President arrives in Addis for AU Summit

Saturday 14th July 2012

President Yoweri Museveni has warned his African counterparts to avoid manipulation by oil companies that seek unfair agreements for exploiting African resources.

He was today addressing a panel of African Peer Review Mechanism in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital where he and other leaders of the AU member states have assembled for the 19th AU Summit.

The panel was reviewing Uganda's performance. It is a self monitoring instrument intended to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that will lead to political stability, among member states.

Mr. Museveni explained that there have been attempts by oil companies to get oil exploitation agreements from his government. For example, President Museveni observed, oil companies were opposed to the establishment of a refinery in Uganda arguing that it would not be profitable because other East African countries have also discovered oil.

“It has been a real fight. They opposed the refinery because oil has been found in Southern Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania, saying that there will be no local market. I rejected this because the population of Uganda is increasing and more Ugandans are acquiring vehicles", he said. Mr. Museveni attributed Uganda's successful oil exploitation agreements to the presence a local trained team that can counter the oil companies.

“Another trick oil companies apply is the under-declaring of the percentage that can be exploited from the ground.” This, he said, also requires well trained personnel to work out a proper assessment of unexploitable oil that will remain in the ground.

Regarding democracy, the President told the African panel that Uganda has gone through a transformation process and has registered highly on democratic governance.

"I can accept aid on any other sector, but I do not need lectures on democracy because this is what I fought for. I started organising elections when I was in secondary school. Nobody can give me advice on democratic governance”, he said.

President Museveni also defended his long stay as President saying that although some people think that staying in power long is bad, it has helped him to acquire experience. He observed that for peasant societies to transform into middle class societies there must be stimuli which include, among others, a skilled working class and a middle class. In addition, the President said that there should be markets to absorb what is produced. “This is why regional and international markets in countries like USA, China, and India are very important to African economies”, he pointed out. Mr. Museveni advised the African panel to be specific on their benchmarks adding “If you talk about good governance, include how much power (electricity) a country produces because lack of power is bad governance. Do not talk about homosexual rights. They also need power”, he said.

The President told the panel that a private sector-led economy is also important. He, however, noted that this does not mean that the government remains with no role to play. However, he stressed that it has been found that economic growth is registered quickly when the private sector leads the economy.

Mr. Museveni told the panel that his government has invested heavily in the infrastructure adding that the need for modern railway lines, good roads and cheap and permanent electricity, is very crucial because they make a country's products cheaper to the markets. He noted that many African countries have not realized the importance of power which is reflected in their kilowatt per hour.

He said that Uganda has been able to overcome power shortages by using government funds to construct dams and accepting private investment where possible. The President stressed the role of a strong army in national development. He said that although Uganda's neighbours, like Rwanda, Sudan and Somalia, have suffered turbulent times and instability, Uganda's economy growth has remained high because of the army.

Mr. Museveni told the meeting that his government has constructed more schools, hospitals and more universities, including those put up by the private sector.

Addressing the same panel, South African President, Jakob Zuma, hailed Uganda's performance and advised other African leaders to emulate especially Uganda's efforts on value addition. President Zuma noted that the government of Uganda has done a lot since 1986. The panel was chaired by the newly elected Senegalese President, Mr. Macky Sall.

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