By Alfred Kusiima
Hoima: “Unlocking Uganda’s potential and improving social economic development of Ugandans” has been the slogan by government, since 2016 after commercial qualities of Oil were confirmed to exist in Lake Albert basin in Uganda. International companies have been ushered in one after another with hope to pursue the Oil production agenda. While we keep watching commissioning and completion of road projects, other key infrastructure to facilitate the Oil project production and now the Financial Investment Decision at a verge of being flagged off, lots of questions remain unanswered.
- Financial Investment Decision. For who, by who and with who because the local communities still don’t see themselves in the project implementation process yet they matter.
- Are the local companies ready to partake of these investment opportunities? Who has even done a social audit to ascertain those who have been acknowledged in the national data base? Are they really “Local”?
- What is the fate of those not yet compensated still crying in Agony? Will they ever be paid and when?
- What happened to most of the pioneer students who trained at our Kigumba Petroleum institute? Some have resorted to searching for greener pastures out of Uganda “Arab Emirates” for lack of Jobs after their well-paid apprentership sponsorships abroad.
- Why are the questions to some Environmental Impact Assessment reports still pointing to unfair evaluations, none community involvement and injustice to communities by property valuers?
- Why do we still see none structured and realistic joint Oil Companies implementation and monitoring framework and confusing more the communities?
- Why have land acquisition and resettlement disputes resulting from Oil establishments still not yet resolved and who is responsible anyway for these Land evictions?
- Why are Civil Society Organizations and local district leadership still not very evident in the monitoring frameworks yet commitment is drawn from the same source of seeing better communities?
- Should the local people “wanainchi” still trust the legal systems in handling arbitration on issues of Land conflict when many cases still remain unattended too?
- Who should be held accountable as a lead stakeholder amidst all these anomalies and who pays the price?
The twist in events clearly paints a picture about the unpreparedness communities and local companies are entangled with while the slogan “Unlocking Uganda’s Potential” is still being sung.
Better answers are in government putting in place a rapid community feedback mechanisms to grievances, summoning all players in the Oil establishment for a system checks and balance test, placing communities first in all these interventions and engagements, propagating a seed of community ownership and sustainability plan than just corporate social responsibility roles whose results cannot be traced or unsustainable. Providing enablers to boost local Agricultural production for food security and envisaged market for those who will work at these various projects, building local capacity of SME’s to make them bankable and ensure they access finance form financial institutions priority placed on key social economic infrastructural interventions for communities. Finally mainstreaming environmental conservation and a clear deliberate skilling as well as training framework for young people to target the Oil opportunities yet to unfold. This will drive consumer demand, mobilize investments to build a pipeline of scalable businesses and foster an enabling environment that allows the Oil sector to thrive through an integral distribution mechanism where the Cooperative model places the communities at the center and others in the Eco-systems to influence Local communities and local companies’ readiness for the Oil Project.
Kusiima Alfred is a Rural Finance Expert, Projects Officer-Hoima Caritas Development Organization (HOCADEO) and Coordinator – Bunyoro Coalition for Oil and Sustainable Livelihood.