Ugandan parliamentarians are pushing ahead with a first reading of vital legislation that will underpin the export by pipeline of the country’s oil resources.

Due to become operational in 2025, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) will transport up to 210,000 barrels per day of oil from two Ugandan fields – TotalEnergies-operated Tilenga and CNOOC-operated Kingfisher – to Tanga port in Tanzania.

A special committee was meeting yesterday at the prestigious Speke Resort on the shores of Lake Victoria to discuss the EACOP (Special Provisions) Bill 2021, in the same week that the government came in for harsh criticism over the arrest – and subsequent bail – of anti-fossil fuel protesters.

The bill has been crafted to ensure Uganda’s Host Government Agreement (HGA) covering the pipeline is appropriately legislated.

Unless the new legislation is passed, “the HGA would not be fully effective, and it would not be possible to fully implement the EACOP project in Uganda,” stated the preamble of the 86-page EACOP Bill.

Uganda’s Minister of Energy Ruth Nankabirwa opened proceedings at the Lake Victoria resort for the Parliamentary Committee on Environment & Natural Resources to better understand the planned legislation.

She said: “It is a great privilege for me to start the parliamentary engagement to discuss an important bill (which) is critical to facilitate the development of the crude oil pipeline.”

“We shouldn't forget that the country has been eagerly waiting for Uganda to achieve first oil and I can assure you that we have now fulfilled most of the requirements for this to happen. EACOP is among the last steps to ensure development of the projects leading to first oil.”

Nankabirwa has been tasked by President Yoweri Museveni to push this piece of important legislation through parliament as quickly as possible and was keen to remind committee members about the importance of this pipeline to the president’s economic growth plans.

Critical

“I also need to inform the committee that the National Development Plan 3 identifies the Petroleum Sector as one of the anchors for the transformation of the economy through revenue generation, infrastructure development and job creation, among others, and the bill is critical in achievement of this objective.”

She said Tanzania has already enacted the required legislation for the implementation of the EACOP in their country “and it's now critical that Uganda, as the resource owner, expeditiously does the same.”

The 86-page EACOP bill was gazetted on 1 October and tabled in parliament on 5 October.

The bill is currently in its first reading, to be followed by a second and third readings, after which it would be rubber-stamped.

Among the key issues the bill aims to address are tariff regimes, land rights, local content, third party access, decommissioning, force majeure, ownership rights, electricity access and a suitable fiscal regime.

Arrests

Not all Ugandans support the Tilenga, Kingfisher and EACOP projects, with the police arresting, on 22 October, six members of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).

Three days later, the six workers were released on bail, with AFIEGO claiming they were arrested because they did not hold the appropriate registration documents.

Released: Six members - with supporters - of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance after being arrested and bailed in Kampala by police Photo: AFIEGO

The six – including the non-profit’s chief executive Dickens Kamugisha – must report back to the police on 29 October.

AFIEGO is a policy research and advocacy group based in Kampala that campaigns against the Tilenga and EACOP projects and wants to protect Bugoma forest, which could be impacted by the new oil infrastructure.

'Harassment'

The organisation has accused the police of harassment, highlighting how its office was raided on 13 October when staff were also arrested.

These episodes came after the government, on 20 August, issued a directive – which AFIEGO has been advised is illegal – that all non-governmental organisations in Uganda must halt their work.

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