With the government estimating that Uganda’s Albertine Graben holds at least 3.5 billion barrels of oil, expectations of many Ugandans are high—but so too are fears of environmental damage.
Other natural resources already generate revenue in the oil-rich region. It is home to premier tourist destinations, including the Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Semiliki national parks. And, experts agree, it is also an ecologically ‘sensitive’ area.
A major oil spill or a fire at an oil well could result in environmental catastrophe. But, as well as fearing such a nightmare scenario, Ugandan environmentalists also worry about how the country will manage a predictable and certain result of oil production—the generation of large amounts of oil waste. Read More
“We are frustrated since we have not received fair pay in compensation for our properties,” complains Albert Wathum, a resident of Panyimur fishing village on the shores of Lake Albert in Nebbi District.
He claims that since Total E&P began exploring in the area, many gardens and homesteads have been destroyed in the process of surveying, building access roads and constructing oil well pads. Residents expected compensation but, according to some, what they received was peanuts.
“Usually, a grown mango tree can fetch up to 120,000 shillings (USD 46) but we are being given 80,000. A cassava garden for instance acts like a source of food and income but is being compensated at only 120,000,” according to Mr. Wathum, who sounds more frustrated than other locals in the village. Read More
OYO VILLAGE, RHINO CAMP SUB-COUNTY, ARUA DISTRICT: Three years ago, Neptune Petroleum drilled the 780 metre deep Avivi-1 exploration well on the outskirts of this village, in search of oil. The well did not find any. This was the second disappointment for Neptune, which held the exploration licence for the Rhino Camp basin, and had already sunk a dry well, Iti-1, in nearby Rigbo sub-county. After a third well, drilled last year, also proved dry, the company’s licence ran out, leaving it with nothing to show for an estimated US$ 50 million spent on the exploration effort. Read More
Ugandan motorists will fill up their cars with locally processed fuel in four years time, according to the permanent secretary of the country’s energy ministry.
Addressing the sixth East African Petroleum Conference and Exhibition in Arusha last week, Fred Kabagambe Kaliisa insisted that Uganda’s refinery will start operating in 2016/17, with an initial capacity of 60,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd). It will be expanded two years later to enhance production to 120,000 bopd, and later to 180,000 bopd “to match the growing regional petroleum products demand.” Read More
PANYIMUR SUB-COUNTY, NEBBI DISTRICT: “It came around Christmas time” says Sylvester Odongo, LC-1 chairman of Abok village, referring to the red and white drilling rig that towers over the bush a few hundred metres from his compound of four, grass-thatched huts.
It doesn’t trouble them much in the day, he adds—except that when villagers get close to the fenced-off rig, to tend their gardens of cassava and cotton, security guards order them away. Then, at dusk, extra generators kick in to light up the 24-7 drilling operation. “The noise is terrible and it’s really hard to sleep” the tired chairman complains. Read More
A senior official in Uganda’s Internal Security Organization (ISO), Major Herbert Asiimwe Muramagi, has been named in a complex land dispute in oil-rich Hoima District where, some locals allege, in April of last year he bought 1,200 hectares of land from an entity that had no right to sell it.
Members of the community in Kisukuma Parish, Kigorobya sub-county, further allege that when they resisted demands to vacate the land for the new owner they were beaten and arrested by armed police and soldiers.
When contacted by telephone on July 4, however, Major Muramagi—who is Maritime Director of the ISO, responsible for security on Lake Albert —denied involvement. “It is all lies. I do not own any land in Hoima and I have never owned land in Hoima,” he told Oil in Uganda.
The oil industry in Uganda will be the most capital intensive that the country has ever seen. Many ordinary people believe that it may also result in mass job creation, alleviating unemployment and under-employment—said by some reports to run as high as 80 per cent among rural youth—that not only blights lives but could also foment social and political unrest.
But the reality is that the oil industry is notorious for consuming large sums of money in its operations, while employing relatively few people, most of whom have particular expertise. Worse still, manpower requirements in the industry decline with time, meaning that when facilities have been built and the oil is flowing regularly, semi-skilled jobs will all but disappear. Read More
BUSERUKA, HOIMA DISTRICT: Lawrence Ozelle pushes aside his tool box and steps forward to confront us as we photograph Kyapaloni market—a trading centre in Kabaale parish, Buseruka sub-county, some twenty kilometre west of Hoima town
“Who are you people?” he demands. “Do you want to steal our land?”
Ever since oil was discovered nearby, the locals say, they have had no peace. Strangers come to Kabaale on a daily basis. Some promise development, while others come and go quietly.
BULIISA DISTRICT: Forty five-year-old fisherman, Blazio Sempangere, smiles with satisfaction as he smears salt over his catch on a drying stall at Wanseko landing point on the shore of Lake Albert.
“For years, sun-drying, smoking and salting were the only ways we had to preserve fish,” he says. “We often lost a lot of our catch due to rotting. Sometimes there is no sun and sometimes the salt is too expensive.”
Primitive methods and long distances from markets meant poverty for fishing communities on the shores of Lake Albert. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 30% of Ugandans live below the national poverty line, but in Buliisa District the figure is 70%.
But things are changing fast for the local fishing industry as a result of oil prospecting in the area. Read More
Before a drop of Uganda’s oil has been produced for sale, the small and once sleepy town of Masindi, 40 kilometres from the prospective oilfields of Butiaba, is bustling with investment and anticipation. Hopes are high—but so are prices, as demand soars for land and services. Property developers and service industries are reporting quick profits, but Oil in Uganda staff writers found losers as well as winners in this boom town in the making.
MASINDI, March 12, 2102: Fifty-year-old farmer, Yoram Kwebiihe, who has toiled all his life on his 15-acre farm, growing mainly maize and beans for home consumption and selling a small surplus, cannot believe his luck. Read More