Rising temperatures and increased diseases
Climate change as a result of temperature rise is already having a devastating impact on Uganda. Health patterns in Uganda change markedly with the seasons, and that applies to human, animal and vegetable health equally. Malaria, the primary killer of under-fives and pregnant mothers, increases as the rains arrive. Temperature rise has resulted in an increase in infectious diseases with malaria having increased throughout the country reaching epidemic proportions in south-west Uganda, where temperatures have risen by 0.3 degrees in a decade. The highlands, which were malaria free, are now invaded by the disease. People living in highlands have not developed immunity to malaria and are therefore more susceptible to it. There has been an increase in malaria cases of 43 percent in Ntungamo, 51 percent in Kabale and 135 percent in Mbarara, while in semi-arid areas, tick-borne diseases have become rampant because of higher temperatures. The tsetse fly belt has expanded, while meningitis and eye infections have increased. Floods also carry the worms that cause intestinal diseases to flourish. Cholera and bloody diarrhoea come with the rains, as does bilharzia. In Kampala urban area, intense rain combines with blocked drains to increase rates of diarrhoea.

Food insecurity
Increased temperatures are also affecting agricultural crops like coffee, cassava and soy and lead to the emergence of new pests. Currently, most of Uganda’s agriculture is rain-fed and thus more vulnerable during climatic variations. Food shortages and nutritional deficiencies are common in many parts of the country with 40% of deaths among children in Uganda caused by malnutrition. According to the 2002 Uganda Population and Housing Census, the country’s annual population growth rate was 3.4%, while the annual growth rate of food production was only about 1.5%. If food production levels do not increase, food shortages will become more acute in the near future. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), at least seven million people are facing food insecurity with some areas of Karamoja facing hunger. As a result, crops that once grew have disappeared due to climatic change. Most of Uganda has a bi-modal climate with two rainy seasons. One starts in March and lasts through until June, with the second season lasting from around October until about December. In the north, the country is more arid with most rain arriving in April then petering out until finishing in September. There have been big changes to both seasons with some local varieties of pumpkins, cassava and beans that need a lot of rain having disappeared. Rains are decreasing in amount, yet they fall in concentrated heavy showers and storms, leading to floods in lowlands and landslides in highlands, washing away soil and crops.

Species extinction
In Uganda, the climatic change has been in manifestation for the past 20 years. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Uganda’s rainfall has been unpredictable since the early 1990’s, with the water levels in Lake Victoria having reduced to its lowest while the ice caps on Mountain Rwenzori in western Uganda are melting faster. The ice caps on the Rwenzori Mountains have receded to 40 percent of their 1955 recorded cover and are set to disappear within the next two decades, affecting wildlife species and increasing the erosive power of River Semliki. The warming of mountainous areas will also drastically affect wildlife species. The Mountain Gorilla is under threat. Equally endangered are the Rwenzori leopard and the Rwenzori Red Duiker, which usually live at altitudes above 3,000 meters, corresponding with colder climates. Unique species of chameleon are also found on the mountains, including the three-horned chameleon, whose range is shifting upwards as a result of rising temperatures. The dwindling of wildlife will affect tourism. Wildlife-based tourism was recorded in 2004 for the first time as the country’s leading foreign exchange earner, bringing in 300 million U.S. dollars.

Ways forward to reduce the effects of climate change
Reduced reliance on fossil fuels in Uganda
With the recent discovery of oil reserves in Uganda’s Lake Albert, oil exploration will no doubt lead to further impacts on climatic change in the country (and internationally) leading to increased environmental degradation and poverty. However, Uganda must get the help it needs, to move to a cleaner and less polluting development path that does not depend on fossil fuels and that avoids the spiralling costs both to the economy and the climate. The Uganda government needs to follow the lead of the global environmental justice movement’s call to ‘leaving the oil in the soil’, to prevent underdevelopment of the world’s climate. Investment in renewable energy can avoid dependence arising from oil in Uganda and subsequent climatic changes. Research and development funds must be spent on alternative, environmentally friendly energy sources such as harnessing solar, wind, and biomass. The Ugandan government needs to tackle this immediately before it is too late. (Refer to briefing paper on Oil exploration in Africa and effects on Uganda for more details).

Moving away from carbon trading
At a meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (2007) government delegates and representatives of civil society groups agreed that given their historical and current contributions to climate change, developed countries should take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, providing additional financing and accelerating the transfer of climate-friendly, appropriate and cost-effective technologies to developing countries. This commitment can ensure long-term sustainable development, in particular for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Tackling climate change effectively requires a mix of interrelated policies that addressed, among other things, renewable energy requirements, automotive efficiency norms, industrial emissions regulations, and responsible management of forest, soil and water resources. Carbon trading does not tackle the climatic crisis. The effects of climate change can be mitigated through a number of ways. In Uganda, existing forests should be protected and tree planting should be encouraged (but without removing people from their lands through carbon trading which does not tackle the real causes of climate change or benefit the people of Uganda).

An alternative to corporate-led schemes such as emission trading is government regulation including taxation, penalties for polluting, and improved technological fixes such as scrubbers and filters on smokestacks. It is essential that the Ugandan government join the international environmental justice movement which is speaking out against carbon trading and tackling the root cause of climatic changes, with CDMs having serious implications for the local community levels in Uganda. The message by global justice movements is that industrialised nations like the US must make commitments to international agreements (i.e. Kyoto) to reduce emissions at home, moving away from voluntary agreements, allowing rich nations to continue with over-consumption of the world’s resources. This will require changes in within industrial structures and moving away from fossil fuels.

Improved governance and support of locals
The UNFCCC requires state parties to take appropriate legislative measures to give effect to the terms of the Convention. Uganda, as a party to the Convention, has the National Environment Act and other laws and policies that protect against climate change. These laws and policies, however, have some weaknesses in respect of climate change mitigation and it can be argued that this partly explains the persistence of some of the problems and effects on Uganda. Poor enforcement and insufficient allocation of resources to environmental concerns in Uganda both in local government and national agencies are challenges to combat climate change. It is, therefore, essential that the government focus on improving these areas. In addition, transparency in decision-making and partnerships with citizens can ensure appropriate response strategies to climatic change that are appropriate for local communities. The Ugandan government can also increase investments that focus on irrigation schemes so that local farmers continue to produce through drought periods. Early warning systems are also needed so that farmers can prepare and plan in advance for climatic change impacts. It is essential that the Ugandan government work tackle problems within the country immediately and not rely on the international market and trading systems to solve problems of climatic change. Taking action sooner rather than later would ensure that effects of climate change on Uganda and its people is alleviated and mitigated.

Leonard, L. (2008) Climate change in Africa and implications for Uganda, Ugandan Parliamentary briefing, Royal African Society, United Kingdom, 30 October.

Oil Exploration in Africa and its effect on Uganda

This paper provides a brief overview of oil exploration in Africa and its effects on the continent, concentrating specifically on Uganda. It examines the implications for political economic and environmental developments within the country due to the recent discovery of new oil reserves. Suggestions on how Uganda may alleviate potential political, economic, social and environmental risks arising from oil exploration are provided.

Oil exploration and Africa
Although environmental and security concerns are stimulating global debate on renewable energy, no significant move away from fossil fuels such as oil is expected in the near future with consumption expected to increase. This is despite the scenario that the world will face declining oil production in the next few decades. As if stripping one of the world’s poorest continents of its diamonds, gold and natural habitat wasn’t enough; it now looks like Africa is going to be the newest hot spot for oil exploration. The world’s major oil consuming nations, led by the US, China and Western European countries are interested in the development of African oil reserves, with companies competing fiercely with one another for access to promising reserves. With major oil companies deterred from investing in the Middle East, Africa has offered multinationals lenient terms and extensive access to its oilfields in recent years. With the US laying out a strategy in 2006 to reduce oil imports from the Middle East, this will result in greater strategic importance for Africa. With oil prices soaring, Africa has witnessed an increase in exploration of it oilfields, with its share of oil production expected to grow by thirty percent of the world total, from roughly twelve per cent in 2006. Crude oil prices jumped from less than US$40 a barrel in 2004 to nearly $70 by September 2006. With expectations of increasing global demand, especially from China, experts predict that prices will remain relatively high for the next few years having significant implications for Africa (and more recently Uganda having recently discovered new oil reserves). Trade volume between China and Africa are expected to increase to $100 billion by the end of 2010 compared to $2 billion in 1999.

With the peak in the world’s oil resources estimated between 2004 and 2037 between 22 and 42 billion barrels per year , the risks of competing fossil fuel exploitation and depletion are set to exacerbate inequalities between developed nations and Africa during the African oil rush. The world’s two biggest oil importers, the US and China are rushing to seal up the continent and secure every last drop available. Fully one-third of new oil discoveries since the year 2000 have been in Africa, with oil investment now representing over 50 per cent of all foreign direct investment (FDI) in the continent. The Wall Street Journal noted that “China has made Africa a front line in its pursuit of more global influence, tripling trade with the continent to some $37 billion over the last five years and locking up energy assets, closing trade deals and educating Africa’s future elites at Chinese universities and military schools,” all of this threatening US global domination, while at the same time providing soft loans and other incentives to bolster its competitive advantage.

Oil has normally become associated violent conflict, poverty and environmental degradation especially in Africa. The Niger Delta is a case in point, where a violent armed struggle is escalating for the control of the oil resources. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has attacked several oil installations and will continue to do so until the government of Nigeria appreciates that the solution to peace in the Niger Delta is justice, respect and dialogue with locals. Shell (i.e. Royal Dutch Shell Group) and the Nigerian military government are united in their continuing violent assault of indigenous peoples (e.g. the Ogoni people) and the environment. And just as oil companies exploit numerous communities in the Niger Delta, the government’s involvement in the above crimes is not limited to the Ogoni. Nigeria’s privatisation of oil refineries local and foreign investors has increased unemployment and environmental degradation. Unions have staged nationwide protests against privatisation of oil reserves that do not benefit locals. In addition the refineries have been unable to meet local demand because of poorly managed plants. Oil exploration has also led to an increase in environmental risks with explosions and loss of local lives. A July 2003 report on Nigeria by the US Energy Information Administration noted that gas flaring at oil refineries has been a major contributor to air pollution and acid rain, having serious implications for the health of citizens.

Uganda’s oil reserves
Oil exploration in Africa will no doubt have a major impact on Uganda, more so in light of the recent announcement by the Ugandan president on the discovery of oil reserves in the country as well as the Heritage Oil Corporation, an international Canadian oil and gas exploration industry that obtained explorative licences in Uganda in 1997. This find in the Lake Albert region is expected to mark an enormous expansion of the countries petroleum resources with potential for turning Uganda into one of the few countries with large-scale oil deposits. Uganda plans to construct a refinery next to the oil fields in early 2009 and is said to be at advanced stages of creating a state regulator and national oil company of its own according to its government. Oil drilling is expected to commence by 2010 with Uganda producing an estimated 14,000 barrels of oil a day. However, it is questionable what benefits the oil reserves will bring to Ugandan citizens and whether armed struggles and conflict will mimic those experienced in Nigeria, considering that recent reports indicate that the Ugandan government has asked Nigeria for assistance in developing the countries oil industry with Ugandan teams having been sent to Nigeria to learn from the experience. It is questionable if benefits of oil exploration will accrue to locals or move into the hands of elites and multinationals which will increase poverty, considering that the United Nations Millennium Project identified Uganda as amongst the hotspot countries characterised by widespread hunger, with a 2006 UNICEF report stating that 23 percent of children under five of age are underweight.

Implications for Uganda oil exploration:
Increase in militancy
The United States War on terror provided a justification for the invasion of Iraq, with oil said by many to be the reason behind the motive, with Iraq eventually handing out six contracts mainly to US companies after the invasion in an attempt to fast-track oil production. The war on terror is also said to justify for the US moving into Africa (and Uganda) too. Official US reports have emphasised links with oil in Africa, for example, “the report of Vice president Cheney’s Energy Task force stressed the importance of gaining and maintaining access to African oil reserves, which US intelligence assessments expect to increase to as much as 25% of US oil imports by the year 2020”. Light US military bases such as in Uganda, Senegal and Botswana, are designed to service the ‘rapid response’ strategy to enable a quick build up of troops when required. Because instability in Africa is an obstacle for the US oil production, and since they are desperate to procure additional suppliers of foreign oil, the US has sought to boost the internal security capacity of friendly African states. With the rapid decline of global oil supplies, the US is heading for an economic crash with the collapse of the dollar, so oil security in Africa will be a strategic future priority. The US in 2006 has already signed interest in active participation in Uganda’s petroleum industry with the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) having contracted a company to commence studies of the countries petroleum (and gas) sector.

Multinational competition and scramble for Ugandan oil
The new found oil reserves in Uganda will be a new and added focus for multinationals resulting in intense competition for explorative rights. The extent to which Uganda is a focus for China was indicated by a visit in June 2006 by the Chinese Foreign Minister as part of a larger African visit to secure oil deals. The relationship between China and Uganda raises questions about enhanced human development in the country since China is one of the world’s greatest human rights violators considering the severe poverty challenges being faced by the country. Other multinationals such as Malaysian’s Petronas is also in talks with the Ugandan Ministry of Energy about a possible petroleum development. The Ugandan President has also announcing progressive co-operation with Kuala Lampur. Although Malaysia invited foreign investors in its oil, it did not just turn over its oil resources to foreign companies but had them help it develop its resources while learning from the experience. Today Petronas is providing training for other developing countries including Uganda. By managing its own oil company, Malaysia cleverly ensured that more of the value of its oil resources has remained at home rather than being repatriated as profits for foreign firms. It remains to be seen what value of oil remains in Uganda. South African oil company PetroSA has also partnered with Uganda for oil explorative rights in the country. Not surprisingly, the Ugandan Peoples Congress raised concern about the oil exploration and Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) that the government has entered into with various oil companies but has not engaged its citizens in open debates.

Ireland oil and gas company, Tullow has also focused attention on Uganda, and besides China, Indian has also shown interest in Uganda and is said to be well placed to export oil to Asia. London-based oil and gas exploration company, Tower Resources currently has a hundred percent explorative licence in Uganda and has a company Neptune Petroleum (Uganda) Ltd drilling in the country. Like many of the oil explorative problems that have been witnessed in other African countries (i.e. extraction of wealth away from the country, poor governance, explosions, gas leaks and environmental degradation, human rights abuses), the competition between multinationals to extraction oil resources from Uganda may result in increased environmental degradation and a polarization between the rich and the poor. As some have noted, since oil was recently discovered in Uganda, in the future it might be a country where the concept of naked imperialism will be applicable.

Ugandan national development: Oil reserves a welcomed or a curse
The recent discoveries of oil in Uganda have raised concern from the international community about the distribution of revenue accruing from oil exploration between the government and its citizens. The Ugandan president has emphasised the opportunity to address developmental challenges in the country arising from oil exploration with the need to share profits accruing from revenue generation with locals, as well as firm commitments that it will not repeat mistakes like those experienced by the indigenous communities in oil localities like Nigeria. However, as opposed to the president the Ugandan Energy Minister has stated that there will be no sharing of revenues with citizens. Oil costs sharing production agreements have also been vague between the government and oil exploration companies. In most oil producing countries death, instability and poverty have followed the people, and governments have formed partnerships with multinationals that have undermined them.

Political and developmental instability in Uganda
Oil exploration has the potential to derail Uganda’s recent multi-party democratic development by causing civil strife and unrest, especially in the Bunyoro-Kitara region. Such civil strife and unrest include exploitation and political power influence that normally accompany oil exploration for individual or institutional self-interests resulting in abuse and misallocation of oil revenues despite efforts to fight corruption. Ever since the discovery of oil in the country, wealthy Ugandans have also been scrambling to buy land where explorative work is to occur, with politicians stating that oil could lead to conflict in the country. Poor locals in oil wealth areas have been tempted to resort to violence in order to settle land disputes especially with persons outside their districts, and are urging for a negotiated share of the prospective oil in the face of an unresponsive government. Inequality has been a problem in Uganda with the benefits of growth not being evenly distributed. In all regions of the country, income and consumption inequalities are increasing in (oil rich) rural areas compared to their urban counterparts. Both rural and urban areas are experiencing growing inequality between the top and bottom income quintiles. Income inequality increased by 18% between 1992/93 and 2002/3, and 23% between 1997 and 2002/03. With a Gini coefficient of 0.428, Uganda’s country status is moving away from low towards high-income inequality. Oil explorations in the country will potential exacerbate these inequalities as is already being witnessed.

Neighbouring conflicts between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Uganda and the DRC are sitting on estimated oil reserves of up to one billion barrels in the Albertine Basin which they share. Many factors shaped conflicts in the Great Lakes region, among them the interests of neighbouring countries competing over natural and economic resources, with oil being a major conflict. The oil region of the eastern DRC was the theatre of clashes in October 2007 culminating in the killing of civilians and militaries by the Ugandan and Congolese armies. This is now leading to fears that the Lake Albert conflict may widen and make a renewed cross-border conflict. Following the discovery of oil in the Albertine Basin, the Ugandan and Congolese armies deployed heavily-armed soldiers around the shores, with casualties on both sides in 2007. Countries with high risk economic characteristics such as low income, low growth and dependence on natural resources such as oil have a higher risk of conflict. Natural resource explorations increase the risk of civil war because they are not well managed.

Ways forward in avoid Uganda’s potential problems
Improved governance and partnerships
Improved governance of income from oil and transparency in decision-making and revenue streams with Uganda (and DRC) citizens can reduce the risk of conflict and civil war in the country. Unfortunately, local communities and other interest groups in the oil regions and other parts of Uganda did not effectively participate in the drafting of Uganda’s Oil and Gas Policy, 2008, and the government has declined to reveal information contained in the PSAs signed with oil companies citing confidentiality clauses. There is an urgent need for the Ugandan government to publish the PSAs, strengthen internal legal, policy and institutional frameworks, and implement the existing international resource governance initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) for accountability and transparency. The challenge, therefore, is to transform regional and national economies into systems based on political participation, social and economic inclusion, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Avoiding neighbourhood conflicts
Any endeavour at transforming conflicts to ensure reconciliation and reconstruction in the region requires stimulating positive developments by fostering stability and improving relations with neighbours (i.e. DRC). This will help to alleviate turmoil to deflect Uganda towards peace, reconciliation, democracy, and economic development. Ignoring conflicts between the Uganda and the DRC will have far-reaching implications for the stability and socioeconomic development of the region because resources will be diverted from human and economic development to warfare. It is, therefore, vital for Uganda to extend positive messages of restoration and peace for partnerships that would benefit all.

Leave the oil in the soil
An important strategy to consider by government’s and its people (especially Uganda now) who live above or near fossil fuel deposits, is to ‘leaving the oil in the soil’ since its exploitation so often under develops countries and the world’s climate. To achieve that logical outcome will require a far stronger international push to limit international oil exploitation power, not to mention the US imperial agenda. It will require everyone to work overtime for reparations that the South is owned by the North. This project is currently happening within the global justice movements. For example, the president of Ecuador in 2007 announced that the country will not allow exploration and extraction of its oil fields and that the world community should create a compensation trust to leave the oil permanently in the ground and fund Ecuador’s sustainable development into the future.

Renewable resources
Finally, investment in renewable energy can avoid potential conflict and dependence arising from oil in Uganda. Research and development funds must be spent on alternative, environmentally friendly energy sources such as harnessing solar, wind, and biomass. Uganda can well learn from other African countries by investing in such alternatives. For example, in Namibia, solar and wind power currently account for just 1-2 percent of all electricity produced in the country. But the government is looking for ways to finance new projects to boost the sector, and in 2006 announced plans to increase the amount of electricity produced from solar and wind sources by at least 0.5 percent a year, with solar energy taking the lead. Algeria also started construction in July 2007 for the countries first cogeneration gas and solar power facility to supply electricity in the country as well as to Europe. Unlike other Sub-Saharan oil producing countries, Uganda has an added advantage. It can learn from other oil exploration experiences by improving governance by implementing better policies to ensure democracy, transparency, economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Leonard, L. (2008) Oil exploration in Africa and its effects on Uganda, Ugandan Parliamentary briefing, Royal African Society, United Kingdom, 20 October.