NOVEMBER 11, 2010: First Family 'Too Close' to Oil Sector

First Family 'Too Close' to Oil Sector

SOURCE: The Monitor

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Government last night denied reports by a UK-based anti-corruption watchdog accusing President Museveni of "conflict of interest" and "personalisation" of oil exploration activities in western Uganda.

In a report circulated among Ugandan MPs, Global Witness, which investigates the role of natural resources in funding conflict and corruption worldwide, accused the President of using his relatives and the military to control oil and gas sectors in the country.

Conflict of interest?

The report voiced concerns over the role of the army Special Forces, commanded by First Son Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, and Saracen, a private security firm owned by the President's brother, Lt. Gen. Salim Saleh, in guarding the country's oil wells in the Albertine area. Gen. Saleh, a former army commander, is also a presidential adviser on military affairs.

"Responsibility for guarding the oil areas should be removed from the army's Special Forces unit," Global Witness said in its report. "The control of the unit by the son of the President represents a fundamental conflict of interests and deviation of democratic standards."

It added: "From a governance perspective, the military control of the oil exploration areas by two of Museveni's close relations is evidence of the increasing 'personalisation of control' by Museveni of the oil and gas sectors. Such deviation from democratic principles at this stage is highly undesirable."

The army was quick to deny the claims. The Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, said: "Foreigners should stop interfering with the management of our natural resources. They should keep off our oil; we know how to manage it. They should tell us their interest."

Capt. Edison Kwesiga, the Special Forces spokesperson, said his unit is not involved in oil drilling. "They are just offering security. How does the President come in? The primary responsibility of the army among other roles is to guard national assets and other institutions. Oil is a national asset and this is within the mandate of the UPDF."

'Envious' foreigners

In June, the Presidential Guard Brigade was integrated into the army's Special Forces unit to increase security around the country's strategic assets, including oil fields in Hoima and Buliisa districts.

While Gen. Saleh was not available for comment, Eng. Hilary Onek, the Energy minister who is in charge of the oil sector, defended Saracen and the army.

"Those international agencies are not happy that we have oil that's why they keep issuing bogus reports framing us; their job is to mess us," he said.

"Oil is inflammable and we need security around that's why we have Saracen and the Special Forces. There is no conflict of interest. It's just that we don't want terrorists to attack these areas."

In its report, Global Witness says all members of the security forces should receive training and be held accountable to act in accordance with international human rights law and standards including those on the use of force and firearms.

Uganda has discovered commercially-viable oil deposits but the sector has been marred by lack of transparency and a tax dispute between the government and oil exploration companies.

The State House deputy Press Secretary, Ms Linda Nabusayi Wamboka, said she needed to consult before commenting on the matter.

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