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EACOP: govt, you can't eat your own cake and have it too

 

We refuse to be muzzled into mediocrity and pretence that comes with cherry-picking on matters that Uganda responds to in relation to “development partners”.  

When it comes to double standards, "Ugandan leaders" have no competition for the gold medal. Congratulations!! When the European Union (EU) funds our budget and projects - which funds the powers that be use for luxuries like cars and huge allowances - then they are development partners and therefore good.

But when the EU questions the powers that be on matters of environment, governance and human rights, they are called imperialists, colonisers and in effect, the development partners tag fades away. When queries reduce, then they regain the much appeasing “development partner” tag.

Development partners or imperialists are pushing their interests and values. On that I commend them. I also sympathise with “the development partners” or “imperialists” because they deal with African countries/African strongmen with no clear foreign policy or clear national interests.

Often at times, development partners continue funding the corrupt and human rights abusers. The burden lays not on those who misuse the funds but the ordinary citizens. They enjoy all luxury at the expense of the citizens. Many in parliament and the executive are day-to-day colonialists. 

They are worse than the imperialists they condemn. Just like the British colonialists, the day-to-day colonialists feel insecure in a country they purport to lead. 

Our parliament with due respect has no moral authority to condemn EU alluding to Uganda’s sovereignty. What is sovereign about Uganda? if I might ask. Whose sovereignty and what are the benefits? To whom are the benefits? I, however, wish not to indulge deep in philosophical questions.   

Parliament has for years traded Uganda’s sovereignty in many ways but allow me to mention a few. The parliament of Uganda is now a clearing house for loans from “development partners” from all over the globe. It is a miracle not to have a loan request and approval on the order paper.

Soon the debt will choke us. Parliament has failed to oversee or even check the executive confining Uganda’s sovereignty to a few individuals. 

This parliament has no moral authority or the decency to talk about sovereignty as it is a burden to us the taxpayers without corresponding value. When a proposal to remove travels abroad to these so-called imperialistic countries was mooted, our MPs fought as though their life solely depended on it. 

It is rather disgusting that parliament does not want to address matters of human rights as raised in the resolution. The bare minimum would be to acknowledge the need to address violation of human rights and explain the mitigating actions of the environmental impact of the EACOP project. 

This leads me to transparency issues that have marred Uganda’s oil exploration. Many agreements are to date still confidential. We are at the default of ministers in the line ministry signing what they have not read or understood. With statements like “my oil” now turning out to be “our oil”.

Why is the government not transparent to Ugandans? If you entered these oil agreements on our behalf and for our benefit, why do you hide them from us? It makes no sense to me.  

In 2020, Uganda joined the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). However, transparency is still eluding us as a country. On page 12 of Uganda EITI report for FY 2019/20, whereas the model Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) is publicly available on the Uganda National Oil Company website, the actual production sharing agreements Uganda signed with the oil and gas companies are not available to the public.

We as a country cannot eat our own cake and have it. When we take their money in form of aid and in form of direct foreign investments, we should expect questions and conditions. We as a country have traded ourselves thin.

We have also misused or stolen the little we have got from development partners. There is no assurance with the opaqueness of these oil agreements that the oil money is/shall not be stolen or misused. Hence transparency, respect of human rights and good governance are critical if Ugandans are to realize the actual benefits of fossil fuels extraction and associated projects. 

Observing human rights, preservation of the environment, EACOP project and Uganda’s economic development are all achievable with good governance. 

For God and My Country. 

Twitter: @BwoweIvan

The author is a lawyer and 80th guild president of Makerere University 

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