Government policies empowering investors at expense of citizens


Arans Tabaruka

From the grapevine, it appears both foreign and local but private investments are soaring despite the chorus economic distraught among the citizens in Uganda. The president has been commissioning and is likely to have some more months of lucrative commissioning especially of infrastructural development projects. The menu is long enough especially with less of the agricultural production but lent in the service industry, energy and mineral development.

Most of these also are being presented in a public-private investment picture with the latest being Sukulu phosphates, one of the largest privately-funded mining sector investments in Uganda. Nevertheless, and critical to the marrow is how much of local content benefit especially the benefit sharing to the generation of the population more likely affected.

I feel the local content policy has been simply highlighted but not emphasised, and to be clear, the figures presented by these investors are not factual to the benefit especially of the un employed youth to whom the narration of industrialisation to create jobs in the last 5 years has been themed to benefit through; employment and supply of the needed local materials and services.

Forget the recklessness and irresponsibility with which some companies respond to the ecological and health disasters caused, often by the non-respect of standards or the lack of maintenance of their facilities, local community testimonies testify to their complete disregard of human rights and the and their living environment. These minerals cannot outlive the people, they too exhaust.

Our investor corporations are enjoying a quasi-immunity on the legal level and benefit from the legislative gap around the empowerment of extractive industry, but it has also evolved to allege that the custodian of the country has a hand, so to presuppose that that’s why the key questions are not being asked at the commissioning. If the president would ask the eminent question, who benefits here? Uganda will definitely reap much from these investments.

The major challenge that could stall development projects in Uganda especially in the extractive industry in the long run in my view is the failure to remedy the welfare of local communities, there are several international and national legal frameworks that protect business and human rights of local communities but little is being done to enforce them.

While there is a mandate upon development partners to carry out environmental and social impact assessments for every project to access impact on environment and social life, collective voices are being summed up without emphasis and the presidents voice in the commissioning of these projects will curtail any jeopardy in the nearest future.

The opacity created around investment activities make progress and control particularly difficult. For many years, many associations have been campaigning for legislation to legally compel and empower companies. When these companies recognise their mistakes, they compensate victims with financial compensation but are almost never able to repair the environmental damage. This horizon of economic repair or out-of-court settlements makes it difficult to think long-term about sustainable and participatory natural resource management solutions.

Arans Tabaruka- Advocacy Officer Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED).

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