Insecurity In DRC Won't Affect Uganda's Oil Production - Okello Oryem

2108 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The present instability in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo poses a threat to the progress of the ongoing exploration and anticipated production of oil and gas in Uganda, according to observers.

The present instability in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo poses a threat to the progress of the ongoing exploration and anticipated production of oil and gas in Uganda, according to observers.
 
Although it should provide development opportunities, the instability in addition to renewed oil interests in the eastern DR Congo could fuel lasting conflict in the region.
 
Uganda and DR Congo have history of a mistrustful relationship with Uganda having invaded the large central African nation a few times in the past and also attracted a hefty fine of 10 billion dollars by the International Court of Justice for plunder of Congo’s wealth. In addition, there have been reports that Uganda and Rwanda have been supporting M23, a rebel group operating in eastern DR Congo.
 
In October, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said about 25,000 and 50,000 people had been forced into refuge in Rwanda and Uganda respectively by M23, FDLR and Mayi Mayi-affiliated militias. It added that more than 475,000 people had been internally displaced across Oriental, North and South Kivu provinces since April due to the atrocities.
 
Now a section of people have indicated fear that the exploitation of the oil and gas resources that is believed to straddle across the boundary between the two countries could prove disastrous unless conflict resolution measures are instituted and implemented between the countries.
 
The critics cite an incident in 2007, when Carl Nefdt, a staff of IMC Geophysics, a survey firm contracted by Heritage Oil and Gas was shot during an exchange of gunfire between forces of the two countries on the southern part of Lake Albert in exploration area 3A near the border with DR Congo. The incident occurred despite an agreement for cooperation the two countries signed on June 23, 1990 for the exploration of oil and gas across their borders.
 
It’s not clear how the current situation in DR Congo has impacted on the exploration activities of the oil companies operating close to the Uganda-DR Congo border. Attempts by Uganda Radio Network to seek out comments from Tullow Uganda and CNOOC, the two oil companies operating near the border, did not yield results.
 
A July 2012 report by International Crisis Group, an international body that seeks to resolve conflicts warned that oil discoveries could create conflicts locally and across the borders. The group proposed that DR Congo and Uganda should implement the Ngurdoto Agreement, which Presidents Joseph Kabila and Yoweri Museveni signed in Tanzania in September 2007.
 
The agreement calls for the remarking of the Uganda-DR Congo border.  Reuben Kashambuzi, a former Commissioner of Uganda’s Petroleum Exploration and Production Department said in his book: THE STORY OF PETROLEUM EXPLORATION IN UGANDA, A MATTER OF FAITH, that while preliminary meetings had been held over the agreements, the progress was painfully slow. He expressed fear that the delay to implement the agreement could endanger the exploration of oil fields that straddle the border.
 
Honey Malinga, the Assistant Commissioner in the Petroleum department has said the oil resources occur across the borders. He also appealed for cooperation between the two countries for peaceful exploration and production of the oil.
 
//Cue in: “We have continued…
Cue out: …to continue cooperating.”
 
However, Henry Okello Oryem, the State minister for International Affairs has dismissed the fears. Oryem says that Uganda has instituted measures to manage the situation in the region. He added that the two countries would sign a protocol on oil production once DR Congo also makes discoveries.
 
Uganda and DR Congo share the Albetine where much of Uganda’s oil has been discovered and where all of the 17 exploration fields are located. 
 
Early this year, DR Congo offered exploration rights to Soco International, a British oil company to carry out aerial surveys on Block 5, a block of land near the border with Uganda. The development means both countries could begin exploration activities along the borders where the oil and gas resources lie, which could  escalate the conflict unless the Ngurdoto agreement is implemented.