The report I read in the Daily Monitor of Friday February 3, 2012, “Government, Tullow sign fresh oil agreement” was not only chilling but an unfortunate piece of news in light of the fact that Parliament had halted the process of agreement signing. Not only did it negate all the efforts of our Parliamentarians to get a handle on the situation but it has also continued a disturbing trend of contempt of Parliament by the President. In addition, it was done without several laws being put in place for the efficient running of the sector! This is hot on the heels of the Basajjabalaba compensation scandal that has cost the taxpayer over 142 billion!

However, the most disappointing thing of all was the fact that few of us actually raised an eyebrow when we read the headline. The number of those outraged is even far more disappointing. As for those willing to take action, any action, it is too shameful to comment on.

As if this is not bad enough, our nation is experiencing environmental degradation at a rate that will ensure that we will have NO forests by 2050. By that time, it is estimated that, at the current rate of population growth, we will be 150 million Ugandans! With an agricultural sector that is retracting at 3% per year and a nation that can’t even feed the current population, who even cares about the time bomb we’re sitting on?

In addition, while most nations in the world are implementing harsh austerity measures, this government continues to squander the few resources that we have. The latest on the list of wastage is the 103 million per MP to buy a car to “traverse their constituency efficiently because of the bad roads”! This is not only annoying but outrageous. Are we really saying that our MPs with the hefty benefits that they earn cannot buy themselves a car? Our MPs are among the highest paid when you factor in the GDP of the nations of the world. Teachers and doctors are paid peanuts in this country and yet our representatives find no problem raiding our meager treasury to buy themselves cars? Are we, the people that pay the taxes, going to just go on as if life is normal? Are we really serious?

It beats my understanding what the government was thinking when we signed an agreement with UMEME to distribute electricity, a critical component for facilitating production in our economy? Are we aware that UMEME was incorporated 6 days before it signed an agreement with the government? Are we also aware that Eskom, the South Afrikan government-owned power distributor (what an irony), was one of the initial shareholders of UMEME? The agreement with UMEME is so skewed in favour of UMEME that to conclude that there was connivance with government officials doesn’t require a rocket scientist!

Coming back to the oil issue, it beats my understanding why we do not have the confidence to develop the local capacity to drill our own oil, refine it and sell a finished product on the world market! Why do we still need Tullow, and a host of other companies eager to jump into the fray, to do it for us? Why aren’t we asking why the Ugandans that we send out every year on scholarship to study Petroleum Engineering are not yet ready to build a government-owned company to drill the oil? While I’m happy that we have plans to build a refinery right here in Uganda, I doubt this assertion especially when I see us making the same mistakes that Nigeria made. It’s a scandal of astronomical proportions that after decades of oil production, Nigeria still exports crude oil and imports the finished product! The government built refineries but they are non-operational!

What is wrong with us, fellow Ugandans? Do we not care for our country? Day after day, reports come of billions “misappropriated”, “embezzled”, “diverted” and “unaccounted for”. Questionable agreements are made in our name as shareholders of this nation but what do we do? Do we make our voice really heard where it matters? What kind of nation are we going to hand over to our children and grandchildren?

We’re the shareholders of this nation. The Management (Executive) and the Board of Directors (The Parliament) have for long taken decisions that are selfish and short-sighted and yet we do not do anything about it. For how long will we not take action?

Will we, the shareholders of this nation, ever speak up? Will we ever hold the Management and the Board accountable for their actions and inactions that do not serve our interests?

Its time we started to really care about our nation’s direction for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

For God and My Country,

Charles Makmot
Strategic Leadership Forum