Uganda defends oil pipeline project at UN General Assembly, calls EU resolutions hypocrisy

The Government of Uganda has lashed out at countries attacking it for developing the country’s oil and gas sectors, calling their actions hypocritical. Vice President, Major Jessica Alupo on Thursday September 22, told the United Nations General Assembly that Uganda has a clear cut agenda to fight climate change, having suffered diverse effects as a country.

Major Alupo reiterated that climate change is one of the greatest challenges the world faces and as such collective effort to fight climate change are irreversible and must continue. “However, we must note that despite contributing an insignificant amount of global greenhouse gas emissions, the African continent like many developing regions of the world suffer the effects of climate change to a disproportionate degree. Uganda, for instance continues to experience prolonged droughts, melting of ice caps at its highest mountain, Mt. Ruwenzori, floods, erratic rainfall patterns and landslides,” she told the Assembly on Thursday evening.

The Vice President led a delegation of Ugandan officials to attend the 77th UN General Assembly in New York. The Session tomark 77 years of the UN is the being held in-person for the first time since 2020 when the COVID19 pandemic affected travel and gatherings. Alupo called for strengthening of international cooperation, collaboration and solidarity for the world to take transformative actions to address the common challenges that include; poverty, health pandemics, climate change, food insecurity and biodiversity loss among others.
Uganda has this month come under international criticism over its actions on the environment. On September 15, the European Union Parliament passed a resolution calling for Uganda to change its oil development plan, including a re-routing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) — to protect the environment, climate and human rights in Uganda, where two oilfields will be tapped, and Uganda and Tanzania, across which EACOP will run.

The EU’s joint motion for a resolution alleges violations of human rights in Uganda and Tanzania linked to investments in the fossil fuels project. It lists seven grounds for the censure. But the long list obscures rather than clarifies the EU’s dissatisfaction.

The EU resolution speaks of general lack of compliance with human rights standards and human rights violations around the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project in Uganda and Tanzania, wrongful imprisonment of human rights defenders, arbitrary suspension of NGOs, eviction of hundreds from their land without fair and adequate compensation, and blocking human rights activists, journalists, and civil society groups from accessing the oil activity region.

The motion calls on 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.

It wants Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities, as well as the project promoters and stakeholders to commit to using the best available means to preserve the culture, health, and future of the communities affected. It also wants them to explore alternatives to the project in line with international climate and biodiversity commitments and resolve disputes it says should have been resolved prior to the launch of the project. It “urges TotalEnergies to take one year before launching the project to study the feasibility of an alternative route” for the crude oil pipeline.

The EU motion argues this will enable Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities, as well as the project promoters and stakeholders “to better safeguard protected and sensitive ecosystems and the water resources of Uganda and Tanzania, limiting the vulnerability of the watersheds in the African Great Lakes region, which is a critical resource for the region.”

The resolutions have drawn a barrage of reactions with Ugandan citizens and leaders attacking the EU for playing double standards. The Deputy Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament last week called the actions of the EU, “Economic racism”, drawing a reaction from President Yoweri Museveni who assured the country and its partners Tanzania that the project would go on. Mr Museveni warned TotalEnergies that if their commitment to the country’s $20 billion oil project begins to waver under pressure from the European Union, he will quickly find a new investor.

Museveni argues that it was the French company that preferred a route through Tanzania for EACOP over alternatives running through Kenya, as such it could not backtrack now. “We should remember that TotalEnergies convinced me about the pipeline idea; if they choose to listen to the EU Parliament, we shall find someone else to work with,” he said, adding: “I want to assure you that the project shall proceed as stipulated in the contract we have with TotalEnergies and CNOOC [International].”
On his twitter handle, the President told the nation; “Either way, we shall have our oil coming out by 2025 as planned so, the people of Uganda should not worry.”

Tanzanian Energy Minister January Makamba said he had followed up the EU’s allegations of environmental and human rights violations on EACOP, concluding that “Tanzania has adhered to all the procedures to ensure all the rights are protected accordingly”.

He added: “We have paid compensation to those who deserved it; no one was forced to leave their premises or arrested. Also, the overall pipeline route has been designed to minimise environmental and social impacts.”

In a statement issued on September 19th, Tanzania’s Energy ministry expresses concern stating: “Tanzania being one of the Shareholders to the EACOP Project is seriously concerned by grave factual misrepresentations in the resolution issued by EU Parliament.”

It ends with an assurance from the Government of Tanzania to all Stakeholders including the European Union Parliament and the entire International Community that, EACOP Project is being implemented in line with Best Industry Practices in terms of transparency, environmental, social, gender inclusiveness and human rights considerations with the aim of ushering shared prosperity and sustainable development to its citizens.

In her address to the UNGA on Thusrday, Major Alupo reminded the leaders that like President Museveni has stated before, the climate problem is a result of irresponsible and sometimes greedy human actions. She lashes at the EU’s actions stating: “ It is regrettable and hypocritical that some of the regions and nations that mismanaged the environment and are disproportionately responsible for global warming, have embarked on a rigorous campaign to thwart efforts of other countries, to responsibly and sustainably develop the oil and gas sectors. Our view is that development should be environmentally friendly, inclusive and provide benefits for all – it should leave no one behind.”

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