Uganda has lashed out at a European Union resolution calling on work to stop on the TotalEnergies-led Tilenga oil project and East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), describing it as an affront to the nation’s sovereignty, and accusing the EU parliament of “economic racism, neo-colonialism, imperialism and double standards”.
The EU resolution, which was passed yesterday, called for “an end to the extractive activities in protected and sensitive ecosystems, including the shores of Lake Albert”.
It also said “maximum pressure” must be exerted on the project backers “to protect the environment and commit to… preserve the culture, health and future of the communities affected and to explore alternatives in line with international climate and biodiversity commitments.”
The resolution also called on French supermajor TotalEnergies to delay EACOP by one year to “study the feasibility of an alternative route to better safeguard protected and sensitive ecosystems and the water resources of Uganda and Tanzania, limit the vulnerability of the watersheds in the African Great Lakes region… and to explore alternative projects based on renewable energies for better economic development”.
The resolution is not binding on the project proponents, which also include China’s CNOOC International plus Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC), the state-owned players of Uganda and Tanzania.
However, legislative moves are afoot within the EU that could eventually see European companies become directly responsible for the adverse impacts of their overseas investments.
Katalin Cseh, a member of Hungary’s Momentum Movement, said during this week’s debate on the resolution in Strasbourg that European companies should respect “the principles of corporate due diligence, the rights of those impacted by investments and an obligation to preserve our environment”.
She then warned that “if this does not happen voluntarily… it will, after we enact a mandatory corporate due diligence framework for all European companies”.
The EU resolution generated an angry response from Uganda’s government, with Parlaiment Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa saying it insults the East African nation’s sovereignty.
“These are projects which were approved by the parliament of Uganda, the parliament of a sovereign country and anything to do with challenging their approval is an affront to the independence of this house. We cannot take it lightly,” he said.
Tayebwa also said the adopted resolution has all the hallmarks of neo-colonialism and imperialism on the African continent and accused the EU of double standards.
“[The resolution] represents the highest level of neo-colonialism and imperialism against the sovereignty of Uganda and Tanzania. The motion seeks to curtail Uganda’s progress on oil and gas development and, by extension, the country’s socio-economic development,” he said.
Tayebwa also took issue with the double standards of the European parliament, claiming that EACOP will account for 0.5% of global emissions, pointing out that the EU, with 10% of the world population, emits 20% of global emissions and has plans to further invest in fossil fuels, while Africa, with 20% of the global population is responsible for 3% of emissions.
“The EU and other Western countries are historically responsible for climate change. Who, then, should stop or slow down the development of natural resources? Certainly not Africa or Uganda,” Tayebwa said.
He said: “Uganda is a developing country and a sovereign state that has unique development needs and priorities. I, therefore, call upon the EU parliament to withdraw… a resolution that is against the UN Charter that provides for Uganda’s right to self-determination and sovereignty over its natural resources.”
A TotalEnergies spokesperson told Upstream that the company “recalls the significance of the Lake Albert/EACOP project for Uganda and Tanzania and we shall do our utmost to ensure the project is carried out in an exemplary manner in terms of transparency, shared prosperity, social and economic progress, and sustainable development including the environment and respect for human rights”.
The Stop EACOP campaign group said the resolution “officially recognises the disastrous consequences for both human rights and the climate” of the pipeline project and Tilenga, alleging that more than 100,000 people, mainly farmers, are already being displaced from their lands “without prior and fair compensation”.
The group also expressed concern about development wells having to be drilled in Murchison Falls National Park to extract some of Tilenga’s oil.
Stop EACOP stateed that 20 banks have made it clear they will not finance the pipeline, but European finance houses including Standard Chartered, BBVA, Santander and Natixis have not yet done so.
Omar Elmawi, Stop EACOP coordinator, argued the resolution does not go far enough by urging TotalEnergies to alter the pipeline route.
“If we want to safeguard the environment and water resources, there’s only one (choice) — ending this project,” Elmawi said.
Clemence Dubois, France Team Lead at 350.org, another non-profit, reckoned the resolution as “an important step forward in the fight against EACOP”, saying it will increase the pressure on banks and financiers to “stop financing climate bombs like this around the world”.
Juliette Renaud, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, said the resolution is “a strong political signal against” Tilenga and EACOP that “also condemns the threats and persecutions of those who oppose the project in unequivocal terms”.
In January this year, four United Nations special rapporteurs expressed concern about the arrests, intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations working in the oil and gas sector in Uganda.
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