Kingdoms Clash Over Uganda’s Oil Cash

January 31, 2014 6:51 am0 comments by:

By Betty Mujungu

Kampala-Two kingdoms in Uganda are embroiled in a bitter wrangle over an oil rich district.

The kingdoms-Tooro and Rwenzuru are wrangling over Ntoroko a district in the Rwenzori region of Uganda.

The district in contention lies in the oil rich Albertine Graben, where there is an estimated 3.5 billion barrels of Uganda’s oil.

The district with more than 10 tribes, where the Batuku are the major tribe, was a quiet and rarely talked about before the discovery of oil.

The inhabitants of the district were pastoralists and fisher men who paid allegiance to Tooro kingdom.

But in early 2012, when the government of Uganda licensed a Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to carry out an exploration on its Kanywataba area a section of the Batuku distanced themselves from Tooro kingdom and formed the Anti-Bukama Bwa Tooro-a Rutooro group, a move that shocked the Tooro Kingdom.

Local, religious and opinion leaders in the district strongly link the conflict between Tooro kingdom and Rwenzuru to the desire to have full access to the royalties that accrue from the natural resources.

‘‘The Batooro and Batuku have lived together as one family for all their lives until recently when the oil was discovered in Ntoroko’ Explains Pastor Bamuroho Charles a religious leader in Ntoroko district.

‘‘Some of the leaders here are the ones pushing for the breakaway so that Ntoroko can have full right over royalties that comes from the natural resources. That’s why you hear now of even further dividing Ntoroko into two constituents, where karugutu constituency should be given to the minority bakonjo.  Everyone knows that the Bakonjo pay allegiance to Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu, this means that when it’s done this way the Omusinga of Rwenzururu will have full authority over a part of Ntoroko district.

This they claim will be in line with the letter written dated 30th April 2009 that the Rewnzuru veterans wrote to His Excellency the President of Uganda.

The letter titled Ref: Creation Of New Districts from Kasese and Bundibugyo Districts where points 3 and 4 say ‘‘We the Rwenzururu veterans are suspicious that any clandestine movement intended to deny the Bakonzo –Bamba tribes their pride of resource allocation in the pretext of creating new districts within the region shall, whatsoever, not succeed unless the process is clear, accepted and genuine to all the community in Rwenzururu region. Reads part of the letter.

Nalubega Zeitune who has lived in   Kanara Sub-sounty Ntoroko district for the last 45years says when they heard about the oil and gas discovered in Ntoroko they thought new life would come to the long forgotten district, but surprisingly it was not the case.

According to Nalubega instead conflicts came up, two kingdoms of Rwenzururu and Toro all wanted to own Ntoroko district prompting a section of the Batuku to deny paying allegiance to Toro kingdom.

“This surprised most of us who know that ever since ntoroko existed, even when it was still attached to Bundibugyo district it was under Toro kingdom”.  She explains.

Steven Kaliba, the Prime Minister Tooro kingdom blames the conflict on politicians in Ntoroko for fuelling the conflicts for their personal gains.

Primus Bahigi the Research and Advocacy Officer at Kabarole research and resource center blames the conflict on the scramble for natural resources.

“We have conducted a lot of research work about the conflicts in the Rwenzori region and realized that the presence of natural resources with potential to generate high revenues attracts business stake holders with varying interests to the region” explains Bahigi primus.

“Therefore the potential revenues accruing from the resources are responsible for the ethnic inclined divisions in the region, the quest for creation of new districts and recognition of new cultural institutions.’’ Bahigi says the focus now is on reconciling the people in the two kingdoms.

The Oil Project Manager, Action Aid Mr. Musime Chris admits that the conflicts in this region largely revolves around natural resources but however says that oil shouldn’t be looked as a resource for a particular group of people but rather a national resource.

He adds that the government should educate the communities about the laws and royalties, since people are fighting for imaginary power and influence.

“Civil society organizations, the government and the media should work together to ensure that as we  develop the oil and gas resources, we recognize  the already existing conflicts in society so as not to exacerbate them’ said Gloria Sebikari the communications officer at petroleum exploration and production department of the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.

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