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Benet residents battle disability meted by UWA




Kween, Uganda  About 15 Kilometers away from Kween town lies Kwortow village in Kwosir sub-county, which is adjacent to Mount Elgon National park.  45-year-old, Alex Sorowen, a father of five children is one of the residents of the village. Donned in a brown blue jacket and a pair of brown shorts, Sorowen limped on crutches to the spot where he was meant to meet our reporter for an interview.   

He sat down on a rough and dusty bench, which had some chicken dropping he struggled to clean before the interview. Sorowen explained to URN how he ended up with the permanent disability. “In 2015, while I had gone to graze my cattle on the peripheries of the park boundaries, this is when from a distance, I saw Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers and due to fear, I decided to run away and in the process, they (rangers) shot at me rupturing my right leg,” he said.   

According to Sorowen, the bullet lodged in his right leg and that he was unable to walk. “I was left in the bushes for dead. Nobody among the rangers cared even to check on me despite reeling in deep pain. I on that fateful day struggled for my dear life in the forest alone,” he said.   

He says the rangers reported the matter to a nearby police post indicating that they had shot and injured someone in the forest and that he needed some help. According to Sorowen, it is then that police informed the community members about the fateful incident. “Community members came running to the forest to rescue me and found me totally abandoned in deep pain, they then took me to the nearest health facility in Benet,” he said. 

He was referred to Kapchorwa General Hospital. The teary Sorowen told URN that he was advised to see Dr. John Ekure, an orthopaedic at Kumi Orthopedic Hospital where he was amputated of his right leg. According to Sorowen, he has sold off almost everything he had to meet the medical bills yet he is the sole breadwinner of his family but has been rendered useless. Sorowen now survives on handouts from well-wishers in the community who have kept soliciting for him basic needs like food and other items. 

He faults the management of the park for failure to take over his medical bills yet he is suffering due to the action of their rangers. Over time, UWA, which is mandated to manage national parks and wildlife in the country has been at loggerheads with the community over the park boundaries resulting from encroachment. Residents say they have any land to live on and cultivate crops for a living. 

As a result, many lives have been lost and injured on the side of the community and UWA. Like Sorowen, 36-year-old Janet Chebet, another resident in Karatow village too has tested the wrath of the UWA rangers. She told URN that she has had difficulties passing urine due to a broken bladder resulting from several injuries inflicted on her by UWA rangers. According to Chebet, in August this year, she was badly assaulted by rangers who found her tending to her farmland that borders the park. 

“It was from the beatings that I sustained at the park on that day that affected by bladder to-date,” she told our reporter. Police medical examination forms that URN has obtained show that Chebet’s bladder and her lower abdomen were injured. This, according to Chebet is the sole cause of her current experience.   

She has since been advised by medical experts not to stop engaging in heavy work like tiling land. According to Chebet, she currently unable to provide for her family.  

David Mande, a resident of Kween told our reporter that since the government ordered the eviction of the Benet people from their ancestral land, the Benet have faced hard life at the hands of the rangers who keep raping their women and daughters while beating and shooting men. 

“Over the years the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has terrorized this community burning homes, beating and killing people while several others have been arrested for grazing their animals in the park and trying to demand for their land,” Mande said. 

He says the community appreciates the fact that the area was gazette National Park but the government needs to fulfil the court’s maiden ruling of resettling the people on the 2250 hectares of land that was degazetted from the park.  

Wrangles between residents and UWA date back to 1983 when the first degazettement was done. There are two contradicting boundary lines of 1983 and 1993. The Benet sub-county asked for land for resettlement in 1983. In the spirit of being a custodian of its citizens, the government gave it to them but in 1993, they created another line, which triggered confusion.

The law on grazing animals in the park has escalated the clashes since many of the people injured are found in the park while grazing their animals. The owner of the animals is fined Shillings 50,000 for every head of cattle that is impounded from the park.   This, the community says has impoverished them since several animals are impounded from the park each day. Those who don’t pay or bribe the officials lose their animals for good. 

Jackeline Sangay, the Kwosir and Kitwoi sub-county woman Councilor, says that as leaders they have severally presented petitions expressing the grievances of the people to the district councilor for possible redress in vain.   

Sangay says people around the park are ignorant about the fine since it didn’t go through the local leadership in the district. 

She adds that, the UWA rangers have meted all sorts of atrocities to the communities around the park including raping the women and their daughters and this now has left the majority of the people live in a state of fear to speak out about their untold suffering for fear of losing their marriages.  

Fredrick Kiiza, the Chief Warden of Mount Elgon National Park has dismissed the allegations of torture by the rangers, saying the impasse in the park especially in Kween District is motivated by politicians and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).  

“The Impasse in Kween, is politically motivated, it’s the disgruntled politicians who keep promising residents things that they cannot deliver,” he reasoned.   Adding that “Its these organizations like Solidarity and Action Aid that are doing public accountability to their funders but we shall not accept as UWA to be fooled, you enter the park we shall crush you, that is a protected area for Ugandans, not an individual.”   

He, however, hastens to add that there could be a few errant rangers who have meted the atrocities on the locals but it isn’t sanctioned by UWA.  

Kiiza says the resettlement on the landless people that was ordered by the court was meant to be done by the Office of the Prime Minister and not UWA.  

Source: The independent.

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Statement- Uganda: Seven Environmental activists brutally arrested, charged and released on police bail for protesting against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project



On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala, Uganda and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. This was reported by the Stop the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (StopEACOP) campaign on 29 May 2024.

The seven human rights defenders were peacefully protesting against the intended financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) by the Chinese government. According to the environmental human rights defenders, EACOP has caused severe human rights violations, poses significant environmental risks, and will contribute to the climate crisis. The EACOP is a project led by Total, spanning 1,443km from Kabaale, Hoima district in Uganda to the Chongoleani Peninsula near Tanga Port in Tanzania. It aims to transport oil from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to global markets via the port of Tanga.

On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. The seven environmental activists were sitting outside the Chinese Embassy in Kampala in an attempt to present a letter of protest to the Chinese Ambassador expressing their complaints and demanding that his government refrain from funding an unfavourable project for them. Due to their arrest occuring before they had any chance of interacting with embassy representatives, their letter was not delivered. The peaceful protesters were violently rounded up by the police, who subsequently packed them in a vehicle and brought them to the Jinja Road police. The seven activists were released on police bail and were due to report back to the Jinja Road police station. On 18 May 2024, following several banks and insurance companies’ withdrawal from EACOP, Civil Society Organizations supporting energy just transition, climate and environmental conservatism, and land justice addressed the media and urged the Chinese President to rescind his interest in funding the project.

Local organizations have been denouncing that, in order to stifle complaints, silence protesters, and maintain pressure on those who defend climate, environment, and land rights, Ugandan authorities have turned to attacking and criminalising environmentalists, climate activists, and defenders of land rights. Uganda has recorded the most number of cases of violations against these human rights defenders, with 18 incidents documented in Africa, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s 2023 in their report titled People power under pressure: Human rights defenders & business in 2023. The majority of these attacks seem to center around the EACOP and the environmental human rights defenders campaigning against the project, which the State regards as a significant infrastructure initiative.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern for the safety and security of the seven environmental human rights defenders and strongly condemns the recent instances of intimidation, criminalization and police harassment they have been subjected to, as it believes are an act of reprisal for their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of environmental and land rights in Uganda.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Uganda to take the necessary measures to guarantee the security and protection of environmental human rights defenders during peaceful protests. The organisation also demands that the brutal arrest of these seven human rights defenders be condemned. Front Line Defenders calls Ugandan authorities to guarantee that all environmental and land human rights defenders, including human rights organisations working on environmental rights, are able to carry out their legitimate activities and operate freely without fear of police harassment.

Source: Frontline Defenders

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TotalEnergies African legacy: 100 years of environmental destruction.



TotalEnergies, the French petro giant company with a legacy of destruction on the continent, this year celebrates 100 years. To be clear, that is 100 years of profit, environmental destruction and damage to people’s lives.

The company’s damage is widespread, extensive and well-documented.

In 1956, TotalEnergies entered Africa, exploiting natural resources as it went along. In chasing down oil and gas, it has wreaked havoc on communities, land, and the environment.

A 2022 study by the Climate Accountability Institute found the total emissions attributed to the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline totals 379 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, making TotalEnergies a key contributor to Africa’s carbon footprint.

As Charity Migwi, a senior campaigner at Oil Change International, a research, communication, and advocacy organisation, notes, the company has its hands on various projects on the continent.

The project noted above will have about 460km of pipeline in the freshwater basin of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, which directly supports the livelihoods of more than 40 million people in the region. On top of this, there are plans to extract oil from the fields in Uganda as well as the company’s prominent role in the Mozambique LNG Project, which is a major cause of carbon emissions

Closer to home, TotalEnergies has been given the go-ahead to explore for oil and gas off the south-west coast of South Africa, which sparked protests. As the company held its annual general meeting in Paris, France, protests by affected communities, civil society and activists in both countries took place.

Environmental justice group The Green Connection’s community mobilisation officer, Warren Blouw, said in a press release: “TotalEnergies and other oil and gas companies must consider the livelihoods of small-scale fishers, whose economic wellbeing is jeopardised by offshore oil and gas exploration. We must unite to protect Africa and its resources from those who only seek profit, at the cost of regular South Africans.”

Zinhle Mthiyane, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said: “We are protesting to protect the environment and prevent ocean pollution. Drilling for oil and gas in South African waters could degrade the environment, threatening livelihoods and cultural practices.”

One of those affected by TotalEnergies and its hunt for fossil fuels is Sifiso Ntsunguzi, a small-scale fisher from Port St Johns, on the Eastern Cape coast. Ntsunguzi made the trip to France to protest.

“We are in Paris to support the court case against TotalEnergies’ oil and gas projects. As a small-scale fisher and member of a coastal community, I do not support the exploration of oil and gas in the ocean. We use the ocean for cultural practices and as a means to sustain our livelihood. We are against exploration of gas and oil, as it may risk degradation of the environment and marine ecosystems, our livelihood and our health. I come from a fishing community and have become a fisher myself,” he said.

In another press release, environmental justice group Bloom wrote that TotalEnergies has been well aware of its climate harms as far back as the 1970s, yet the company still goes ahead with its oil and gas initiatives.

Initially, its strategy was to deny climate change, wrote Bloom. Now that it can no longer do so, it has changed tact and resorts to greenwashing, described by the United Nations as follows: “By misleading the public to believe that a company or other entity is doing more to protect the environment than it is, greenwashing promotes false solutions to the climate crisis that distract from and delay concrete and credible action.”

Total Energies portrays itself as a serious player in the renewable energy space and constantly punts its renewable efforts while going full steam ahead with its fossil fuel projects.

For example, it said of its project in the Northern Cape: “TotalEnergies and its partners are launching construction of a major hybrid renewables project in South Africa, comprising a 216 megawatt solar plant and a 500 MWh battery storage system to manage the intermittency of solar production.”

Bloom explained that chasing renewables is profitable but nowhere near as profitable as oil and gas, and it in no way negates the harmful search for and use of fossil fuels. For this reason Bloom and two other climate justice groups took TotalEnergies to court.

This case also hopes to halt the expansion of fossil fuel extraction. As The Guardian reports: “A criminal case has been filed against the CEO and directors of the French oil company TotalEnergies, alleging its fossil fuel exploitation has contributed to the deaths of victims of climate-fuelled extreme weather disasters. The case was filed in Paris by eight people harmed by extreme weather, and three NGOs.”

Joyce Kimutai, a climate scientist at the University Of Cape Town, said: “The fossil fuel industry will continue to undermine science, they will continue to expand their businesses,

they will continue to cause suffering to the people as long as they know that the law can’t hold them accountable.”

Whether the case will yield anything remains to be seen, but the important thing is people are standing up and fighting the harmful practices of these fossil fuel companies. International bodies like the UN climate change conferences yield very little results. It is up to us, the people on the ground, to unite for the good of our planet.


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Incredible WIN! European Union withdraws from Energy Charter Treaty



The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is an international agreement originally created with a focus on growing fossil fuel energy cooperation after the Cold War. Today, the Treaty is a major obstacle to effective climate action because it protects fossil fuel investments. By including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), the Energy Charter Treaty allows fossil fuel corporations to sue States that act to protect our climate when that action could impact a company’s profits.

Today, we celebrate because the European Council overwhelmingly adopted the EU’s proposal to exit the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), an outdated international investment agreement that protects and promotes fossil fuel investments.

CIEL and other organizations across Europe have worked tirelessly to educate European decision-makers about the dangers of the Energy Charter Treaty. Together, we proved how the treaty prevents effective climate action and is fundamentally incompatible with EU law.

This pivotal vote follows up an EU Commission’s proposal for the EU and European Atomic Energy Community to exit the Energy Charter Treaty.

The Commission found the ECT incompatible with the EU’s laws, investment policy and law, and energy and climate goals. Its proposal broke months of deadlock by offering EU countries the option to remain in the treaty while allowing other countries to exit. The European Parliament also adopted a resolution in April 2024 calling on the EU to withdraw from the ECT.

Today’s vote proves that people power can win critical victories!

Join us in celebrating this victory for the people, the environment, and the climate!

Demonstrators wear masks with the EU leaders under a sword that reads Energy Charter Treaty.

Why does this matter?

Fossil fuel investors have used the Energy Charter Treaty to sue States when they take climate action, claiming a right to compensation for alleged loss of investments. If they are serious about climate action, States must disentangle themselves from investor protections that allow fossil fuel companies to sue them in private courts when States act in the public interest to phase out fossil fuels. States could be squeezed from both sides: sued by communities for their climate inaction with ever greater frequency, and sued by investors when they do act to phase out the fossil fuel drivers of the climate crisis and accelerate the energy transition.

CIEL has worked for a long time to dismantle ISDS and ensure that the perspectives of communities inform ongoing arbitration.

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads 'Exit the Energy Charter Treaty'

Policymakers in Europe, and beyond, now have a duty to end their dependency on fossil fuels, exit the ISDS system that allows industry to sue States for enacting public interest policies, and accelerate the clean energy transition.

This win in Europe is a milestone in the fight against investor state dispute settlements. Now, we are leveraging this momentum for other States and clearing the way for effective climate action around the world.

Today we celebrate this victory with you. Tomorrow we will continue working to uproot the fossil economy driving the climate crisis, and the trade and investment deals that stand in the way of a renewable energy future.


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