UGANDA and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have launched the construction of a 223km road network designed to boost bilateral trade and improve security for oil companies operating in the Lake Albert basin.
The road network will run from Uganda’s border deep into the DRC’s eastern region, where a number of rebel groups operate. These include Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militant organisation that the US State Department has linked with Islamist group Isis. According to the UN, ADF rebels have been responsible for hundreds of killings in the DRC since January, as well as attacks on schools and hospitals in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, which border Uganda’s Lake Albert basin.
The jointly-funded road network will not only help to improve interconnectivity between the two countries but it will also aid their armies in preventing rebels from disrupting oil activities in the Lake Albert region, according to Ugandan minister of works and transport Katumba Wamala. ‘Uganda will contribute $65.9 million out of the total bill of $334.3 million in this project, which is very strategic for security, economic and political importance,” Wamala told the Argus news portal.
Uganda has already set up a base in the town of Beni in North Kivu, with 1,500 troops ready to protect the road workers and fight insurgents. It plans to add 500 more soldiers by September, Wamala said. Attempts to bolster security in the region are crucially important for TotalEnergies and China’s state-owned CNOOC, which are preparing to develop a 230,000 b/d project that will link Ugandan oil fields in the Lake Albert basin by pipeline to the Tanzanian port of Tanga.
The project has made progress in recent days, with TotalEnergies confirming the provisional award of several key contracts for the development of the 190,000 b/d Tilenga complex, including for the construction of a central processing facility. Tilenga, together with the nearby 40,000 b/d Kingfisher development, make up the upstream part of the Lake Albert project, in which TotalEnergies holds 56.67pc, China’s CNOOC 28.33pc and Ugandan state-owned UNOC 15pc.
TotalEnergies is keenly aware of the security risks facing oil and gas projects in east Africa, having declared force majeure on its 13.1mn t/yr LNG project in Mozambique earlier this year following insurgent attacks. The surge in violence in eastern DRC has prompted the government to suspend the civilian administrations of North Kivu and Ituri, and enforce martial law.