OPINION: After 33 years in the top job, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has a challenger.
His unlikely nemesis is a pop star called Robert Kyagulanyi, better known to fans as Bobi Wine, photographed last month with the US ambassador to Uganda and fast cultivating links to US politicians to back his bid for the presidency in 2021.
Wine fled to the US for medical treatment after being injured during an earlier campaign rally, claiming to have been tortured and harassed, urging the US to suspend military aid.
The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) initially ignored the upstart singer — who has a law diploma — but his rapid rise has rattled Museveni, who clearly wants to be around when first oil flows from the Lake Albert development, a project now endangered by protracted disagreement over equity and tax liabilities.
Uganda’s redoubtable head of state has been positioning friends and family to reap the benefits even after his own grip on power is loosened. His elder son and presidential advisor on special operations, Muhoozi Kainerugba, was this year raised to Lieutenant General and Museveni has declined to rule out his scion’s candidacy.
Oil was set to flow by 2023 but with Total, Tullow Oil and CNOOC International in disarray over the capital gains component in a proposed $900 million farm-down deal, a final investment decision appears far away.
Not that Wine would manage things differently.
The musician told local media last week he agreed with Museveni that field development must be held up until accord is reached on a refinery to export finished product, while he wants a sovereign wealth fund and insists “oil proceeds should first be given to the people, to equip the common person, lest we run a risk of working for other countries at the expense of our own".
Except there are no proceeds.
Total has sent a strong message to Kampala that it can and will walk away from this mess, while Museveni’s efforts to coax China into riding to his fiscal rescue have not borne fruit.
It seems neither man will preside over first oil any time soon.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)