20 April 2016, Kampala – In March, we were bombarded with news about Uganda’s oil pipeline route. Early in the month, we were informed that the Tanzanian and Ugandan presidents had agreed to construct the pipeline through the southern route to the Tanga port in Tanzania.
Tanzania’s president, John Pombe Magufuli, said that the 1,120km pipeline that would cost $4bn would create 15,000 jobs in addition to the transportation of the oil.
Uganda agreed to the southern route because it is more secure, shorter and less costly. Much as some government officials were noncommittal on whether the southern route was final, it was widely held that the deal was done because Uganda’s president had reportedly committed himself on it.
Then came the news in late March that Uganda and Kenya were to hold talks to resuscitate the northern route deal, tentatively agreed to last year. This route would see the oil transported through northern Kenya to Lamu. Those opposed to this route say it is insecure owing to al- Shabab operations in Somalia, which borders northern Kenya.
But amidst all this talk, a critical constituency that should be involved in the decision making process is being overlooked. It is us Ugandans. Let us not be blinded by talk that oil companies will finance the pipeline so much so that we will not pay for it.