The Promise and Peril of Oil: A Visual Survey of Western Uganda


Both hope and trepidation have been sparked since the 2006 discovery of oil in western Uganda. While billions of dollars of wealth sits beneath the earth, representing potential development for the entire country, a host of complications has arisen in the years since, as bids and contracts for exploration and extraction have unfolded.

The most contentious issue is land as many Ugandans do not hold official titles, leaving them vulnerable to cursory land claims and grabs. Other challenges include gathering and implementing local input into development plans and ensuring protection of the environment. Such factors are underpinned by governance— a crucial hurdle given that Uganda ranks 142 out of 175 countries for corruption according to a Transparency International index.

Though production has yet to even start, it is clear that the emergence of the industry in Uganda is far reaching—politically, economically, and socially—from the communities in the oil rich areas to the global outlook on the resource.


A map shows changes that will come with the construction of an oil refinery. Thousands of people will be displaced to make room for the refinery and ancillary facilities, with some families already having collected compensation and relocating. Though many recipients have invested the funds in small businesses and new homes, others have spent it on alcohol or by marrying additional wives, causing familial instability. Burido, a local organization, has stepped in to advise compensated people on financial management.

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