By Timothy Sibasi,
The Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) will formally get into the depth of managing the Uganda’s commercial oil production, projected to begin in 2022, the Homeland Newspaper can exclusively reveal.
According to a senior military officer, who preferred his identity to remain anonymous in order to speak freely about the subject matter, the army’s role in economic development is due to further expand, beyond engagement in the oversight and implementation of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC). The army will now engage in the management of Uganda’s commercial oil production estimated to commence in 2022.
“We have successfully managed OWC, am glad to tell you that as the army we’re going in to manage the oil sector…” said the Senior Military officer.
The army officer,whose interaction with and advice to the president is hardly in question, made the revelation to different players and stakeholders in the Operation Wealth Creation, majority of whom are veteran soldiers, who had convened for a stakeholders meeting at a hotel located in the Kampala suburb of Bugolobi.
A ground plan by the army to overrun the oil sector, for assumed better management of the oil and gas industry,could pose policy contradictions and challenges, given the clear plan by the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) that doesn’t envisage interventions by any entity, other than those it has identified, in the management of the country’s oil and gas sector. It is not clear at what level the military envisages to intervene in the management of the country’s oil and gas industry.
The PAU is empowered by law to establish, maintain and operate a national human capacity register under Uganda’s Petroleum Act.
The assessment indicated that out of the 1,600 new jobs that will be generated in the oil and gas industry, 60% will require technically skilled artisans trained at vocational institutions rather than graduates or soldiers from universities or military academies.
Independent analysts in the local Oil and Gas industry hold the view, that the reported undertaking by the army to place a giant foothold in the Oil and Gas industry,given their unproven technical and managerial capacities, particularly during the first phase of commercial productions, may scare away potential partners in the sector.
The development comes at a time when different stakeholders, are jostling for and preparing to occupy various positions in the budding industry. The World Bank has partnered with the country’s vocational colleges and selected them to become centers of excellence for training prospective local workers eyeing the oil and gas industry.
The Homeland Newspaper has learnt that the World Bank has made availablebursaries 600 trainees in vocational fields, from the Albertine region. The region is undergoing rapid growth and transformation following the oil findings. One of the emerging challenges has been the shortage of skilled manpower.
Uganda’s military is increasingly getting involved in work beyond security and the battlefield, into the civil domain. It has performed well in logistical support during disasters around the country, offered medical services by its medical corps, and engaged in keeping law and order.
A number of institutions are headed by senior military officers, including the Uganda Police, whose deputy is Brigadier General Sabiti Muzeyi. Other officers appointed to senior positions in the police, include: Brig. Jack Bakasumba, Brig Godfrey Golooba, and Colonels Jesse Kamunanwire and Chris Damulira.Brig. Jack Bakasumba is Chief of Joint Staff for the Police, while Col Ddamulira, who was the Deputy Director for Counter Terrorism at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), is Director of Crime Intelligence in the Uganda Police Force.
Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), is a unit overseen by the UPDF, whose amorphous work includes distribution of planting materials and animals, quality assurance of planting and breeding materials, provision of low-cost housing, water for production, post-harvest losses, infrastructure development, funding and financing, land dispute resolution, among others.
The Unit provides all the foregoing,with the envisaged objective of eradication of household poverty.It took over work formerly undertaken by the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), an entity overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. OWC is headed by Gen. Caleb Akandwanahoa.k.a Salim Saleh, a young brother to President Yoweri Museveni.
However, it has come under criticism over competency and capacity to undertake technical responsibilities over which it has little knowledge or experience. The army has also been bedeviled with several financial scams rotating around procurement deals.
The World Bank and other international financial lending agencies have expressed concern about Uganda’s readiness in exercising due transparency and accountability for the more than US$10 billion expected to be invested in the first phase of the country’s oil and gas industry at commercial production.
French oil giant, Total and China’s CNOOC, that are at the centre of the commercial production phase of the local oil and gas industry, have remained silent about the army’s proposed involvement in the management of the oil sector.
Investment projections for Total and CNOOC in Uganda’s oil and gas industry first commercial production indicate that investment in the sector will be approximately be ($8b), equivalent to Shs27 trillion. It will involve drilling of about 500 wells and construction of associated infrastructure before commercial production by 2022.
All strategic oil wells due for drilling are under tight protection by the army and the elite Special Forces Command (SFC) the autonomous unit of the military whose core duty is to protect the President and key installations across the country.