As oil activities encroach on sacred natural sites, a small Ugandan community feels besieged

by | Aug 23, 2023 | Religion

BULIISA, Uganda (AP) — Alex Wakitinti is worried about the sacred natural sites he tends in the large swath of bushy grassland near Lake Albert. It’s the same slice of his homeland that oil companies are developing in order for Uganda to become an oil producer by 2026.But French oil company TotalEnergies and others working toward that goal are recklessly ignoring the significance of Wakitinti’s spiritual work, he said, as well as that of the other custodians minding hallowed natural sites in the remote district of Buliisa near the Congo border.
“According to the program of Total, custodians are not there,” said Wakitinti, chief custodian of sacred sites in Buliisa. “We are not in their program.”
That is a mistake, he said, making note of the bad luck that can come from disturbing these special places without performing the necessary rituals or making sacrifices to spirit mediums — like the tree Wakitinti recently knelt under to pray and present a bird’s nest.
Sacred natural sites here range from single trees in the bush to the rift in the land where the Nile River merges with Lake Albert, creating a spectacular landscape that intensifies the Bagungu’s respect for nature. They believe these sites are repositories of occult mediums with the power to solve problems that range from a thief in the community to a sickness in the family.
As TotalEnergies invests billions into oilfield development and acquires more and more land, Wakitinti and other Bagungu peo …

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