"All signs are that Uganda will be the latest nation to fall victim to the 'oil curse' — cheated of its financial benefits by a corrupt government and left with extensive environmental damage," said Uganda's Association of Professional Environmentalists.
Critics are already complaining that more than $300,000 paid in signature bonuses on oil contracts already have gone missing. Legislators have accused the prime minister and two Cabinet ministers of taking millions of dollars in bribes from Tullow — charges Tullow denies.
Two long-serving Cabinet ministers and stalwarts of President Yoweri Museveni resigned this week over graft allegations unrelated to oil. Three other ministers were forced to resign last year because of corruption allegations. Museveni has been in power since 1986.
The Constitutional Court has barred legislators from investigating their charges while it rules on a motion that the parliamentarians' investigation is improper and out of order.
Tullow spokesman George Casanove said documents presented to Parliament are "forgeries, unquestionably and irrefutably." He said the company is looking forward to demonstrating that publicly when it is summoned to appear before the parliamentary committee. He said the company does not know who made the forgeries, or what the motivation was.
Still, legislators and activists also are angry with Tullow, and the issue has divided legislators from the president's party. Ugandan newspapers report that some have had a change of heart though because of a new $40,000 allowance to buy cars.
"The culpability of government is obvious but so is the role of Tullow," said Ssekikubo, a legislator from Museveni's party. "If you promote the breakdown of the rule and law in the country of your interest, how will you ensure that your interests are covered?"
Faul reported from Johannesburg. Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda contributed to this report.
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