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Cablegate: Snapshot of Local Perceptions On Oil Finds in Uganda

VZCZCXRO8755
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHKM #0413/01 0790348
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190348Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KAMPALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0140
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0976
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KAMPALA 000413

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EPET ENRG EAID PGOV UG
SUBJECT: SNAPSHOT OF LOCAL PERCEPTIONS ON OIL FINDS IN UGANDA

REF: A)KAMPALA 393, B)KAMPALA 24

1. SUMMARY: Ambassador Browning and Command Joint Task Force - Horn
of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Rear Admiral Greene met with western Ugandan
politicians to discuss the effects of continued oil exploration in
the area. The local leaders expressed a variety of needs, from
clean water to education, most of which they expected Tullow Oil,
the exploration company in this area, to provide. A district
politician countered fears that the inhabitants of the region would
be forced from the land as oil production commenced in 2009, and
reminded local leaders that the Government of Uganda (GOU) would be
responsible for implementing reforms in the area. END SUMMARY.

2. The meeting took place with the District Chairperson (LC5),
eight village-level Local Councils (LC1s), and their deputies,
representing the five fishing villages spread along the upper
two-thirds of Lake Albert. Until Tullow built access roads into the
area, a nearly impassable escarpment separated the inhabitants from
the rest of Uganda. The local leaders explained that people from
these villages were more likely to travel 50 miles across Lake
Albert to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) than they were to
go to Hoima, the nearest Ugandan town, about the same distance away.
The area contains the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve, Uganda's newest
protected area, which the proprietors of the Lake Albert Safari
Lodge maintain through a concession from the Uganda Wildlife
Authority (UWA). The population of the five villages is
approximately 45,000 and has, by unofficial accounts, grown
considerably since Tullow's arrival.

3. Several of the local leaders noted that regardless of their
fears and complaints, the oil finds exposed the communities for the
first time to politicians, military officials, private sector
representatives, and members of the diplomatic community. Henry
Irumba, the local leader from Kaiso village, called oil the "light
at the end of a dark tunnel" because for the first time the
inhabitants had roads, access to health services, and better
education opportunities. Also, he said, as a result of the
exposure, the villagers believed that they were lagging in terms of
health and education compared to the rest of Uganda.

4. The local leaders feared that the Government, in cooperation
with the oil companies, would eventually "force the people off their
land." Following the meeting, Econoff asked the Community Liaison
Officer at the Lake Albert Safari Lodge, Richard Angubo, to explain
this fear. Angubo pointed to a group of Ugandan military soldiers
and said that they were all buying land, in anticipation that it
would be more valuable in the future. Also, Angubo explained that
the inhabitants had noticed an increased presence of politicians,
arriving from Kampala, and presumably, purchasing land. (Note: Land
is a highly sensitive issue in Uganda, where most people hold
long-term leases from the landowners. Thousands of duplicate
land-titles exist in Uganda, due to incompetence and corruption at
the Land Registry. End note.) The District Chairperson countered
firmly fears that local communities would be forced from their land,
either by the Ugandan Government or the private oil companies.

5. The local leaders complained that the area lacked clean water
sources. Olama Gilbert, the Local Council Chairman from Sebagoro, a
fishing village adjacent to Tullow's main camp site, said that "they
give us de-worming medicine, but do not give us water without
worms." The inhabitants drink the water from Lake Albert, which is
polluted by a number of sources including livestock that bathe in
the lake, disbursing fecal matter and tsetse fly insecticide.
Angubo estimated that there were already more than two million
cattle feeding and bathing in a relatively small area trapped
between the lake and the escarpment. While the Lake Albert Safari
Lodge proprietors had worked with the GOU to have much of the
livestock removed from the protected area when it was created,
Angubo said that people were moving again into the wildlife reserve
to gather natural resources, graze livestock, and settle, as in the
case of Kaiso village.

6. Fishing and other natural resources are being taxed by greater
local demand and in-migration. The opportunity to ship fish to
larger towns on the new roads has raised the price of the
communities' local staple food, tilapia, considerably. Trucks that
delivered goods to Tullow were returning with fish to Hoima and
Kampala, where it would capture a higher price than in the local
villages. The Local Chairmen reported that people had started
fishing in areas formally used for harvesting young fish, and
catching the fish with their mosquito nets.

7. Comment: Local expectations for development in the area are
very high, and will increase as oil production begins at the end of
2009. Rumors abound, including that Tullow Oil is secretly
exporting oil, and that the locals will be forced from their land.
Post will continue to work on outreach through the PRIME/West
project, a small private-public partnership, which encourages
environmental protection and increases economic opportunities around
the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve. Also, Post will work through USAID's

KAMPALA 00000413 002 OF 002


Linkages program to develop more contact between parliamentarians
and their constituents to handle the rumors circulating in the
area.
BROWNING

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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