KAMPALA – President Yoweri Museveni has explained why Uganda hasn’t, and won’t negotiate for cheap fuel imports from Russia to match – India or China.
The President’s expression came at the height of soaring petroleum products prices in Uganda despite recent falls.
A litre of petrol now goes for an average of Ugx5, 300; the pump price for diesel is about Ugx5, 400, which charges are still far above the pre-Covid-19 levels of Ugx3, 600 and Ugx3, 400, respectively.
Having rejected the pressure to subsidise fuel costs or waive duties as some countries did, the government has been under stress to get supplies from other countries where the products were either cheap or easy to ship into the country without middlemen.
One country, which has been courting Uganda, is Russia – the world’s third-largest petroleum producer.
However, President Museveni said in his end-of-year address to the nation, that the current sanctions against Russia meant that Uganda would be antagonising its otherwise other friendly nations in the west.
Museveni said the position of the government has been to go the hard way by rejecting calls for subsidies but instead ensuring a stable supply of the affected commodities. These also include cooking oil, fertiliser and food products like wheat, for which Uganda and many African countries relied on Russia and Ukraine before the war between them broke out.
He, however, said that negotiations for cheaper fuel products were on-going with other countries that refine the product but not Russia.
On how long such a situation would continue, the President said the country had intensified innovation into electric mobility by investing in the production of battery-powered vehicles and motorcycles. He said that while electric vehicles were more expensive to purchase, they were much more affordable in terms of maintenance.
Museveni reiterated claims that government was in talks with electric motorcycle manufacturers to exchange them with owners of petroleum-powered ones.
The President was however, silent on how such a venture would co-exist in a Uganda, which discovered sizeable deposits of oil reserves in some parts of country.
Western Uganda has approximately 6.5 billion barrels of oil reserves, with at least 1.4 billion estimated to be economically recoverable. French firm Total, S.A., Chinese firm China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), and U.K. firm Tullow have production licenses to develop Uganda’s oil reserves for export.
In addition to producing and exporting crude oil, Uganda plans to build a refinery to produce petroleum products for the domestic and the entire East African Community markets, whose population is estimated at over 200 million people.
As an incentive and to cover their difference in costs, the companies would be given the business opportunity to establish and run battery-charging stations in the country.
This is in addition to the increased effort to expand the acreage of oil palm plantations, which would soon make the country self-reliant, with adequate vegetable oil output.
The President also updated the country on the security situation, especially in regard to the recent wave of attacks on government installations, which left a notable number killed, and their fire arms taken. Museveni said many of the perpetrators have either been arrested or killed – recovering the seized guns.
The attacks, according security sources, are linked to the Allied Democratic Forces-ADF rebels, which, Museveni said were either looking for money to fund their activities or trying to discourage the government through withdrawing its forces from hunting them down in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Museveni also said that those who led a recent spate of vandalism of electricity transmission equipment were under surveillance.
The President sounded unhappy, condemning people who were taking advantage of the political situation in the country to pressure government to create more administrative units, especially districts.
Under the National Resistance Movement – NRM – the numbers of districts in Uganda have been expanded from 33 in 1986 to 146 – with many, formed on ethnical lines.
Museveni said the pressure wasn’t necessary, save for some districts, which were formed to respond to some historical injustices against communities.
Additional reporting by URN