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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.

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By Witness Radio team,

Mr. Karongo Edward, a smallholder farmer in Kapapi village, is one of the dozens of local farmers slapped with multiple criminal charges by the Director of Public Prosecution’s office in Hoima district, Western Uganda because they are resisting an illegal eviction to give way to Tilenga Feeder Pipeline Component.

Arbitrarily arrested on the 25th of January 2023 between 15:00 and 15:30 EAT at Kapapi trading center by two armed police officers attached to Kigolobya police station under the command of one Ndahura Gafayo, now he faces three separate criminal files from criminal trespass, assault to stealing cattle and he’s likely to face more charges resulting from his opposition to an illegal land eviction to give way for Feeder Pipeline Component of the Tilenga Project.

According to his family, Kalong was not informed about the reasons for his arrest instead, he was grabbed, handcuffed, and bundled into a private car with registration number UAT 135J.  He was driven to Kigorobya police, where he spent a night before being transferred to Kitoba police station on the 26th, the following day.

Karongo is one of the 2500 people that have legally occupied and cultivated their land at Kapapi village, Kapapi Sub County, in Hoima District since the 1950s, which is gazetted as public land. No sooner had Karongo and other local farmers been imprisoned than their land was grabbed at gunpoint in the wee hours of the night without a court order.

According to the locals, as soon as the news started circulating that Kapapi North, Kapapi Central, Waaki North, Waaki South, and Lunga villages’ land had been identified as suitable for the oil project, people masquerading as landlords emerged and started ordering and threatening locals to vacate their land.

On the 10th of February 2023, over 2500 locals were forcefully and violently evicted from 1294.99 hectares of their land with no compensation or resettlement.

The eviction was spearheaded by Ndahura Gafayo, Aston Muhwezi, David Mpora, Monica Rwashadika, one Agaba, Wilber Kiiza, and Moses Asimwe with full backup from the area police, soldiers from Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), and security guards from Magnum, a private security company.

Many adults and children were severely beaten and wounded, women are alleging being raped, and houses were set ablaze. In contrast, others were destroyed, animals were slaughtered, and others were looted. Evictors and their agents looted properties worth millions of Uganda Shillings.

As Witness Radio writes this report, dozens of local farmers opposed to forced land evictions to benefit the Tilenga oil project are facing multiple criminal charges and currently remain at Hoima government prison.

Below are tables drawn to showcase files, names of prisoners (locals from Kapapi opposed to forced land eviction to give way for the Tilenga oil project), court file numbers, and their charges;

File No. 1

Name Court File Number Charge
Kataza Samuel 237 of 2023 Malicious damage to property
Mulega Eria 237 of 2023 Criminal trespass
Karongo Stephen 237 of 2023 Threatening violence
Rangira Stephen 237 of 2023 Threatening violence
Karongo Edward 237 of 2023 Theft

File No.2

Name Court File Number Charge
Kataza Samuel 77 of 2023 Stealing cattle
Mulega Eria 77 of 2023 Stealing cattle
Karongo Stephen 77 of 2023 Stealing cattle
Rangira Stephen 77 of 2023 Stealing cattle

 

 

 

 

 

File No. 3

Name Court File Number Charge
Karongo Stephen 238 of 2023 Assault
Karongo Edward 238 of 2023 Assault
Rangira Stephen 238 of 2023 Assault

File No.4

Name Court File Number Charge
Rubyogo David 241 of 2023 Threatening violence
Twinobigezo Edrine 241 of 2023 Threatening violence

File No. 5

Name Court File Number Charge
Mbombo Stephen 60 of 2023 Malicious Damage to property

File No. 6

Name Court File Number Charge
Mbombo Stephen 64 of 23 Threatening violence
Kamugisha Enock 64 of 23 Threatening violence
Murungi John 64 of 23 Threatening violence
Musinguzi Peter 64 of 23 Threatening violence

Witness Radio – Uganda provides criminal defense to victims and has filed bail applications.

 

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The Appellate East African Court of Justice sets timelines for hearing an appeal against the construction of the EACOP.

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By Witness Radio team.

The Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has instructed the four East African civil society organizations (CSOs), which lodged an appeal challenging the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, to submit their written arguments by March 22, 2024. The appeal follows the dismissal of their case in 2023.

The appeal was heard by the following judges: Justice Nestor Kayobera, the President of the EACJ; Justice Anita Mugeni, the Vice President of the EACJ; Justice Kathurina M’Inoti; Justice Cheborion Barishaki; and Justice Omar Othman Makungu.

The organizations were represented by Counsels Justin Semuyaba, David Kabanda, John Baptist Okurut, and Veronica Nakityo, while the respondents were represented by Counsels Hangi M. Chang’a, Mark Mulwambo, and Stanley Kalokole from the Tanzanian team, as well as Counsels George Kalemera, Charity Nabasa, and Mark Muwonge from the Ugandan team. The EAC Secretary General was represented by Dr. Anthony Kafumbe, Counsel for the EAC.

The organizations, which include the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)-Uganda, Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT)-Uganda, Natural Justice (NJ)-Kenya, and Centre for Strategic Litigation (CSL)-Tanzania, filed a court case against the EACOP at the EACJ in November 2020.
In November 2020, the East African organizations asked the EACJ to issue temporary and permanent injunctions stopping the development of the EACOP.

The organizations argued that the EACOP violates key East African and international treaties and laws including the East African Community (EAC) Treaty, Protocol for Sustainable Development of the Lake Victoria basin, Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Others include the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights as well as the African Convention on Conservation of Natural Resources among others.

However, on 29th of November, 2023, the EACJ dismissed the case relying on the preliminary objection raised by the Tanzanian and Ugandan governments regarding the timeframe within which the petition was filed at the EACJ. The EACJ ruled that the applicants filed the petition out of time, thus saying that the petitioners should have filed the petition as early as 2017 instead of 2020. The same court further said it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

The aforementioned organizations appealed against the Court ruling, and subsequently, it was heard on Tuesday, February 20, 2024, by the appellate division of the EACJ. The petitioners were directed to submit their written submissions by March 22, 2024.

The court also asked the governments of Uganda and Tanzania as well as the Secretary General of the EAC, (respondents) to file their counterarguments by April 22, 2024.

Further, the court ordered the appellants to file rejoinders to the counterarguments from Uganda and Tanzania and the EAC Secretary General by May 6, 2024.

Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, representing some of the appellant organizations, expressed satisfaction with steps taken by the Court. He emphasized the reliance of communities and East Africans on their natural and other resources for livelihoods, stressing the need to challenge projects like the EACOP that pose threats to these resources.

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Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to hear an Appeal filed by CSOs which seeks to reinstate a petition against the construction of the EACOP project tomorrow.

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By Witness Radio team.

In a stirring development for environmental and human rights advocacy in East Africa, the Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) is set to hear an appeal that four East African civil society organizations (CSOs) filed to re-instate the petition challenging the construction of East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.

The organizations spearheading this appeal include the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) from Uganda, the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) also from Uganda, Natural Justice (NJ) based in Kenya, and the Centre for Strategic Litigation (CSL) from Tanzania.

This appeal comes in response to a ruling handed down in November 2023 by the Court of First Instance at the EACJ, which dismissed the case on ground that it was filed out of time.

The pipeline, spanning 1443 kilometers from Uganda to Tanzania, has been met with fierce opposition from many groups and environmental activists all over the world, who argue that it violates key East African and international treaties, as well as laws safeguarding human rights, environmental conservation, biodiversity, and the protection of Lake Victoria.

According to activists, the EACOP project is traversing through sensitive ecosystems, including protected areas and internationally significant wetlands, posing threats to biodiversity and ecosystems that local communities depend on for their sustenance posing grave environmental risks.

Furthermore, the project also termed as a curse by the majority of the would-be beneficiaries due to displacement of thousands of individuals from their ancestral lands, and human rights violations/abuses.

Despite the setback of the initial dismissal, the four organizations pressed forward their pursuit of justice.

In their appeal, groups contend that the Court of First Instance erred in its ruling, and want the Appellate Division to reinstate their case.

Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, the CEO of AFIEGO, expressed that they remain resolute in their pursuit of justice through the East African Court of Justice and other courts.

He further mentions that millions of East Africans have high hopes in the regional court to protect their socio-economic and environmental rights and help them continue advancing their aspirations for climate change mitigation and clean energy.

Mr. Kamugisha added that they maintained hope that the court would prioritize the rights of East Africans over the profit-seeking endeavors of large corporations, even if it came at the expense of people.

According to the Executive Director of Natural Justice, Ms. Farida Aliwa, the EACOP and related projects have already led to serious human rights abuses, including evictions, assaults and environmental destruction

“In the interests of justice, we believe that this case needs to be heard at the East African Court of Justice, as a positive outcome will be good for the East African people and planet. The Court has the power to affirm that the governments, investors, and companies violate both national and international laws and that the EACOP project must be stopped. We trust that the East African Court of Justice will see this, and decide to hear the merits of this case.” She revealed.

The case will be heard tomorrow 9:00 East Africa Standard Time at the Court of Appeal of the East African Court of Justice.

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PFZW scraps funding from Total and others for failure to transition into a cleaner energy mix.

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By Witness Radio team.

In a significant move towards aligning its investments with environmental goals, Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) has announced its decision to disinvest from fossil fuel giants such as Shell and Total.

This decision comes after two years of intensive engagement with fossil fuel companies, during which PFZW sought to encourage the development of climate transition plans in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

PFZW is the pension fund for the care and welfare sector based in the Netherlands. PFZW invests the contributions paid by employers and employees to achieve a high, stable, and responsible return over the long term at an acceptable level of risk. The fund invests globally in the investment categories of variable-yield securities and fixed-income securities. The pension fund had a total of € 217 billion of assets under management at the end of 2022.

According to PFZW, 310 oil and gas companies failed to demonstrate a clear transition to a cleaner energy mix.

Some of the big oil and gas companies that PFZW parted ways with are Total, Shell, and BP among others. These major corporations have frequently faced criticism for investing in fossil fuel projects.

For example, Total, among other projects putting the World climate at risk, is advocating for the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and Tilenga projects in western Uganda. Despite, environmental experts warning of potential environmental damage, Total has persisted in heavily funding these projects.

PFZW’s disinvestment strategy is part of its broader commitment to sustainability and responsible investing. The PFZW fund has sold its stakes in 310 oil and gas companies, totaling 2.8 billion euros, for failure to demonstrate a clear transition to cleaner energy sources.

During this period, dialogue with oil and gas companies was significantly intensified to encourage them to produce verifiable transition plans that support the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Joanne Kellermann, chair of the board of PFZW said that “the intensive shareholder dialogue over the past two years with the oil and gas sector on climate has made it clear to us that most fossil fuel companies are not prepared to adapt their business models to ‘Paris’. While the largest companies in this sector do invest in sustainable forms of energy, the switch from fossil to low carbon is not nearly fast enough. Incidentally, this reflects the slow pace we see globally in the transition to renewable energy.”

According to PFZW, seven listed oil and gas companies with a compelling climate transition strategy will remain part of the portfolio. This contributes to the goal of investing more in companies that play a positive role in the global energy transition.

Despite parting ways with numerous fossil fuel companies, PFZW will continue to invest in seven oil and gas companies that have demonstrated a commitment to transitioning towards renewable energy sources. These companies, including Cosan S.A., Galp Energia, and Neste Oyj, are regarded as frontrunners in the energy sector due to their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and invest in low-carbon technologies.

“The seven companies we will continue to invest in are the only ones that show a switch is possible. At the same time, it is disappointing that there are only seven. We encourage the biggest players in the oil and gas sector to also accelerate the switch to a cleaner energy mix.” She revealed.

Furthermore, to significantly increase its investments in companies focused on improving the climate and energy transition, allocating two billion euros over the next two years to companies with measurable impacts on climate and the energy transition reflecting PFZW’s dedication to achieving a climate-neutral investment portfolio by 2050, with interim goals such as a 50% absolute carbon reduction by 2030 for equities, liquid credit, and real estate.

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