By Grace Kenganzi

The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) joins Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the coronation of His Royal Majesty Dr Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I, the Omukama.

The Authority recognises the importance of preserving culture as an avenue for social economic transformation. Culture is therefore a key aspect taken into consideration while assessing the impact of the oil and gas projects. The projects exist in areas with diverse social/historical set up which defines how communities relate with each other. This manifests in the languages spoken, the values system of the people, how people respond to authority, and inadvertently the social and economic activities they choose to participate in.

The oil and gas sector also brings together people from different nationalities. For example, the National Suppliers Database has companies from 54 countries and over 19 different nationalities operating in the Albertine Graben. There is a need for the peaceful co-existence of these nationalities.

The Authority also works with cultural leaders at different stages of oil and gas activities to preserve culture. These leaders play a two-fold role. On the one hand, they provide information on key cultural considerations and parameters, which informs how the oil companies and their sub-contractors can preserve the culture. For example, understanding the staple food of the communities can tell the type of agricultural support the affected people receive during the livelihood restoration stage of the projects.

In addition, due to their level of influence, cultural leaders are integral in getting community goodwill towards the oil and gas activities and their contribution towards the region’s economic development.

In the oil and gas sector, cultural factors are considered at every stage of the value chain since the projects cannot exist outside the community. An assessment is therefore done to find out how the people and their socioeconomic life will be affected directly or indirectly. This assessment includes ascertaining whether any cultural sites will be affected by activities. These cultural sites can be places of worship, ancestral burial grounds, heritage sites and any other places of community significance.

Where it is established that oil and gas activities will affect any places of cultural significance, measures are put in place to preserve their integrity. For instance, a decision is made to avoid activity in these places so that there is no interruption to social-cultural activities. Where there is no alternative but to move the sites to another area, great care is taken to ensure that this is done in the most appropriate and culturally sensitive way.

The oil companies also run programmes to ensure that the development runs hand in hand with social/cultural sustainability.

CNOOC Uganda Limited and the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) support events such as the Bunyoro Masaza Cup and the Empango Run, which are organised to promote cultural pride while contributing to socio-economic issues like health. These programmes include supporting cultural events such as the Bunyoro Masaza Cup.

TotalEnergies has been working with the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda to promote culture in Bunyoro, Bugungu, Alur and Acholi sub-regions. The programme encompasses several cultural aspects such as: identifying, safeguarding, and promoting traditional knowledge; enhancing the value of craft-making and traditional music; strengthening the organisational management skills of traditional music troupes and crafts workers; and boosting their publicity and marketing efforts.

Such initiatives foster intercultural collaboration and diversify goods and services in the creative industry within the oil and gas project areas and beyond. They also deepen awareness of the crafts industry, sports, and traditional music’s significance and role in enhancing community livelihoods through income-generating activities, skills development, creativity, and innovation.

The Petroleum Authority of Uganda stands in solidarity with the great people of Bunyoro-Kitara on this milestone.

Ms Kenganzi is the Senior Officer, Corporate Affairs at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda