By Michael Woira
The visit to the Albertine Graben by religious leaders holds immense significance in the context of the gas and oil sector in Uganda.
As part of the delegation that had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the operations in the Albertine, I cannot stress enough the importance of involving religious leaders in such developments.
On 28th June, the House of Bishops led by The Most Rev Dr. Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu started their journey from Namirembe Cathedral to the Albertine Graben to go and physically see, learn, and engage with the various stakeholders in the oil and gas sector.
This has been the very first-time religious leaders specifically the House of Bishops has visited this oil-rich region and I who moved with them on the same Bus saw their excitement towards the developments reached by the government in the region.
A lot has been done in the districts of Hoima, Kikuube, and Buliisa but for someone who stays in Kampala or the rest of the country and has never had the chance to reach these districts, I should say there is a lot that you are missing ranging from Job opportunities, tenders, scholarships, contracts and a lot more.
In my simple estimates, thousands of people are already employed by Kingfisher Project and Tilenga Project, and to my observations, those employed are not only professionals but even those who just get skilled at technical institutes in works like plumbing, construction, truck operation, grader and tractor operators, security guards, environment experts, etc.
In my brief engagement with one of the Bishops, he whispered to me and said, “So all this has been happening here? Do all these Ugandans know that such great developments are happening here? I wish they could all get the chance to come here, they would come back happy and singing songs of praise to the lord who blessed this country with such minerals”.
It is good that the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development thought about this idea of taking the religious leaders to the oil-rich region so that they can see and even bless the projects something that excited me, since it has been quite some time since I last engaged in serious prayer, this time round I was blessed to be amongst the House of Bishops as they were praying for each of these projects at Kingfisher site, Kabalega International Airport and the Tilenga Project.
These projects were blessed, the workers were blessed and I was also fully blessed by these men of God for all the days we spent on the field trip.
Praise God! Religious leaders, being the moral compass for their congregations, have a unique platform to communicate and educate their followers about the realities and potential of the gas and oil industry.
Their role goes beyond preaching within the confines of the church walls; it extends to guiding our communities toward sustainable progress and responsible utilization of our natural resources.
During our field trip, we were able to witness the efforts made by the government and the Uganda Petroleum Institute-Kigumba where many are studying oil and gas-related courses and many other technical courses that are related to the works in the Albertine Graben.
While on the trip, the Executive Director of the Petroleum Authority of Uganda emphasized that to ensure that corruption is kept at bay in the sector; the laws governing the sector are exceptionally clear and robust, providing a solid foundation for transparency and accountability.
Moreover, the trip to the Kingfisher Development Area served as a reminder of the abundance of resources bestowed upon us by God.
I remember in one of the Archbishop’s speeches, he said that it is a humbling experience to witness the underground wealth that has been present for centuries.
However, he also added that the realization also dawns upon us all that we have yet to fully harness and utilize this wealth for the betterment of our nation and its people.
Religious leaders can bridge the gap between industry and communities by actively participating in developments such as the gas and oil sectors.
They can facilitate dialogue, address concerns, and ensure that benefits in this area reach the grassroots. Their participation will foster a sense of ownership among Ugandans, enabling them to actively participate in the decision-making process and reap the benefits of responsible resource use.
In conclusion, the Albertine Graben visit has reinforced the significance of religious leaders’ involvement in the gas and oil sector in Uganda.
They have a vital role to play in communicating the realities, opportunities, and challenges associated with this industry to our congregations.
Therefore, as Ugandans, we all want to undertake this responsibility with the utmost dedication and strive for a harmonious coexistence between the gas and oil sectors and the values we hold dear as citizens concerned.
Together we will ensure that this sector becomes a catalyst for sustainable development and a source of pride for all Ugandans. Amen
The author is a patriotic Ugandan working with Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC)-State House.