By Winfred Ngabiirwe, Executive Director, GRA. Chairperson PWYP-U
In February 2012, the Government of Uganda tabled two bills before parliament and sent them to the Committee on Natural Resources for scrutiny and review and opened them to the public for comments. The two bills namely were: Petroleum (Exploration Development and Production) Bill 2012 and the Petroleum (Refining, Gas Processing and Conversion, Transportation and Storage) Bill 2012.
For the last two months, PWYP-U members led by Global Rights Alert (GRA) NAPE and AFIEGO have spearheaded efforts to have the bills analysed with the aim of empowering Ugandans to meaningfully participate in the legislation processes.
Apart from undertaking the analysis locally, international experts such as International Senior Lawyers Project have helped the coalition to attain legal experts of Skadden, a global firm with experience in Oil, Gas and Mining legislation. During this process, our partners Revenue Watch Institute (RWI) collaborated with Skadden to analyze the bills and produce comments on the Bills, that have enabled civil society and other stakeholders gain better understanding of the proposed legislations and implications.
CSO Meeting to Share Oil Bill Analysis
On March 22, a meeting of over 50 CSO representatives was held and the Oil Bills analysis was shared and discussed. Experts from Skadden, RWI and ACODE were key facilitators. Despite being a technical subject, participants were able to generally understand the kind of legislation being proposed and quickly identify the gaps and weakness that must be addressed. Some of the weaknesses include; lack of reference to Uganda Joining EITI or following EITI principles, several uncalled for provisions for confidentiality of information, unclear stabilsation provisions, insufficient reporting and accountability of agencies as well as Fiscal terms that allow for significant variations between contracts.
Since the meeting, PWYP-U members are jointly working on a memorandum to submit to the Natural Resource Committee of Parliament, stipulating what we wish to see changed/incorporated in the bills
National Consultation with Religious Leaders
On the same day, Global Rights Alert in partnership with the Inter Religious Council of Uganda hosted a national senior religious leaders’ consultative meeting on Oil legislation. The meeting was held under the theme Called to be Stewards of Creation and All that Is In It. The meeting attracted over 40 senior religious leaders such as Arch Bishop John Baptist Odama (Catholic) Bishop Zac Niringiye (Anglican) Bishop Stanley Ntagali (Anglican) and Sheikh Waiswa Ali Mohamed (Muslim). These were some of the key speakers who, one after another called for a legislation that empowers all Ugandans to access information regarding the Oil sector, provide for strong checks and balances and most importantly ensure that social and environmental protection measures are strong. The meeting noted that the enjoyment of human rights must be for every Ugandan. And contrary to the assumption that Oil is a curse, participants believe it is a great blessing for Uganda. But this will only continue to be so, if duty bearers are accountable and there is a transparent process for participation and access to justice.
Global Rights Alert and IRCU are working on a Memorandum to submit to the Natural Resource Committee of Parliament, stipulating what we wish to see changed/incorporated in the bills. This memorandum will be presented by Council of Presidents (senior heads of the five religious denominations of Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Orthodox and Pentecostals).
As civil society, we continue to be motivated and excited, seeing religious leaders debate such issues of national concern despite the government’s efforts to stifle the debate and keep the Oil industry surrounded by secrecy.
Meeting with Members of Parliament
On March 23rd, PWYP-U members led by AFIEGO held a meeting with members of parliament mainly from the National Committee on Natural Resources. The meeting was again facilitated by experts from ISLP /Skadden and RWI. Meeting with this group was quite a strategic move, as this is the committee that is directly handling the bills, and therefore better placed to include the changes CSOs want made. We look forward to continuous engagement with these members of parliament as we undertake country wide consultations on the bills, and submit citizens’ views on proposed legislation.