By Prosper Makene
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has told off the European Parliament that construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) will go ahead as planned.
The adamant Museveni rejected the European Parliament’s resolution calling for the project to be suspended, saying the megaproject will proceed as stipulated in the contract with TotalEnergies and China’s CNOOC.
“I saw in the papers that the EU parliament passed a resolution directing TOTAL not to proceed with the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. Please, don’t waste your time thinking about that. We have a contract with TOTAL written very well. The oil will come out in 2025, the first batch. The Oil project will go on, and no one can stop it,” said President Museveni.
Museveni warned TotalEnergies against listening to the EU Parliament, noting that Uganda will award the contract to another company if it pays attention to EU’s resolutions.
“Total Energies convinced me about the Pipeline idea; if they choose to listen to the EU Parliament, we shall find someone else to work with…So, the people of Uganda should not worry,” added Museveni.
The European Parliament, on September 15, criticized the $3.8 billion project that runs from the Lake Albert basin in Uganda to the Indian Ocean coast in Tanzania, raising environmental concerns.
It also said the mega project poses human rights violations, citing “arrests, intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations”. It is estimated that over 100,000 people are likely to be displaced along the pipeline route.
Furthermore, the parliament asked TotalEnergiers to delay the start of work on the pipeline by a year to study the feasibility of an alternative route to protect better sensitive ecosystems and the water resources of Uganda and Tanzania.
The EU parliament further urged its member states not to provide diplomatic, financial, or other support to Uganda’s oil and gas projects.
A section of leaders from the two nations has also dismissed the resolution, accusing the EU parliament of imperialism and neo-colonialism. The Deputy Speaker of the Ugandan House of Representatives Thomas Tayebwa called the decision economic sabotage of a sovereign nation’s right to benefit from its own oil and gas sector.
Tayebwa called out the EU for its excessive reliance on fossil fuels compared with Uganda and other African nations.
“It is imprudent to say that Uganda’s oil projects will exacerbate climate change, yet it is a fact that the EU bloc, with only 10 percent of the world’s population, is responsible for 25 percent of global emissions, and Africa, with 20 percent of the world’s population, is responsible for three percent of emissions. The EU and other western countries are historically responsible for climate change. Who then should stop or slow down on development of natural resources? Certainly not Africa or Uganda,” said Tayebwa.
Tanzanian Energy Minister January Makamba also echoed the Ugandan commitment to move forward with the EACOP plan.
Makamba pointed out that the pipeline route has been designed to minimize environmental and social impacts.
He revealed that the project will access no land until compensation has been made and notice to vacate given.
He noted that once the pipeline is commissioned, it will be monitored by a state-of-the-art fiber optic cable to detect both temperature changes and vibration and that it is being carried out in an exemplary manner in terms of transparency, shared prosperity, and sustainable development, including the environment and respect for human rights.
According to Ugandan National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the EACOP project will be carried out in accordance with the laws of Uganda and in full consideration of and with due regard to all the agreements that Uganda is a party to, including the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to the Sustainable Development Goals; UN Paris Climate Agreement; the International Energy Agency Global Energy Review 2021; the Cotonou Agreement.”
It went on to say that the process was carried out in consultation with the relevant lead agencies and other stakeholders, including holding public hearings. The process provided ample opportunity for all stakeholders to contribute to the process, including developing resettlement action plans.
“Like all other projects, development of oil and gas project requires a level of land take for effective implementation. The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA ) process being mindful of this, endeavors to minimize land taken from communities and sensitive/protected areas as much as possible,” said NEMA in a statement.
Regarding the EU Parliament’s claim that the project would traverse protected areas in Uganda and Tanzania, NEMA noted that several sensitive ecosystems were avoided. It stated that an avoidance approach was used to determine the route for the pipeline.
It said that only 0.05 per cent of the 3000km2 of the Murchison Falls National Park will be utilized by oil and gas activities. However, adequate mitigation measures have been implemented, including biodiversity offset mechanisms.
The project will use centralized power generation to minimize diesel generators during construction, offset net residual emissions through tree planting projects, provision of cheap LPG to transition the economy from the use of biomass energy, said NEMA.
The agency also announced that the pipeline will be buried and coated to prevent rust and have built-in automatic leak detection mechanisms.
In the unlikely event of an oil spill, the government has already developed and implemented a national oil spill contingency plan. In addition, all oil companies are required by law to have oil spill contingency plans in place.
“The authority wishes to assure Ugandans, our stakeholders, and the Global community that the environment and social impacts of oil and gas projects in Uganda were comprehensively assessed and adequate mitigation measures put in place. The Authority continues to closely monitor the operations of the oil and gas companies to ensure compliance,” said NEMA.
A section of economists, experts, and academicians across the East African Community (EAC) have sided with Uganda and Tanzania by condemning the resolution.
“The EU parliament aimed to hinder progress in our countries; they always want to see us live in poverty. The Environment and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) has approved the project’s implementation; ESIA said the ecosystems will not be affected by the project. It is baffling that people are trying to confuse us so close to the start of the project,” Tanzanian environmental expert John Joseph told PAV Magazine, calling on the African Union to stand together with the two East African nations, a view echoed by Migani Mugabe, a political analyst from Tanzania.
Humphrey Muze, Managing Director of Zoe International PTE Ltd, also shared his view on the project.
He said, “It’s absolutely true that there could be some environmental issues due to such a magnanimous project in our continent. But those environmental concerns could totally be allayed by modern technological methods or careful study on the execution part of the project. Furthermore, those concerns will not outweigh the need or the economic benefits to the communities involved.”
Muze called on Africa to take major steps and be willing to change, strengthen its position internationally, and be known collectively as one with a huge voice.
“I would expect an uproar from other players in Africa to defend our course and answer EU,” added Muze.
On the other hand, George Katyega, an academician living in Tanga, Tanzania, said, “What EU parliament wants is to see their imperialist oil companies exploiting our resources…”
“We need to transform the oil into income to develop our social, health, and economic sectors. EU parliament is now stopping us implementing the project on what they said as environment degradation while their countries are the culprits of global warming,” added Mr. Katyega.
The heated debate over the EACOP project also caught the attention of Nairobi-based academic Fred Okoth.
“The EU countries wanted to see African nations continue begging for loans and aids from their countries. That’s why they don’t want this economic project to move on. They know Tanzania and Uganda will become more capable economically after the commencement of the project,” said Okoth.