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Ugandan police urged to release activists arrested while protesting EACOP project

The Stop EACOP coalition said on Saturday, December 10, 2022, that it received with shock news that four Ugandan activists exercising their democratic right to protest the controversial East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) were violently arrested on the streets of Kampala and detained incommunicado.

StopEACOP campaigners

The four activists arrested are Barigye Bob, Ivan Kabale, Musoke Hamis and Semwanga Jackson.

One of the activists, Barigye Bob, was reportedly injured during his arrest, the coalition stated, adding that it’s unclear whether he has had access to medical assistance.

The coalition is also concerned about the whereabouts of Semwanga Jackson who was arrested with the three others but can’t be located and therefore has no access to a lawyer.

The four activists were protesting the harm they believe the controversial EACOP project will bring to the environment, the people and the impact it will have on climate change.

The coalition has condemned the act and asked the government of Uganda to release the four activists immediately and pursue due process where it deems the law to have been violated.

Diana Nabiruma, Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), said: “Ugandan youth are rightly worried about EACOP and other oil projects. Uganda has become highly indebted as the country has borrowed heavily to invest in the oil and other sectors. Youth are saddled with this debt. In addition, environmental resources such as forests, rivers, lakes and national parks which play various ecosystem roles that support agriculture, fishing and tourism are also being affected by the EACOP and other oil projects. Youth are employed in the agriculture, fishing and tourism sectors and are rightly concerned. Instead of being arrested when they express their concern, the Ugandan government should dialogue with them.” 

Landry Ninteretse, Regional Director, 350Africa.org, said: “The continued human rights violations and intimidation of activists and citizens protesting the EACOP in Uganda is regrettable. Arrests for exercising the right to peaceful assembly and defending rights of those affected by this harmful project are highly disturbing and unacceptable.

“We stand with our comrades who continue the fight for climate justice, by calling out the dangers posed by the harmful EACOP project. We are therefore calling on all Ugandans and supporters of democracy to call for their immediate release and help us demand that the government reveals the whereabouts of Semwanga Jackson.”

Juliette Renaud, Senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth France: “The more this catastrophic oil project makes progress, the more the repression against critical voices on the ground increases. Total keeps on repeating that it is attached to fundamental rights and in particular freedom of expression, but if the company really cared about environmental defenders’ rights, it would suspend the Tilenga and EACOP projects until these rights are fully respected.”

Brian Atuheire, Executive Director, African Initiative on Food security and Environment (AIFE): “It is not illegal to protest controversial projects that undermine key rights such as the right to livelihood, a clean and healthy environment – as recognised by the UN General Assembly – and the right to participate or have a say in the development of one’s country. Despite this, arrest and intimidation of activists and opponents of the EACOP is now a common occurrence in Uganda. We condemn these deliberate attempts to silence the voices of those advocating for the rights of the communities affected by this project and speaking out against the destruction of the environment.” 

StopEACOP is a global campaign against the construction of the East African Crude Oil pipeline (EACOP), a proposed 1,443-kilometre heated pipeline that will transport oil from Hoima, Uganda, to the port of Tanga in Tanzania. The campaign is led by an alliance of local groups and communities, and African and global organisations. The StopEACOP Coalition has been calling for a stop to the proposed pipeline and associated oil fields at Tilenga and Kingfisher. 

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