The Kampala, Uganda-based Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) and its partners are demanding for the immediate release of AFIEGO’s Buliisa district Field Officer, Mr. Maxwell Atuhura.
Mr. Atuhura was arrested on May 25, 2021 and was detained at the Buliisa Central Police Station (CPS). He spent the night at the police station. The charges against him have not been communicated to AFIEGO.
Instead, Mr. Atuhura was on May 26, 2021 transferred to Hoima, where the regional police headquarters are located.
Mr. Atuhura was arrested alongside an Italian journalist, Ms. Federica Marsi, whose work has been published by the UK’s Independent and Al Jazeera.
Prior to their arrest, Mr. Atuhura and Ms. Marsi had been conducting interviews with community members whose land is being acquired or has been acquired for the Tilenga oil project in Buliisa district.
The communities have complained of being unfairly and inadequately compensated. Cases to stop the unfair and inadequate compensation were filed in courts including in France.
Efforts by civil society organisations (CSOs) and communities to defend the communities’ land and environment rights have resulted in reprisals from the state.
“Security agencies in Uganda have criminalised the work of CSOs that are working for the protection of the environment and oil-affected communities’ rights. We are increasingly seeing arrests, intimidation and threats, which are aimed at stopping our work.
“This is unfortunate because if CSOs and well-meaning Ugandans fail to protect communities and the environment, the oil that government officials are celebrating will turn into the country’s biggest curse. “A country cannot make its people landless, impoverish them and destroy the environment that the people depend on because of oil exploitation and that country expects oil to be a blessing. This is why the work of CSOs and the media must not be criminalised. If CSOs and the media are gagged, Uganda and its citizens will pay a high price,” Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, AFIEGO’s CEO, says.