Uganda’s Oil Extraction, Another Human Tragedy


Written by Mat McDermott

Take a moment, with Uganda brightly in the spotlight due to the Joseph Kony video by Invisible Children and the accompanying question of accuracy of it all and subsequent critique of the critique, to consider another shady issue plaguing the African nation: Oil.

Uganda doesn’t spring to mind for most people when coming up with a list of the world’s oil-producing nation. But, in fact, five years ago more than two billions of barrels worth of oil were discovered in the landlocked nation, where nearly 40% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day—and as New York Times points out, inflation is around 30%.

If revenue from that oil were equitably shared, and the resource curse that has plagued the majority of poor nations who suddenly find themselves potential petro-powers avoided, it would go a long way towards reducing that rampant absolute poverty.

But, considering Uganda is among the world’s most corrupt nations, as ranked by Transparency International, avoiding the oil curse is probably a long shot.

All that oil, located under Lake Albert (freshwater oil spills, anyone?), was owned by Tullow Oil, but was recently partially sold off, one-third each, to Total and China’s state-run oil company CNOOC.

Last month, Foreign Policy ran a good piece giving the overview of the situation as it stands now. It’s worth a read in its entirety, but this is the crux of it:

When the first oil discoveries were made in 2006, Ugandans had high hopes. Oil wealth, they assumed, could help to revive the nation’s economy. But it hasn’t worked out that way. [...] Recently, one of my journalist friends visited Hoima, an area where Tullow Oil Company is carrying out oil exploration. What he found there can be described as the complete absence of corporate social responsibility on the part of Tullow. He concluded that the locals, and in particular those whose existence depends on local lakes and rivers, have suffered a lot. He documented how many people have been driven off their land. Some have received compensation, others have not. Most of the affected individuals live in villages. They are poor, but rather than benefiting from the discovery of oil near their homes, their livelihoods are ruined. Where others see business opportunities, these villagers end up as the losers.

Though the Ugandan parliament attempted to investigate allegations of corruption surrounding the deals for its oil, passing resolutions on the matter last October, it has done little to slow progress down the path towards oil revenues not benefiting the ordinary people of the nation.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


Related Stories:

Is Kony 2012 Actually Helping Ugandans?

Shell’s Rape of Nigeria Continues: Another Oil Spill

Torture And Abuse in the Niger Delta


First photo from jnissa via flickr; second photo from Nicolay Sidorov via Wikipedia


Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago


Paul H.
Paul H5 years ago

Gene, I agree, if you stipulate that you are talking about industrialized humans. For hundreds of millennia, down to this day, humans have lived peacefully with the landbase that sustains them, in a mutual relationship of harmony and support. It is the (vast majority of) humanity caught up in consumer society &/or predatory capitalism—or who wish they too could have a 48-inch flat screen TV, etc.—it is those alienated from the sources of life who are given to the depredations we all deplore. The question is: How determined are we to stop the destruction?

Gene Sengstake
Gene Sengstake5 years ago

My second comment here probably will not be noticed by many since it has been almost 10 days since the last comment to this article was posted - and probably doesn’t really matter anyway. This is just another version of the same old story. People keep thinking and hoping things are going to change - to get better - and just can’t seem to comprehend why they don’t. If you really want to be honest - even just with yourself - you need to think about accepting the scenario that the human species is inherently defective - that it cannot survive in the form so many of us earnestly seek and hope for - it just isn’t going to happen. We thrive on conflict - competition - and entertainment - that everything on the earth was put here for a purpose - our use and exploitation. We Americans swept across a continent - altering and destroying it’s inherent beauty forever - and now we look on in bewilderment - wondering what has happened - not even recognizing that the same processes continue - only in a more subtle form that we have now come to accept as normal. Things are not going to change - because we are not willing to stand back and make a real assessment of ourselves and our actions. We have the potential - but cannot even begin to see reality for what it is. We simply enjoy living in the moment - isn’t that how the saying goes? - with no real concept of what awaits us down the road - hidden in the shadows - - -

daniel casey
daniel casey5 years ago

All starts to make sence when you take into account that 'Kony' was driven out of Uganda in 2006. It's amazing what a government can do when it really wants to.

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege5 years ago

Sadly noted!

Tom Nicholson
Tom Nicholson5 years ago

Poor Uganda. The luckiest thing for any "under developed" country is if they have absolutely no valuable, removable natural resources, then they would be immune from the normal mechanisms of corporate empire building and wouldn't face environmental destruction, social catastrophe and never ending debts to the "World" Bank.

Anyone who has high hopes for economic revival when valuable, removable natural resources are found is living in a bubble. It means only one thing - the bad boys are coming and it's going to be downhill all the way. I can only assume that those who were hopeful were deliberately hoodwinked.

Ruben L.
Ruben Lohlefink5 years ago

Ugh this is disgusting, another piece of shit propaganda to hype people up for war...and you guessed it once again it's all about oil. Just got linked here from Vigilant Citizen's Kony article.
When will people see through the brainwashing?

Wende Anne Maunder
Wendé Maunder5 years ago

There is only one word beginning with 'p' that the oil barons care about and that is 'profits' the 'people' don't even come into their radar.

Geneva Fowler
Geneva Fowler5 years ago

I wish i can help get those people out of Uganda and bring them to the United States. 40% of th e population lives on less than $1.25 a day that is very sad!!!!! can someone email on how i can help zarina. Thanks.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago

Noted. Thanks for posting.