KONY 2012 became the most viral video in the world a couple of weeks ago with its Youtube and Vimeo versions of the film racking up over 100 million views combined. It now replaces Susan Boyle’s audition and Rebecca Black’s “Friday” as the most viewed video on the web (Source 1)
[Photo Credit: Comedy Central Daily Show screenshot, Mar. 12 full episode]
It captured the world’s attention. The main message: Joseph Kony is the sadistic rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the first war criminal indicted by the International Criminal Court. For over 26 years, Kony and the LRA have terrorized tens of thousands and displaced millions of central and east Africans. Although Kony is from Uganda, he’s abducted, tortured, and killed civilians in four different countries (CAR, DRC, Uganda, South Sudan)! US intervention largely stayed out of Kony’s way until a few years ago. President George W. Bush sent 17 military advisors to assist the Ugandan military in routing the LRA and Kony, but it was unsuccessful (Source 2). In Nov. 2011, President Barack Obama again sent military advisors, this time 100 of them, to assist the Ugandan military. The organization that created the video, Invisible Children, supports Obama’s military advisor plan and urges Americans to be aware of and support this plan as well.
Many viewers of the video agree with Obama’s new focus on helping to apprehend Kony and LRA commanders as it will stop incredible violence still taking place in the DRC and CAR. Yet many others question US motives (or disagree with other points of the video).
Being a student of energy policy, I find the wildest debate/conspiracy theory to be the accusation that the US military advisors are there to seize Ugandan oil resources recently found under Lake Albert. (Source 3)
I’d like to deconstruct the facts to show how implausible that conspiracy theory actually is.
1) Many industry insiders have assumed Uganda had oil since the 1980s (Source 6, Revenue Watch). But it wasn’t until 2009 that the largest reserves to date were discovered under Lake Albert on the border of Uganda and the DRC (Source 4). Currently however, Uganda produces NO oil, and the oil it is expected to produce is “150,000 barrels a day for up to 25 years” (Source 5). This estimate, depending on the journalistic source, wavers from 100,000 to 200,000 barrels a day for anywhere between 10 to 25 years (Source 6). That may sound like a lot, but taken in context…
2) If that production point were true today it would make Uganda the 11th largest African oil producer (in barrels per day) behind…
- Nigeria – 2,458,000
- Algeria – 2,078,000
- Angola – 1,988,000
- Libya – 1,789,000
- Egypt – 662,600
- Sudan – 514,300
- Equatorial Guinea – 322,700
- Rep. of Congo (not DRC) – 302,200
- Gabon – 227,900
- South Africa – 192,000
- (UGANDA – 150,000)
This would also make Uganda the 47th largest oil producer in the world. 150,000 barrels per day doesn’t sound so impressive when considering the top three countries produce over 9,000,000 barrels per day. (Source 7 – 2010 CIA estimates).
[Photo Credit: http-//blogs.ft.com/energy-source/files/2010/01/tullow_uganda_map_largejan182010]
3) Next, let’s consider the location of Ugandan oil reserves and the ease with which the US government could access them. Nearly all African countries with higher production levels would be easier to reach US markets than Uganda. Uganda is located on the eastern side of the African continent and is a landlocked country. The oil resources are found in forests and under a lake in the western part of the country. The oil is said to be “waxy, difficult to pump and expensive to refine.” And there is currently no pipeline to distribute the oil. (Source 8)
4) Tullow Oil is the current company in place to begin exploration and extraction of Ugandan reserves. Tullow Oil is an Anglo/Irish company, not American. The only other private industry connections appear to be French and Chinese companies, not American (Source 9).
5) President George W. Bush first sent 17 military advisors to assist in an operation to attack and apprehend Joseph Kony in Nov. 2008. It was unsuccessful. The Lake Albert oil discovery happened in July 2009. Estimates of Ugandan oil potential before then appear to be pure speculation. It appears there was already some precedent in President Obama sending military advisors to Uganda prior to the oil discovery.
Is it feasible in light of this information that the US government would set up some elaborate, shadowy military strategy to access Uganda’s hard to reach and paltry (by global standards) 150,000 barrels per day? My conclusion is no.
I say, feel free to debate the merits of the KONY 2012 video ad nauseum. Or better yet, intelligently debate US foreign policy and military strategy. But leave wild, unfounded conspiracy theories about Ugandan oil to the people wearing tin foil hats. This conspiracy theory doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
[Disclaimer: I worked for Invisible Children for two years in Uganda. I still find the organization and KONY 2012 video positive on the whole]
(3) Conspiracy theory blogs entries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvgfrK8SUoE, http://tv.globalresearch.ca/2012/03/us-launches-pr-campaign-ugandan-oil-intervention, http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/312028/20120309/kony-2012-video-conspiracy-theories-oil.htm, http://politicsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2012/03/uganda-be-kiddin-me-kony-2012-ugandan.html
(6) Other estimates: http://www.revenuewatch.org/countries/africa/uganda/extractive-industries