KAMPALA – In their resolution, the European Parliament condemned the East African Crude Oil Pipeline – EACOP as a project that is full of violations of human rights in Uganda and Tanzania linked to investments in fossil fuels projects
Parliament expresses grave concern about arrests, intimidation and judicial harassment against human rights defenders and NGOs working in the oil and gas sector in Uganda, and calls on the authorities to immediately release anyone arrested arbitrarily.
Calling for an immediate halt, the MEPs say more than 100,000 people are at imminent risk of displacement due to the EACOP project, with inefficient guarantees of adequate compensation.
They asked authorities to adequately compensate people for lost property and land but also demand the Ugandan authorities allow unhindered access to the zone covered by the project for civil society organizations, independent journalists, international observers and investigative researchers.
According to them, the project will ruin biodiversity and cause irreversible climate change, which is the height of their consistent efforts to frustrate the development of the refinery, which started by forcing the hands of prospective investors to hold back on making the Final Investment Decision, which happened only early this year, since the first discovery of commercial deposits of petroleum in Uganda in 2006.
“…Calls for the EU and the international community to exert maximum pressure on Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities, as well as the project promoters and stakeholders, to protect the environment and to put an end to the extractive activities in protected and sensitive ecosystems, including the shores of Lake Albert, and commit to using the best available means to preserve the culture, health, and future of the communities affected and to explore alternatives in line with international climate and biodiversity commitments,” partly reads the resolution.
During the sitting on Thursday, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, criticised the resolution by the EU.
“These are projects which were approved by the Parliament of Uganda, the Parliament of a sovereign country and anything to do with challenging their approval is an affront to the independence of this House and we cannot take it lightly,” he said.
The EU bile against the project, added Tayebwa, betrays neocolonial attitudes and imperialism of the EU Parliament, which he derided for closing an eye on the union’s own emissions, instead hypocritically shining the light on an emerging economy Uganda.
“It [EU motion] represents the highest level of neocolonialism and imperialism against the sovereignty of Uganda and Tanzania; the motion seeks to curtail Uganda’s progress on oil and gas development and by extension the country’s socio-economic development,” he said.
The Deputy Speaker presented figures to illustrate what he called the doublespeak of the European Parliament, saying the EACOP will only represent 0.5 percent of global emissions, yet the EU with just 10 percent of the world population emits 20 percent unfettered and member countries are exploring plans to deepen fossil-fuel related excavations unfettered.
“Who [between Uganda and the EU] should slow down?” he asked.
MP John Teira (NRM, Bugabula County North) said there is nothing to worry about, and accused the EU of wanting to frustrate the flow of the US$20 billion to the East African economy, but only disguised it under alleged concerns about the environment.
“Our colleagues in the European Parliament are just being overzealous; there are already measures in this country to do waste management in a very technical manner; there is nothing to fear about when it comes to environmental issues; no one should touch the project because we are talking about an investment of US$29 billion,” he said.
MP Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA, Bugiri Municipality) asked the Executive to, through diplomatic channels, summon the EU’s Ambassador to Uganda and formally protest the resolutions, which he said carries a tone of condescension.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Regional Affairs), John Mulimba, said he would escalate the matter to his superiors for action.