Relations between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been strained since 1998, when Uganda intervened in Congo's second civil war on the side of rebels who tried to overthrow President Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the father of current DRC president Joseph Kabila. In August 2012, Kabila and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met, according to Rigzone, in order to try to improve relations. The bulk of Uganda's oil reserves lie in the Lake Albertine rift basin, which straddles the two nations' common border.
In August 2007, Congolese troops fired at an oil exploration vessel on Lake Albert belonging to the UK-based Heritage Oil, killing a British contract worker. Congo had accused the vessel of carrying out illegal oil exploration on its side of the lake, which both Uganda and the company denied. The Ugandan army retaliated and a Congolese soldier died in the 15 minute shoot out while a Ugandan soldier was wounded. Another clash took place a month later, in September, which left six Congolese nationals, including a soldier, dead and five others injured. Both the Ugandan and Congolese armies had deployed heavily around the shores of Lake Albert, with Environment News Service reporting at the time that some observers had fears of all-out war.
According to Ugandan political scientist and researcher Joseph Mazinga, when international oil companies discovered oil reserves beneath the lake, Uganda claimed them without first entering into a survey agreement with the DRC government to delineate the international frontier more accurately. The demarcation of the border has never been precisely defined.
Another point of contention between the Congolese and Ugandan governments ownership of the Rukwanzi Island, less than three kilometers wide, at its southern end near oil areas and near the scene of the 1 August 2007 clash. After the 2007 clashes Congo and Uganda agreed to resurvey the poorly defined border but the process has never fully developed. Rukwanzi Island lies near the former oil Exploration Area 3A, formerly owned by Heritage and now operated by China's CNOOC Ltd.
Both countries claim sovereignty over the island, the majority of whose residents are Congolese nationals and which, as of mid-2012, was under a joint administration of Ugandan and Congolese authorities. The wells being drilled in the CNOOC-operated oil block lie within Uganda's borders, according to Rigzone, and Rukwanzi Island was included in the Uganda's broader 3A license area at the time that Heritage controlled it.
Heritage subsequently sold its stake in the area to Tullow Oil. Congo then expropriated from Tullow the license areas that lay on its side of the border and handed them to two British Virgin Islands-registered firms, Caprikat and Foxwhelp. In contrast to the rapid progress made on the Ugandan oil fields around Lake Albert, the Congolese areas remain underdeveloped.
Congolese settlement in Uganda
According to the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), since oil activities in Uganda have begun there has been an influx of Congolese nationals in villages along the Ugandan side of Lake Albert. Communities on the Ugandan side of the lake have been relatively open and accommodating in absorbing newly settled Congolese, according to the SAIIA, but the increase there has been a direct impact on livelihoods in the form of pressure on land, and increased competition for access to fish on the lake.
- "Uganda, Congo Hold Talks Over Oil Exploration", Rigzone, 9 August 2011.
- "How Museveni’s diplomacy saved the day at DR Congo security summit", The East African, 9 August 2011.
- "Oil War Feared Between Uganda and DR Congo", Environment News Service, 2 October 2007.
- "The Power of Oil", South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), March 2012.