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Meet Samantha Muhwezi UNOC’s new hire to start work on April 1st.

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Her first major undertakings in the nascent petroleum industry went largely unnoticed until September 2022 when screenshots of registration documents of the proposed East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) started making arounds on the microblogging site X, formerly Twitter.

The UK companies’ registry documents detailed Ms Samantha Muhwezi as a shareholder of the $4 billion (Shs15 trillion) EACOP, that will transport Uganda’s 6.4billion barrels of oil from Hoima to Tanga Port in Tanzania en route to the international market.

The documents caused a stir, with many Ugandans online expressing bewilderment and consternation of how Ms Muhwezi could be signatory on behalf of EACOP whose shareholders are TotalEnergies, Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC), Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC), and CNOOC.

The EACOP holding company was incorporated in the UK as a neutral jurisdiction with strong rule of law and home to the London Court of Arbitration.

Ms Muhwezi, then as Company Secretary of the EACOP company seated at Course View Towers along Yusuf Lule Road in Kampala, was signatory to the document as legal director of TotalEnergies.

A graduate of Law from UK’s London School of Economics, she joined the company as legal counsel, then known as Total E&P, in 2016.

At the time, the French oil company—which pushed Uganda to settle for the 1,443km southern route to Tanga as the least cost for the pipeline—was coordinating majority activities of the pipeline.

The Tanga route was chosen over Kenya’s route to Lamu and Mombasa on among other grounds, convenient constructability (flat terrain), highest availability (fully functional), lowest environmental footprint, and provides the shortest schedule for Uganda to see first oil export—earliest mid-2025.

It is upon this basis that Total seconded her as legal director in what eventually came to be the EACOP company.

At several oil-related functions, Ms Muhwezi—her height, a lofted by high heels, and a good sense of fashion— always stood out, usually, in company of her French bosses. If there is one thing that is not in doubt; her brilliance.

“She is smart, intelligent, and a go-getter,” a former co-worker told this website. “She just stepped on many toes along the way; was always aloof, and the-know-it all kind.”

At the time screenshots of the pipeline company’s registration made rounds in late 2022, Ms Muhwezi was facing tumultuous times in the EACOP company over allegations of conflict of interest.

In early 2023, the EACOP company removed her as legal director—and as a soft landing—sent her back to TotalEnergies. According to insiders, she first protested the transfer but eventually acquiesced to move.

The EACOP company later updated its registration details in the UK in July 2023.

“She could no longer fit in,” sources at Total told this website, adding: “Next thing we knew she was taking maternity leave, and later resigned. Next thing we learnt she was joining UNOC”

Ms Muhwezi is due to start work as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at UNOC next week.

The COO position was first advertised in January, involving among others offering strategic and technical leadership to all shared and technical support functions of UNOC, and setting up and offering leadership oversight to centers of excellence for supply chains, and national content.

UNOC’s handling of the recruitment came under sharp focus a fortnight ago; fielding a candidate, who despite extensive legal knowledge, has zero operational expertise amid claims of influence peddling.

In a statement, UNOC defended that 10 candidates were shortlisted including internal applicants, among others economists, geologists, lawyers, engineers and commercial.

Sources told this website how the matter had reached President Museveni who instructed intelligence agencies to look into the matter.

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