We must preserve culture at all costs

Tuesday August 26 2014

Many nations throughout the world would love to discover oil and gas within their territories because the availability of such natural resources is seen as a point of economic transformation. Unfortunately, most African countries while implementing investment of such magnitude ignore the social impacts on the surrounding communities. An environmental impact assessment is usually carried out but environmental and social impact assessments are not.

As the discovery and production of oil continues to raise anticipation for economic transformation in Uganda, the local community and the kingdom of Bunyoro are concerned about the effects the oil industry will have on their culture. Bunyoro Kingdom, one of the oldest kingdoms in Uganda with a rich culture, has a variety of cultural sites.

These include: Royal tombs at Mparo, the Katasiha Fort, Karuziika Palace, hot springs at Kibiro, African Village, Murchison Falls National Park, natural forests like Budongo forest, the historical caves, footmarks for Ndahura the king of the Bacwezi located at Mugabi village in Buhimba Sub-county, musaijamukuru hill, to mention but a few.

With the influx of immigrants and a huge inflow of labour force required by large oil construction companies and oil-related projects in Bunyoro, it’s probable that the demographic makeup of the community will continue to change and this will manifest itself in community values’ attitudes, and perhaps in the relationship between communities in the region. Even before the actual production of oil and gas commences, its impact is already being felt within the region.

Historical sites like the 12 Abayaga Cultural sites have been destroyed, graves moved, traditional trees, shrines destroyed too, all of this is being done but no actual compensation has been made for this loss besides, a monetary value cannot be put on a culture that has been long in existence,
Actors in the Uganda oil and gas industry should know that culture is an effective tool for development if properly handled.

Prof Kwesi Prah of the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society in Accra, said, “If development must come to Africa, it must come in the cultural features of Africans language and other institutions of culture.” The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics that determines the success of a society. Destroying a community’s culture is one of the most treacherous acts one can commit against a society.

Edward Kagoro, eddykags@gmail.com