Insecurity in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is forcing oil companies to operate from inside the Ugandan territory to conduct surveys on the probable existence of oil,Red Pepper Online has learnt.
The two countries have had series of agreements including the Agreement of Cooperation for the Exploration of Hydrocarbons and Exploitation of Common Fields signed in June 1990.
A 2012 Ministry of Energy report indicates that DRC has sought permission from Uganda to allow two oil companies licensed in the DRC to carry out geophysical surveys of the DRC side of the Albertine graben, but based in Uganda.
The report says that DRC requested the Ugandan government to allow SOCO-Exploration and Production, a licensee of Block 5 in DRC, to undertake an airborne gravity and magnetic survey in the Block while basing at Kihiihi in Kanungu District.
Juko Kasita, the Kanungu acting Resident District Commissioner, told Uganda Radio Network that the company has been carrying out oil exploration activities in areas of DR Congo but while basing in Uganda. He however explained that the company has currently ceased the activities due to insecurity inside DRC.
The report by the Uganda’s Ministry of Energy also shows that SacOil, another DRC licensed oil company has been undertaking a two-dimensional (2D) seismic survey over the DRC side of Lake Albert while based in Uganda. SacOil has exploration rights over Blocks 1 and 2 in DRC. The company established its base in Ntoroko district in order to safely conduct the survey.
Bashir Hangi, a spokesperson at Uganda’s Petroleum Exploration and Production Department says that the companies were basically gathering data to determine the probable existence of oil in the DRC areas bordering Uganda.
A report by SacOil indicates that the unrest in DRC has caused a delay of approximately six months to the company’s planned work program. It adds that the DRC government has agreed to extend its license to January 2016 to cover the delays.
Henry Okello Oryem, Uganda’s State minister for International Affairs, told the media in a recent interview that the countries would sign a protocol on oil production once DR Congo also makes discoveries.
Uganda and DR Congo share the Albetine region where much of Uganda’s oil has been discovered. Honey Malinga, Uganda’s Assistant Commissioner for Petroleum Exploration and Production, emphasises the need for cooperation among the countries to ensure the resources are exploited peacefully.
Since April 2012, the rebels of M23 have been fighting the Joseph Kabila-led government in the east of the vast country near the border with Uganda and Rwanda. Latest reports also indicate that the ADF rebels have launched attacks targeting government forces.