The extractives sector has not featured that prominently in the campaigns for Uganda’s 2021 presidential elections.
Seven of the 11 presidential candidates have the two sub-sectors of petroleum and mining in their manifestos and spoke about their plans on the campaign trail. The candidates are incumbent Yoweri Museveni, National Unity Platform’s Robert Kyagulanyi, Forum for Democratic Change’s Patrick Amuriat and Gregg Mugisha Muntu of the Alliance for National Transformation. Others are independents Henry Tumukunde, Joseph Kabuleta, and Fred Mwesigye.
Museveni’s National Resistance Movement manifesto, which is in many ways fused with current government plans and aspirations, lays out the broadest plans for oil and gas and the mineral industries.
However, the manifesto steers clear of the issue of revenue management, which was among those that attracted the highest attention from the opposition candidates.
Three candidates were specific on how they intend to spend the country’s oil revenues should they be elected. Muntu’s ANT manifesto says oil revenues will be securely put aside or invested as provided in the law, and will be saved for the unborn children.
Mwesigye says, “Instead of investing the petroleum revenue in the sovereign wealth fund, it will be utilized to free Uganda from the external debt burden”. Kabuleta says he will use “oil revenues to fast track rural electrification and access to clean energy”.
Museveni’s manifesto is also silent on the governance and accountability issues that the opposition candidates as well as civil society and parliament have raised in recent years. He focuses more on developing the extractives sector and the economic benefits that will accrue from them.
Most of the candidates agreed on the hot-button issue of compensation of displaced people in natural resource-rich areas.
Here are highlights of the candidates’ manifestos on extractives.
Oil and gas highlights
Gregg Mugisha Muntu (ANT
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
Patrick Oboi Amuriat
Waive VAT and import tax from Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and import tax from gas cylinders and stoves to promote alternative sources of cooking energy
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
An analysis of how the media approached the issues shows a mixed bag.
The analysis focused on the three leading dailies, namely, Bukedde, Daily Monitor, and New Vision as well as three television stations —NBS, NTV, and UBC.
Sectors such as health, education, works and transport, agriculture, energy, water and environment, as well as security and defence attracted far more attention in both newspapers and television news than oil, gas, and minerals.
From the start of the campaigns to the end of December the three newspapers published 22 articles (20 news stories, 1 opinion, and 1 profile) on oil, gas, and minerals. They were all focused on the presidential election. The three TV stations published 27 stories in the same period.
Newspapers paid nearly twice as much attention to oil and gas as they did to mining. Attention to the two sub-sectors was almost evenly split on television. Revenue management attracted the biggest attention in both newspaper and television election news on oil and gas as well as mining.
The next biggest issue in newspaper election coverage of extractives was policy and legislation, followed by land acquisition, compensation and resettlement. Issues such as local or national content or participation, institutional management, the environment, production and development, and accountability, attracted little or no attention in newspaper coverage.
Television paid a little more attention to other issues besides revenue management and policy and legislation. These included labour and employment, local or national content, value addition, accountability, negotiations, licensing and contracts, and institutional management.
Most of the media coverage of the oil and gas as well as mining originated from campaign rallies. Only one newspaper story was based on candidates’ manifestos. The dominant frame in both newspaper and television election news on the two sub-sectors was economic development and other benefits. Some five newspaper stories also used the conflict frame while two used the governance frame, which also includes oversight and accountability.
Both the newspapers and television stations relied heavily on presidential candidates as the sources in their reporting on the extractives sector. But an equally high proportion of stories on both media platforms gave voice to ordinary people. Civil society representatives were also among the top categories of sources.
Overall, most of the candidates and the media paid scant attention to the issues that have bedevilled Uganda’s extractives sector.
a) How should the Public Finance Management Act be improved to enhance oversight on spending of extractives revenues?
b) Why does the date for first oil keep shifting and what could be done to expedite its arrival?
c) Why does dispute resolution in the extractives sector take so long?
d) How could the second licensing round in oil be made better to attract many big industry players?
e) How should funding to the mining sector be enhanced to ensure effective management e.g., stopping smuggling and corruption?
f) How best should Kilembe Copper Mine be revived after the last attempt ended in cancellation of the contract of Hima Tibet, which had won the rights to run it?
g) How will EITI be used to enhance transparency and accountability in the extractives sector?
h) What is the best way to reduce or eliminate constant grievances amongst project affected persons?