Norway warns Uganda over oil

Chris Obore

Oslo, Norway

Uganda risks losing Norwegian money meant to support oil extraction and management if government does not consider environmental concerns in the areas near the oil wells, a Norwegian minister has said.

The Norwegians also want the Ugandan government to show transparency in all matters related to oil exploration and drilling.

"It will be very hard for Norway to support oil drilling against environmental concerns," said Erik Solheim, the Minister of Environment and International Development.

He said Uganda is one of the countries that have contacted Norway to assist in oil management. Norway is already one of the major donors to Uganda supporting mainly environmental projects.
In an interview with Sunday Monitor at his offices in the capital Oslo, Mr Solheim said "we can't support Uganda on oil business if there is violation of environment."

Uganda is currently exploring possibilities of drilling oil that has been discovered in the Albertine region. But several environment activists are bitter that government was focused on getting the oil without putting in place adequate mitigation measures against degradation of environment.

"We take a reluctant view in terms of extracting oil in nature-protected areas," the Norwegian minister said.
And Mr Solheim said in addition to environment degradation concerns, Uganda's lack of transparency and graft aere also a problem. "We take a very strict attitude to corruption," he said.

"Transparency should be universal; Uganda's oil business should be open even to the members of Opposition and the media."
However, oil information is largely kept secret.

He urged the Ugandan government to set up good control systems for the oil if the natural resource is to be used optimally for the benefit of the citizens.

The minister observed it was excellent oil management practices, transparency and the determination to improve the lives of people that made Norway rich.

UNDP's 2007/8 report ranked Norway as the second highest in human development index with Iceland as the highest in the world.

On Uganda's democracy, Mr Solheim said "we are absolutely opposed to torture and we be believe that the next elections should be free and fair."

He said President Yoweri Museveni has done a great service to the country "but now 22 years is a long time; Uganda should have free and fair elections". Adding, "leaders could learn from [former US leader] George Washington who said it's good for leaders to change."

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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