Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo, they say oil in the west. When they want to be neutral, they say oil in the Albertine graben and if they want to be blunt, they say oil in Bunyoro. No body is talking about oil in Acholi. And yet it will surprise you that a huge chunk of that oil, probably more than 60%, the discovery is actually in Acholi.”
Latigo argues further that Acholi land may have an edge over Bunyoro in terms of oil exploitation because of the quality of its oil which would also influence the location of oil infrastructure such as the pipeline.
“The oil fields in Acholi are very unique. They are shallow. For example, one of the fields Liech 1, they drilled 250 meters and hit oil. Some of the wells in lake Albert are 3kms deep. You can see the ease with which you can exploit oil.
“I have data on some of the wells in Murchison falls National Park, and the deepest is about 480 metres. And when they did testing, they found that the oil was almost similar suggesting that wells are connected to one another. So we’re talking about a pool of oil. The beauty with that is that extraction points will be very few. That means that the environment and wildlife will be minimally affected. And that goes for other risks that people worry about.”
The Sunrise could not independently verify Prof. Latigo’s claim on the scale of oil discoveries in Acholi sub-region as the directorate of petroleum did not respond to our inquiries.
Oil in Uganda was first discovered on the shores of lake Albert, where the biggest well Kingfisher is located. Subsequent exploitations have been carried out spanning the Albertine graben and beyond into Acholi land.
However, perhaps influenced by the initial discoveries of oil, the government has decided to establish the bulk of the oil infrastructure including the proposed oil refinery, power dam, roads, storage facilities as well as the petroleum institute in Bunyoro.
Latigo argues: “For us as Acholis, the first challenge we have is to make people realise that Uganda’s oil endowment is also about Acholi in a very large way so that they feel that sense of belonging and pride in having oil.
“Secondly, we want to rationalise the way oil is being extracted, how it is being conveyed to the market and what benefits in terms of employment, royalties will accrue to the Acholi people. Bearing in mind that most of the oil is in Acholi, when there is trouble about oil, the whole country will be affected.
“We also want to see how do we relate in this oil era to the rest of Uganda so that we maximize the benefits from oil.”
“What we are doing is systematically gathering information and data, compile it into a report. After that we shall present the findings in the next Acholi conference that will bring together all the neighbouring sub-regions such as West Nile, Lango, Madi, Karamoja that will likely be part of the pipeline.
“If there is to be an oil pipeline from Lamu port in Kenya, it has to pass through Karamoja, Lango and Acholi. That is the most rational route. So we want to see how oil can integrate us rather than divide us.”
“The original logic was simple. Oil was discovered in Bunyoro. So the infrastructure had to be established nearby. But things have changed. More oil has been discovered in Acholi and it will not make sense that oil in Acholi has to be pumped to Bunyoro to be cleaned, piped to Mityana for storage and then pumped out of the country by rounding away from Acholi. That will be a big mistake and that will be inexplicable for whatever reasons may be advanced.”
“We believe that sharing the country’s oil infrastructure is also one way of linking the country and binding it together in such a way that you cannot pull away because you need each other,” argued Prof. Latigo.
Besides oil, Latigo says he has been engaging in other development issues affecting the sub-region such as the largely unexploited agricultural potential in relation to investors.
Prof. Latigo ventured into rice farming shortly before the 2011 elections. His unsuccessful bid to retain his seat in Parliament as the MP for Kalongo county has cemented his determination to engage in commercial farming with emphasis on growing rice, maize, sorghum and ground nuts.
“Once I lost the election, I have been engaging in workshops in the region on a number of subjects; whether it’s to do with post-conflict issues, investment issues, land issues or oil.
Having served as Leader of Opposition in Parliament for five years, I think I achieved my political ambition because I reached the top of the opposition politics. Perhaps God wanted me to engage in the re-organisation of Acholi.”
He says the community has witnessed dramatic changes in attitudes regarding the controversial issues of land. “The land issue was a big issue within our community. Now the investors are coming and people are appreciating them and they are welcoming them.” He cited the arrival of white farmers from Southern Africa who have opened up large fields and have started growing cereals like maize.
“The next challenge is to say; don’t look at the investor, look at yourself. Look at the opportunity that you have. And the biggest of all the challenges is re-organizing our community in respect to oil.”
At the height of the anti-Mabira take-over controversy a few years ago, Latigo was one of the few people from Northern Uganda who supported the proposal by investor Abid Alam to establish a sugar plantation in Nwoya district.
He argues that by advocating for more outside investors to go to Acholi, he believes ordinary people in the subregion will benefit from partnering with the investors as well as sharing resources such as technology for improved output that comes with commercial farming.