MBALE – On Thursday, September 15, the European Parliament passed an emergency resolution by a large majority denouncing the consequences of oil megaprojects in Uganda and Tanzania, particularly two projects from French multinational TotalEnergies: Tilenga and EACOP.
The resolution referred to “human rights violations”, “acts of intimidation”, “judicial harassment”, and “immense” risks and impacts on local communities, the environment and the climate.
The spirit behind their resolution was to force the prospective investors to hold back on making the Final Investment Decision, which happened only early this year.
I am one of the many Ugandans who believe there was no hurry to harvest the oil. This resource we should have left in the ground for at least 10 years to bail the economy in the future should we face another financial predicament.
With all the prevailing corruption, it is safer to first wait until we are sure the resource from the oil will benefit all and not a few as is the norm in Uganda.
By and large, I also agree that the harsh resolution was not called for especially when made by another country on another continent as if we are still their colony.
Their uninvited resolution carries a tone of condescension only intended to make us feel inferior just because we always ran to them to endorse loans from the European Union. With no doubt in my mind, the prophetic oil curse is around the corner, and Ugandans must brace themselves for harder times ahead.
The Europeans in general had earlier sent signals of their plans but we ignored them. I am at the verge of concluding that even the oil contracts with Total Energy were a set up to place Uganda between a rock and a hard place.
You can imagine that before the first barrels of oil have been brought out of the ground, signs are that we could fall into the familiar trap of the resource curse. Known only too well on the other side of the African continent in oil-rich West African countries such as Angola and Nigeria, the resource curse is a paradox of high-valued resources, such as oil and gas, leading to poor development outcomes, conflict and instability.
When I first heard about this joke, I began by wondering how a European Parliament would make such a decision as if we do not have our own rubber-stamp parliament.
It was after further reading that the unfair decision was targeting Total-Energies, another of the European sniffer dogs always trotting the globe to keep African in an indirect colonization. I hear they are active in more than 130 countries in the world; they play a vital part in deciding fuel prices.
The European parliament’s main resolution was to compel the governments of Uganda and Tanzania, and the oil companies led by one of their own establishments TotalEnergies of France to stay the implementation of the project at least one year in order to identify an alternative route with fewer effects on the environment and the people whose land has been taken.
Of course, the resolution is not binding on Uganda per se but it is a force majeure of the sorts, a clause usually inserted into many serious contracts to justify a lawful termination.
Given the speed at which Museveni wanted “his oil” extracted, a delay of one year as requested is sufficient time for Uganda to consider terminating the contract yet with an obligation to refund the contract sum with fines, penalties, interest and costs.
Am sure the choice of jurisdiction in that oil contract is in Britain, another European Country where any Court decision will certainly favour Total Energies to the detriment of Uganda.
Now that the oil contract had been hidden from Ugandans, the non-disclosure clause will not long serve its purpose when the matter goes to court, The contract has to be exposed for all to see and in the long run, we shall know how Uganda got a raw deal, shame on all those who signed the contract for Uganda.
One thing for sure is that TotalEnergies will not go against a resolution of a European parliament of which its country France is a member. By necessary implication, all works on site including the construction of the pipeline will stop with immediate effect.
The European Parliament has safely given Total energies a soft landing and in so doing has created an environment in which Uganda will be forced to terminate the contract due to delays. To me, the decision of the European Parliament is to hold Uganda at ransom, we cannot move forward with the oil harvesting until we have settled the claim of total energies.
I stand to believe that the termination and replacement of Total-Energies can never be an easy decision to make for Uganda, for it has a very serious cost implication. Total energies will claim among others that Uganda failed to honor its obligation under the contract of compensating the people who were affected by the pipeline. It is alleged that some of the portions of land were undervalued while other people were evicted before compensation.
This is what is being termed as human rights violations and as such, they cannot allow a European company to continue its operations in such an environment where human rights are disregarded.
With such problems affecting the project, finding another partner to buy off the shares of total energy before commencing business will be a serious hurdle. Besides many of these potential buyers were frustrated when the deal was signed with Total energies and will give excuses to avoid a return to the oil sector in Uganda.
And above all, oil products are no longer a viable venture, our own President has been advocating for electric cars implying that he is aware that the future is will not be reliant on petroleum products. That being the case, why would anyone pay as much as Total Energies did for a venture that does not make economic sense?
What is clear is that Uganda had very high hopes in the oil sector but it appears this European resolution now takes us back to square one. That notwithstanding, my humble view is that the Uganda Government should seek an audience with the European Parliament because Total-Energies cannot ignore a resolution of the European Parliament for the sake of Uganda.
For those who thought Uganda is a sovereign state, independent, and under self-rule, think again. As we warm up to 9th October to celebrate yet another “independence day” using a lot of borrowed money, we are still a European colony. Our masters in Europe only moved out of Uganda but are still in charge, when they sneeze, we catch a cold. They still influence our conduct and our thinking; they simply press a button on the remote to switch on, change the channel, increase volume and even switch off whenever they deem it necessary.
They make us enemies and even friends, they control our budget and decide for us what vaccines to use, they are now planning to use this resolution to determine who will be Uganda’s next President.
The author, David Mafabi is a veteran journalist and PML Daily senior writer