“Oil Bills: Will they erase our doubts?“ was published in the Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor while SIPA Professor Jenik Radon and his students were in Uganda in March doing field research for a Capstone Workshop. Professor Radon and Marie-Paule Jeansonne (MIA ‘12) are both quoted in this article, commenting on the latest draft of two petroleum bills currently being considered by the Ugandan Parliament.
Eight SIPA students have been working on a Capstone Workshop that focuses on Uganda’s “Oil Bills,” conducting research to make recommendations on ways to effectively legislate and manage newly found oil reserves.
The team’s initial comment on the legislation, which was put together by Jeansonne and Sri Swaminathan (MPA ‘12) under the guidance of Professor Radon, has been quoted in various media outlets in Uganda, including The Daily Monitor (above) and The Independent (“Parliament to pass weak laws on oil”).
The students and Professor Radon also presented their comments and recommendations in-person to 15 members of the Ugandan Parliament’s Natural Resource Committee.
The team presents its recommendations to Members of Parliament in Uganda. At right, Professor Radon and Jeansonne.
According to Professor Radon, the team’s two biggest recommendations are:
- to have a stronger system of checks and balances, with an emphasis on transparency;
- not to concentrate decision-making in one individual
During their time in Uganda in mid-March, the team also organized meetings with individuals from government ministries, members of Parliament (governing and opposition), civil society, Ugandan citizens, international donors, foreign embassies, and international and local media.
“We tried to identify what they see as the biggest issues and problems,” said Jeansonne. “By then, we already had ideas about what our recommendations would be, so our field trip was a good chance to test them. We had to make sure our report was something that could be actionable and something Ugandans could relate to.”
While Nithin Coca (MIA ‘12), Kazumi Kawamoto (MIA ‘12), Ida Dokk Smith (MIA ‘12) and Frithiof August Wilhelmsen (MIA ‘13) conducted interviews in the capital city Kampala, Chitra Choudhury (MIA/Journalism ‘12) and Frazer Lanier (MIA ‘12) travelled to the resource-rich “oil belt” region of Hoima, which shares a border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Choudhury and Lanier in Hoima.
“We conducted interviews with both local authorities and residents,” said Choudhury, “people who might be displaced, fishing communities that might be affected… We were trying to understand how far-removed people on the ground are from what’s going on in Parliament. It added an extra layer of understanding on the issues.”
Professor Radon added that one of the major images that has stuck in his mind from the students’ field research is that “the elephants are leaving” due to the drilling and vibrations.
“That’s something we found,” said Choudhury, “the environmental impact wasn’t being studied. The government is doing that now, with the help of NORAD [the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation].”
“You have to consider the full impacts,” Professor Radon added. “The importance of such a trip is you discover information from the locals. For example, there is a greater influx of fishing because of roads being built and increased access to [Lake Albert]. There’s overfishing, too much to be sustainable…. So these are the unintended consequences that you can only see on the ground.”
Jeansonne emphasized that because most of the oil drilling is on land, there are “grave implications for human rights, because people will be displaced.” This raises questions about compensation, how people should be displaced, and whether they should be displaced in the first place.
“Developing extractive industries is difficult to do in the best of circumstances,” Radon said. “So these questions need to be answered in the right way.”
- Michelle Chahine