A group of university students have been arrested in Kampala city for staging a demonstration in support of the European Union’s halting of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.
Led by Makerere University student David Musiri, who is the head of tertiary institutions mobilization in the National Unity Platform (NUP), the students were marching to the European Union (EU) Mission offices in Kampala to hand in their petition under their new STOP EACOP/TAJJA GASIMA campaign.
However, the students were intercepted and dispersed at Kingdom Kampala building along Nile Avenue, Kampala City, where police also arrested the ringleaders led by Musiri.
Police were yet to issue a statement by press time but the arrest comes barely a week after the same police allowed and guided a group of secondary students who handed a petition protesting the EU’s attempt to stop the EACOP project which will run from Uganda to Tanzania. The demo drew heated public debate, with many commenters pointing out the government’s double-standards in allowing the right to demonstration. This was in light of recent repression of peaceful demos against various government positions, some of which have ended in the death of demonstrators at the hands of security forces.
Matters got even funnier after several schools and students who participated in the protests came out to disclose that they had been duped into the demonstration after the organizing Uganda national students association (UNSA) claimed that the students were being taken to meet Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja at Kololo Independence Grounds.
While addressing the Seventh Uganda International Oil and Gas Summit at Serena Hotel in Kampala last week, an angry President Museveni lambasted the EU Parliament for vouching to halt the multi-trillion EACOP project over claims of human rights violations and environmental degradation.
Terming some of these activist MPs as young girls, Museveni castigated them for being shallow-minded and bent on perpetuating poverty and underdevelopment on the African continent.
“Now for the European Union, some of these people are insufferable, you need to control yourselves not to explode. So shallow, so egocentric, so wrong but they think they know everything and broadcast their ignorance all over the place. This is the wrong battleground for them. We don’t take kindly to arrogance” he said
Museveni was joined in the anti-EU resolution crusade by the Tanzanian government, which issued a statement terming as falsehoods the EU’s position on human rights and environmental concerns.
In a statement to local media outlet The Citizen, Tanzanian Energy Minister January Makamba revealed that “Tanzania being one of the shareholders top the EACOP is gravely concerned by the gross factual representations in the resolutions issued by the EU parliament.”
Makamba then echoed the Ugandan president’s commitment to move forward with the EACOP plan and to finish it within scheduled time despite the EU noise.
The above reactions came after a section of EU MPs accused the Ugandan government of ignoring the plight of the Project Affected Persons mainly in the Albertine region, many of whom have reported dissatisfaction and inconsistencies in compensation valuation which they say will leave them landless.
There were also concerns of human rights violations including arrests and torture of those perceived to derail the project with incessant complaints. The legislators also raised environmental concerns, particularly the fact that the mega project will likely escalate the global warming challenge since the pipeline is supposed to be heated to facilitate the smooth flow of Uganda’s waxy oil.
It should be noted that the EU MPs’ resolution was majorly emboldened by local NGOs in Bunyoro region, who have persistently reported cases of human rights violations in the oil-rich Albertine Graben.
In fact, in the recent past President Museveni has come out strongly to warn such activists, describing them as economic saboteurs.
And following the EU resolution, local opinion has been divided, with government sympathizers criticizing the Western forces while opposition leaders led by NUP’s Bobi Wine have supported the EU.
Bobi Wine argued that it is right for the EU to stop the pipeline because the oil money will solely benefit Museveni and his henchmen thus helping them to increasingly torture Ugandans and further their hold onto power.
Besigye, meanwhile, supported the EU on the premise that President Museveni and his inner circle personalized the oil and so it is likely to benefit them alone, with the oil sharing agreements kept secret to date.
It is worth noting that such secrecy has ignited a barrage of rumors, with the latest claims indicating that Uganda’s oil is owned by a company registered in the USA but owned and run by President Museveni’s close allies and their children respectively.
Following the rumors which went viral last week, the government announced that it was going to make public the hitherto ‘hidden’ oil sharing agreements.
The East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) is a 14-trillion shilling pipeline that will transport oil produced from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to the port of Tanga in Tanzania where the oil will then be sold onwards to world markets. The shareholders of what will be the world’s largest heated pipeline are: Uganda with 15%; the Joint Venture Partners (Total Holdings International B.V. with 62% and CNOOC Uganda Limited with 8%) and the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC). The EU resolution called for an end to the extractive activities in protected and sensitive ecosystems, including the shores of Lake Albert, referring to the 132 wells that Total plans to dig into the Murchison Falls National Park.
According to worldometer, Uganda holds 6bn barrels of proven oil reserves as of 2016, with 40% (2.5bn) of these deemed commercially viable. This puts Uganda in the 31st position among the world’s leading oil producers, accounting for about 0.2% of the world’s total oil reserves of 1,650,585,140,000 barrels. Uganda’s 2.5bn barrels are equivalent to 214.0 times its annual oil consumption.