Can Museveni be trusted with Uganda’s newfound oil wealth?

By Robert Asketill

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Can he be trusted with the country's oil wealth?

It is drawing close to another day of great events in Africa, perhaps the greatest yet and one influenced by Washington, not that this always brings much joy as we have seen over the decades elsewhere. This event is the South Sudan becoming independent on July 9 following the referendum in which the vote was unanimous for separating from the north, a decision that will split Africa’s largest nation into two.

It is a division that many world analysts fear will create trouble because of the existence of oil, the mineral of survival for super powers. Only this week we have seen the dictator and war- monger, Uganda’s President Museveni, holding a meeting on his western Uganda farm with the soon to be President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, offering assistance . This to many, sounds ominous; the Uganda heavy division recently moving up to the Sudan border could not be for Uganda’s own defence. Many are seeing Museveni as untrustworthy when it comes to borders as in the case of his seizing the Kenyan islands of Migingo and Ugingo and, despite protests from Kenya, refusing to remove his troops from the other’s territory.

The problem for Sudan at the moment is the usual one these days; oil! And some 75 per cent lies in what will be the new country South Sudan, and here we are looking at all kinds of problems. The pipe line in the newly independent south has to carry the oil to refineries in Port Sudan in the North,   and China has invested billions of dollars and much ingenuity in the present Sudan oil sector along with a high tech Chinese work force. Now, with an eye to the future, Chinese companies are amongst those competing to win a contract or build a pipeline that would pump oil produced in the new South Sudan through a Kenyan port.

None of us can believe that China will abandon General Omar Al-Bashir. Khartoum has been a reliable partner at all times and, of course, China needs the facilities of Port Sudan to fill the oil tankers bound for China and elsewhere and General Bashir has made it clear to the major powers that he will cooperate on a free flow of the oil as long as South Sudan honours the terms of any agreement made with the North. The North could get fees for every barrel that the South sends to Port Sudan or continue as at the moment with sharing.

It is a potential tragedy: the North certainly does not want a war over oil, but we can only expect trouble from the South, especially with Museveni constantly interfering as he has done in the DR Congo. The militants of South Sudan are constantly rattling their swords and cannot agree amongst themselves: the southern capital, Juba, is reported today to have a sharp rise in violent clashes amongst the new splinter groups of the South and East.  There are also the still unresolved problems between the North and South of citizenship in the oil-bearing area and dividing the national debt. Let’s hope that Yoweri Museveni this week from the comfort of his country home in Uganda’s Rwakitura talked only for peace and no oil corruption with the future President of South Sudan General Salva Mayardit Kiir.

However, the Uganda government today is itself tainted with corruption, especially with oil. Reports are frequently seen now in the financial pages pointing to disorder over the country’s oil contracting. A previous Foreign Minister, Olara Otunnu (now the President of the Uganda Peoples Congress), has been reported saying that Uganda will swallow billions of dollars in revenue from the oil industry that should be used to build schools, hospitals, and roads.

The government lacks transparency over its oil contracts and revenues, something noted in a statement from the World Bank (Kundhavi Kadiresan) about extensive corruption and a lack of accountability which is costing the government at least US$100million a year. With present alliances some of this evil undoubtedly will occur in the new Southern Sudan although Uganda’s president has now announced that he is personally going to end corruption.  Let’s hope!


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