The issue of oil as a national resource once again came up during the second presidential debate when one of the moderators put the debaters at task to explain their oil policies. The candidates spoke passionately about the subject each saying they will use the money from oil to economically empower the country.
Uganda is in the process of producing her estimated 6.5m barrels of crude oil buried away in the soils of Albertine region in western Uganda. The country also has significant gas deposits in Lake Albert which is also in the Albertine region.
Witty independent presidential candidate Elton Joseph Mabirizi, Abed Bwanika the president and presidential candidate for People’s Development Party (PDP), and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Kizza Besigye expressed worry that oil if mishandled will result into an environment disaster.
Asked if oil is going to be a curse to Uganda, Bwanika said that going by international prices of crude, oil is no longer economically unattractive but expressed optimism that three or four years from now, the markets will have regained and Uganda, then, can go into production.
Bwanika acknowledged that oil cannot be a curse if it is exploited to benefit Uganda. Bwanika first contested for presidency in 2006, then returned in 2011, all with no success. Going by recent published election polls by independent organisations, the born again pastor is set for another disappointment.
Bwanika said that the country should also harness its gas which can be used to save the environment. He revealed that about 9000k hectare of forest a year is cut down by people who are looking for firewood, charcoal. He said gas can replace cutting down trees.
Besigye, contesting for presidency against Museveni for the fourth time noted that ‘oil is certainly a curse in the hands of unaccountable regime’ and that an ‘Unaccountable regime can cause many complications – and can be a deserter to environment’.
Besigye said the mismanaging the oil natural resource can bring about an imbalance in economy. “And that is in our plan; we think that oil should be given a specific plan. Part of oil revenue should be saved for future generations. Oil should help us to invest in inexhaustible sectors.” He said.
Oil was discovered by NRM
President Yoweri Museveni, the incumbent and National Resistance Movement (NRM) presidential candidate sent the audience into untold laughter when he said that oil was discovered by NRM which he leads. Museveni once said that he can never leave power because he doesn’t want to leave oil in the hands of the opposition.
Not even an intervention from Besigye, informing that it was known that Albertine region had oil even before independence, could bring Museveni to retract his claim that he discovered Uganda’s oil. Uganda confirmed presence of commercially viable oil in Albertine region in 2006.
Museveni informed that the Albertine region was explored for oil between 1920 -1950 with no success. He emphasized that it was his government that discovered oil and that his government will use oil revenue for infrastructure development.
“The oil was discovered by NRM under my leadership and direct command. I trained scientists – I refused to agree with oil companies – and they are the ones that negotiated with the oil companies. Oil money will only be used for some elements for infrastructure development’” the President said.
Museveni who has been in power for the last years said his government is the most suited to mange oil money and that oil money is not for consumption but for science, innovations and infrastructure development like railway