By Ronald Musoke
The Civil Society Coalition on Oil (CSCO), a group of Ugandan NGOs following the oil and gas sector have labeled President Museveni’s accusations that the NGOs and some MPs were representing ‘foreign interests’ during the just concluded debate on the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill, 2012 as diversionary politics.
President Museveni addressed Parliament on Dec.13 in a special session and criticized some MPs and civil society groups for opposing some clauses (especially Clause 9) in the Upstream Bill and accused them of undermining Uganda’s benefit on behalf of some anonymous foreign interests.
Museveni told Parliament that, particularly, the Advocates Coalition on Development and Environment (ACODE), a Kampala-based policy think tank and member of the CSCO spent up to Shs 1.5 billion on one of many workshops, where according to Museveni, some of the ‘leaders in the politics of Uganda’ were paid Shs one million each and facilitators Shs. 5 million. He wondered where all that money came from and in whose interests it served.
But ACODE’s Godber Tumushabe responded during a media briefing on Dec. 14, saying they do not consider such facilitation paid to MPs or other ordinary Ugandans who participate in such events as a bribe as Museveni tried to insinuate.
“In any case, the Government agencies pay similar facilitation for participants who attend workshops and other events,” he said.
He added that although it is common knowledge that Ugandan civil society organizations get funding from development partners which include bilateral donors and foundations in both Europe and USA, the same donors have supported government in many different ways including support to the recovery and development process in northern Uganda, and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
However, Tumushabe noted, whereas the civil society organizations use the funds from donors as judiciously as possible to ensure that the voices of Ugandan men, women, the youth and children are heard in policy making circles, in the legislature and other civic platforms, the same funds (received by the government from donors) have been grossly mismanaged by government officials as is the case with the OPM scandals and Global fund for HIV/AIDS.
In a statement read by Irene Sekyaana, the chairperson of CSCO said it is misleading for anybody to suggest that Ugandan civil society is peddling foreign interests, adding that if that were the case, the same would be said of the Government since it receives funding from the same foreign donors.
The CSCO which is a group of over 20 NGOs went on the record saying the civil society in Uganda have vested interests in the oil sector, noting that, that interest is to ensure that the governance of oil resources is based on transparency and has inbuilt checks and balances to ensure Uganda avoids the oil curse.