Crackdown on Oil Project Protests Sparks Human Rights Concerns
A major East African oil project in Uganda, led by TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, has become a focal point of contention. President Yoweri Museveni considers the $10-billion venture as an economic boon, but it is facing opposition from rights activists and environmental groups.
|Project:||East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP)|
|Companies:||TotalEnergies and China National Offshore Oil Corporation|
|Purpose:||Developing oilfields in Uganda|
|Area of Concern:||Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s largest protected area|
|Pipeline:||Length of 1,445 kilometers (900 miles) to Tanzanian port of Tanga|
The European Parliament and the French legal system have both taken an interest in the project due to concerns over wrongful imprisonment of environmental activists and inadequate compensation for those displaced from their land.
TotalEnergies maintains that those affected by the project have received fair compensation, and environmental protection measures have been implemented.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has conducted interviews with 31 individuals in Uganda and Tanzania between March and September 2023, including 21 activists. Many reported facing threats, harassment, and arrests without charges.
|HRW Interviews:||31 People (21 Activists)|
|Claims:||Threats, Harassment, Arrests without Charges|
|Activists’ Focus:||Fair Compensation for Displaced Individuals|
|Locations:||Kampala, Buliisa, Hoima, and France (for court hearings)|
Activists and human rights defenders expressed fear for their safety, citing pressure and threats from local officials. Government security agents at airports warned against testifying abroad, even suggesting potential harm.
Students participating in protests against the project reported being arrested, detained, and subjected to physical abuse by uniformed security officials, creating a stifling environment for expressing opposition.
|HRW’s Assessment:||“Chilling Crackdown”|
|Consequence:||Suppression of Free Expression on Controversial Project|
|HRW’s Call:||End Arbitrary Arrests and Protect Freedom of Expression|
|TotalEnergies’ Response:||Emphasizes Support for Human Rights Defenders|
|Ugandan Government:||No Response to Allegations|
In July, HRW called for a halt to the project, warning of severe environmental and community consequences. Despite these concerns, President Museveni remains committed to the venture.