Uganda’s First Oil (Short Documentary)

By Megan S. Lee

Anticipation of wealth from Uganda’s untapped oil reserves has been in the air since oil was discovered in the Albertine graben in 2006. Governments, companies, and investors are now finalizing the investment decision that will give free rein to the first commercial-scale oil extraction in Uganda. But at which cost?

French multinational company Total, one of the seven “Supermajor” oil companies in the world, is a key player in the oil development projects around Uganda’s Lake Albert. The largest project, a 1,445-kilometer-long, 24-inch diameter underground pipeline, will transport crude oil from Hoima District in Uganda to Tanga Port in Tanzania for export. When built, it will be the longest electrically heated pipeline in the world, running through hundreds of villages in Uganda and Tanzania and through biodiverse ecosystems, wetlands, and rivers. 

While oil is expected to bring economic growth to East Africa, an extractive project of such magnitude has also left indigenous communities scrambling and environmental conservation priorities on the backburner. One might say that change is an inevitable part of a developing country’s rapid growth, but how this change plays out is determined by a few specific stakeholders. This documentary gives voice to those whose lives will be most altered.

Uganda’s First Oil is a short documentary film by filmmaker and journalist Megan S. Lee for InfoNile. It is based on a story published earlier this year by InfoNile with support from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation and Code for Africa. Cliff Abenaitwe, Annika McGinnis, Fredrick Mugira, and Andrew Aijuka from InfoNile and Léa Kulinowski and Juliette Renaud from Les Amis de la Terre France have made significant contributions to the production of this documentary. The individuals interviewed represent Total E&P Uganda, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda, the Ugandan human rights organization Navigators of Development Association (NAVODA), Kakindo Integrated Women Development Agency in Buliisa, and women and men from affected communities. Footage in the film was taken of the Albertine region near the Tilenga oil project, Lake Albert, Hoima District, Buliisa District, road and bridge construction in Murchison Falls National Park, and other shots in the national park.

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