“Closing Space for Civil Society and Media in East Africa: Forging a Collaborative Response”
23 February 2018 (Nairobi, Kenya)
We, more than 60 civil society organisation and media representatives from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda working on human rights, democratic development, transparency, digital media, women and youth empowerment, legal aid, litigation and other issues of public interest are gathered in Nairobi to express our firm resolve to stand together in solidarity as civil society and media.
We will remain vigilant against threats to civic space. We commit to collaborate and provide support to each other through individual and joint efforts at the national and regional levels to combat shrinking space.
We note with concern a trend of closing civic space in the three East African countries characterized by increasing impunity. This has been evidenced by repressive tactics perpetrated by state and non-state actors, including among others:
- Intimidation of and reprisals against journalists and activists through smear campaigns, arrests, detention and disappearances;
- Enactment of restrictive laws and policies;
- Disregard for the rule of law such as the continued failure in Kenya to operationalize the PBO Act despite several court orders;
- Constraining financing of civil society organisations and media;
- Curtailment of civil society’s and media’s freedom of movement and ability to freely operate especially in electoral contexts;
- Restrictions on access to information through banning of newspapers and shutting down of media outlets and civil society organisations as has happened in Tanzania;
- Surveillance of activists and journalists in physical and digital spaces;
- Criminalization of dissent;
- Use of excessive force to disperse peaceful protests and demonstrations;
- intimidation of the judiciary and other governance and oversight institutions that should be independent; and
- Harassment of civil society organisations by raids, break-ins, confiscation of documents and equipment as has been experienced in Uganda.
We are cognizant that shrinking civic space is not unique to the region but is contextualised by the decline in democratic ideals globally. Governments seem to adopt repressive tactics from each other and use similar justifications to shrink civic space including national security prerogatives and promotion of accountability within the media and civil society sectors.
Further, as civic space advocates, we note that a repressed civic environment adversely affects not only civil society organisations, the media and ultimately other sectors, but also the ordinary citizen, and leads to cultural, economic, political and social decline of a society.
As a coalition, we have identified areas in which joint interventions are necessary and have developed regional strategies and interventions to maintain and claim civic space. We resolve:
- To take joint actions to build mutual understanding and ongoing dialogue between media and civil society;
- To engage in regional advocacy;
- To strengthen protective mechanisms, including litigation and legal aid;
- To develop innovative funding and revenue streams;
- To increase the use and protection of digital space;
- To enhance civil society and media accountability internally and within the political context;
- To work towards redefining narratives and public perceptions of the sector; and
- To mobilize academia in order to leverage knowledge and research outputs.
At the national level, we identified several initiatives to enhance civil society organisations and media cooperation including establishing ongoing dialogue platforms, developing joint capacity building initiatives, building trust, addressing mutual security concerns online and offline, and mitigating risks.
We will engage with other actors including academia, professional associations, young people, and state institutions, to cultivate a broader understanding and appreciation of the role of civil society and media in a democratic society.
We pledge to continue collaborating towards ensuring a safe and enabling space for civil society and media in East Africa.
EACOP Was Anchored On Disinformation, Persons Affected By Pipeline Declare
At least 30 persons affected by the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in Uganda and Tanzania have resorted to pushing beyond compensation for losses incurred in the project’s initial stages.
The EACOP Project Affected Persons (PAPs) from Uganda and Tanzania grassroots met for the first time at a three-day conference in Nairobi, where experiences and lessons learnt were shared. They were also joined by participants from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia, who shared their experiences with fossil fuels, especially in Niger Delta.
Both the Ugandan and Tanzanian PAPs, some of them faith leaders, complained of misinformation, disinformation by the project’s proponents’ agents, intimidation, bribery, forced land possession, coercion to accept government terms for land acquired and unfair subsequent compensation for the property lost. The PAPs also complained of intentional classification of primary PAPs as secondary to reduce the compensation due them.
“During the social Impact Assessment, a lot of clans, especially the Bagungu, were given volumes of literature to read within two weeks, then decide to relinquish their property. But we could not make head or tail of the documents. Those who signed them were not left with copies,” said Jealusy Mugisha, a religious leader and PAP from Uganda’s Hoima District.
His sentiments were echoed by Swalleh Nkungu from Tanzania, who added: “Information scarcity played a huge role in enabling EACOP. We are knowledgeable enough to tell that the project is harmful, but a lot of secret planning went into this project before it was made public. Some people acting as CSOs also came to the grassroots and intentionally shared false and misleading information to boost EACOP acceptance”.
The participants, including those from Laudato Si Movement and youth in Kenya, were grateful for the event dubbed “Experience sharing meeting for grassroots persons affected by EACOP in Uganda and Tanzania”.
TotalEnergies holds 62 per cent stake of EACOP. Others stakeholders in the would-be world’s longest heated pipeline expected to cover 1,443km from Northern Uganda to Tanzania’s Tanga Port are Ugandan National Oil Company (15 per cent), Tanzania National Oil Company (15 per cent) and Chinese National Offshore Oil Company at 8 per cent.
Pastor Mugisha said: “I declined to receive money in exchange for my land and instead demanded to be relocated. This made the Uganda government to mark me and others, claiming we were sabotaging its project,” he said.
“Is it wrong for me to demand justice over my damaged home? Once I was chained and harassed at the Entebbe airport when I returned from France where I had attended a hearing about rights of PAPs. After release they kept sending my friends to tell me to be silent about EACOP. I became louder on it, even at funerals”.
Several other participants at the event organised by GreenFaith Africa spoke of bribery for people opposed to the EACOP to change their minds. “My father was very decisive when EACOP started, but he later caved in to pressure. We lost acres of land. What this means to women and children is helplessness, less food and loss of sources of living. But we can still act because EACOP is evil,” said Mwajuma Tunu from Tanzania.
Kamili Fabiano from Tanzania said: “It is no longer about compensation; it is now about climate justice. We need a conducive environment to farm and take care of our current and future generations”.
Julius Caesar, a faith leader from Uganda, urged the affected persons to act fast. “Staying near the anthill turned the antelope brown. Anyone lying to you in broad daylight is capable of deceiving you more in the dark. The disinformation was to divide us and keep us in the dark,” he said.
Mugisha said currently the EACOP’s Central Processing Facility for the oil was a key polluter through dust. “Multiple letters were written to TotalEnergies regarding this, but nothing much has happened. I fear for our water sources.”
The conference that ended yesterday also featured Baraka Lenga, an anti-EACOP activist from Tanzania, and a grassroots organizer for GreenFaith. “For people of faith, water is central to life in many ways. The pipeline is a threat to over 200 precious water sources that support our livelihoods and biodiversity. This is an attack on the very foundations of our spirituality,” he said.
Baraka outlined the projected pollutant emissions, should the project start, as millions of tonnes of carbon, adding that it would worsen the climate crisis. “The roads constructed in the Murchison National Park to enable easy transportation of oil is the reason cases of human/wildlife conflict have gone up. This also affects food security”.
Maxwell Atuhura of Uganda said not only were oil and gas firms from developed nations targeting Africa. “They are more likely to be successful where dictatorship seems to work.”
He urged participants to study Kenya and Nigeria cases. “I’m inspired by how Kenya fought the Lamu coal project. They knew they had a UNESCO-recognised heritage to protect. They defended their indigenous identity, even coming up with policies around it. East Africa can have such an identity,” he said, giving an example of powers that the EU Parliament wields. “Europe respects decisions made at the EU parliament. We can use the East African Legislative Assembly the same way; with binding laws for East Africa. Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are, for instance, joined by Lake Victoria. An East African law protecting the lake basin can be great.”
Pius Oko, a Lift Humanity Foundation leader, narrated Nigerians’ experiences with oil. “Oil drilling in Niger Delta started in 1950s, but people are poorest there. Residents eat oil contaminated fish and cassava. Water bodies are filled with oil. Land is filled with oil, making farming untenable. The atmosphere is filled with suit. People inhale a lot of dirt. Diseases are more rampant in the Niger Delta. Life expectancy has gone below 50 years. EACOP will benefit a few rich people. The rest will suffer like those in the Niger Delta,” he said, sharing images of women and children scooping oil from ditches, fire, gas flaring and fish laced with oil, but which many consumed for lack of alternatives.
Early this year Uganda and Tanzania cabinets approved EACOP construction license. The project continues to face opposition, including from grassroots people.
Last year the EU Parliament pointed out human rights abuse in EACOP. In addition, 25 multinational financial institutions have either disassociated themselves from EACOP or vowed not to loan it for the $5 billion dollar project that still needs over $2 billion loan to be financially secure.
At the end of the Nairobi conference, Meryne Warah, the GreenFaith’s Global Director for Advocacy, urged the PAPs to remain focused in their quest for justice guided by their beliefs and values. “From participants’ sentiments since the beginning of this conference, it is clear that the governments of Uganda and Tanzania did not listen to project affected persons. However, despite all the atrocities committed, we need each other. We need to stand together as one, encouraged by our faiths teachings.
She said the meeting gave the persons affected by EACOP and Tilenga an opportunity to share their experiences about the various adverse effects of the pipeline, as well as build resilience towards effective continued campaigning against the EACOP.
Press statement: CSOs call on NEMA to disclose Bugoma forest restoration plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE KAMPALA & KIKUUBE
NEMA MUST ENSURE HOIMA SUGAR LTD RESTORES BUGOMA FOREST
Today, as various actors across the globe mark World Environment Day (WED), the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC) has written to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) requesting that the authority avails the SBFC and general public with a copy of the approved restoration plan for Bugoma Central Forest Reserve (CFR), which is found in Kikuube district in Western Uganda.
The SBFC consists of the forest host communities, civil society and private sector entities whose main objective is to defend Bugoma CFR from land grabbing, sugarcane growing and oil threats.
The SBFC is also calling on NEMA and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to ensure that Hoima Sugar Limited (HSL) halts all its destructive activities in Bugoma CFR and restores the forest.
Despite protestations from NFA, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Kikuube District Local
Government (KDLG), civil society and the general public, NEMA authorised HSL’s activities in Bugoma forest in August 2020.
The authority illegally and irregularly issued an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of approval allowing HSL to do the following in Bugoma forest:
- Set up a sugarcane plantation on 9.24sq. miles;
- Develop an urban centre on 1.206 sq. miles;
- Set up an ecotourism site on 1.97 sq. miles;
- Land for a cultural site covering 0.156 sq. miles; and
- Leave a natural forested area and set up nature trails on 6.17 sq. miles.
While NEMA allowed HSL to grow sugarcane in some parts of Bugoma forest, reports by the SBFC in January 2021 and investigations by NEMA in September 2022 showed that the company had grown sugarcane in the area reserved for ecotourism purposes. The area reserved for natural forested purposes was also degraded.
In September 2022, NEMA acknowledged that HSL had violated condition 4.3 (i)(c) contained in the company’s ESIA certificate of approval. NEMA therefore exercised her powers under section 129 of the National Environment Act, 2019 and among others, directed as follows:
- That HSL immediately stops any further destruction of the natural reserved forest area, eco-tourism area, cultural site and the land reserved for an urban centre;
- That no sugarcane is planted in the above-mentioned areas;
- That no urban centre is developed;
- That HSL restores all the degraded areas of the natural reserved forest area, ecotourism area, cultural area and land reserved for an urban centre at its own cost; and
- That Hoima Sugar prepares a restoration plan for the degraded areas of Bugoma forest in consultation with the Forestry Sector Support Department of the Ministry of Water and Environment (FSSD), NFA and UWA and submits the same to NEMA for approval within a period of not more than three months from the date of the aforementioned order. “Over eight months have elapsed since NEMA ordered Hoima Sugar to submit a restoration plan. While the forest host communities and the public are highly interested in the restoration of Bugoma forest, NEMA has not publicly shared the restoration plan that Hoima Sugar submitted to the authority, if any was,” Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, the chairperson of the SBFC, says.
He adds, “NEMA must build goodwill and show that it is interested in promoting public participation in forest conservation by publicly disclosing the restoration order. The forest must also be restored and all destructive activities by Hoima Sugar Ltd stopped.”
Mr. Hassan Mugenyi, the chairperson of the SBFC local taskforce adds, “We do not know if any restoration plan for Bugoma exists. If it does, we were not consulted on it yet as people who have lived near Bugoma forest for a long time and have enjoyed benefits from the forest, we are interested in conservation of the forest. We can also share information to inform restoration of the forest.”
Ms. Lamla Asasira who lives near Bugoma forest says, “Women are very unhappy that Bugoma forest from which we used to get free herbs and which brought us rain is being destroyed. We are worried that if the forest is not restored and the destruction by Hoima Sugar continues, government will not be able to stop other encroachers and the entire forest will be destroyed.”
BUGOMA FOREST’S TOURISM POTENTIAL
Research conducted by the Inclusive Green Economy Network, East Africa (IGEN-EA) to determine the tourism potential of Bugoma forest, showed that the forest has immense potential. The research found the following:
- That Bugoma forest is home to tourist attractions including 570 or 11.4% of Uganda’s chimpanzees, 225 bird species, the Uganda Mangabey, bush elephants and others.
- That entities such as Jane Goodall Institute were engaged in habituation of chimpanzees and the Ugandan Mangabey to make them ready for trekking (tourist visits). The habituation of chimpanzees was expected to be completed early in 2023.
- Further, that tourist activities such as chimpanzee and Uganda Mangabey trekking, forest walks, tree climbing and others could be promoted in the forest.
- In addition, that if the above activities were promoted, Bugoma forest could earn the country more than half a million dollars a year.
- Over 90% of tour operators who participated in the study were willing to sell tourism experiences within Bugoma forest.
To save Bugoma forest, the SBFC recommends the following:
- NEMA should publicly share a copy of the approved restoration plan for Bugoma forest by HSL.
- The ongoing destruction of Bugoma forest should be immediately stopped.
- The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) should make public the boundary opening report of Bugoma forest. The ministry opened the forest boundaries in 2021 and 2022.
- The Ugandan government should ensure that the conservation of Bugoma forest is promoted under the Forest Partnership that government signed with the European Union in November 2022.
- Bugoma forest should be turned into a national park so better conserve the forest and protect the environment.
A corporate cartel fertilises food inflation
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK1 week ago
Six cattlemen opposed to the Tilenga oil project-related forced land eviction have been granted bail but will remain in prison…
DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS3 days ago
Court dismisses criminal case against the eight land rights defenders in Kiryandongo district for want of prosecution.
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK2 weeks ago
Persecution: The prosecutor’s office is turned into a tool to harass locals for opposing land grabs to give way to the oil project in Mid Western Uganda.
STATEMENTS2 weeks ago
Joint statement: AfDB should open spaces for civil society and communities, during the Annual Meetings and beyond.
NGO WORK4 days ago
Press statement: CSOs call on NEMA to disclose Bugoma forest restoration plan
NGO WORK2 days ago
EACOP Was Anchored On Disinformation, Persons Affected By Pipeline Declare