Did Bobi Wine get it wrong on Uganda’s oil and EACOP?

Author: Asuman Bisiika. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

The oil industry is a very complex one. An oil pipeline might in the end be the decisive point for Uganda’s oil revenues

A resolution by European Parliament discouraging European companies from getting involved in financing East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) excited Bobi Wine. For the latest arrivals from planet Mars, Mr Bobi Wine (sometimes called Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu) is the president general of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party.

Framing himself as an activist, Bobi Wine was blinded by the expectation of political score from Europe’s position on Museveni’s governance issues. In his blindness, he jumped on the European Parliament resolution and (even) tried to own it.

Most Ugandans (including yours truly) are annoyingly frustrated with President Museveni’s administrative management deficiencies. But as a bona fide Ugandan, I tend to look at Uganda beyond the person, personality, and presidency of Mr Museveni and all musevenisque things. And may it be known unto all humans and sundry persons that NUP holds the minority leadership in the Parliament.

Given the position of Bobi Wine (NUP’s president general), the public is left guessing whether this is the party policy position (thrust and winnowed) from party consensus or otherwise. Yet  Busiiro East MP Medard Sseggona Lubega, a senior NUP leader, seemed to publicly discourage or dissociate with the president general’s position.

If  Bobi Wine thought he would score highly by touting the European Parliament’s resolution on Uganda’s oil, the reception by the political elite was lukewarm. And he may have to thank Dr Kizza Besigye who shadowed his excitement with an absorbable and articulate explanation.

In the wake of the European Parliament resolution, some people have been suggesting that Uganda should only have a refinery and drop the pipeline. And the funny part of this is that they frame it as if it is a new idea. To the best of recollections, Mr Museveni’s initial position was that Uganda just needed a refinery and kwisha mambo.

The idea of a pipeline was brought in by the foreign investors. The investors wanted a pipeline and Mr Museveni wanted a refinery. With Mr Museveni’s insistence on a refinery, the investors agreed to have both the pipeline and Mr Museveni’s refinery.

But the way people are promoting the refinery as if it is a new idea, one might be tempted to think they are new arrivals from Mars. A friend from the sector has just told me that “the pipeline was forced unto Mr Museveni. The oil industry is a very complex one. An oil pipeline might in the end be the decisive point for Uganda’s oil revenues. And the most important thing is that despite dislike for Mr Museveni, Ugandans would like to see the oil out of the soil”.

Indeed, let us have oil from the soil. Mr Museveni can be dealt with later. I don’t espouse the idea that Ugandans should hold unto the oil until Bobi Wine becomes president. Let President Museveni build the refinery and the pipeline today. And then we have our beloved Bobi Wine (the venerable president of NUP) later. Deal?

That way, Bobi Wine (whom Ugandans will vote for as president in 2027) will find Uganda selling oil. And then he could engage the Congolese to develop their oil reserves in Eastern Congo and pipe their oil to Tanga through Uganda using EACOP (or they pay us to refine it for them in Hoima). Bobi Wine could also talk to the South Sudanese to pipe their oil through Hoima up to Tanga (or just refine it at Hoima) for strategic reasons.

 MP Medard Sseggona spoke for me: address issues raised by the European Parliament.

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of the East African Flagpost. [email protected]