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Pushing back: The EACOP victim community rushes to court seeking reinstatement onto their land and compensation.

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By Witness Radio team

One of the East Africa Crude Oil Project (EACOP) victim communities in Hoima district has run to Hoima high court challenging a forceful and violent eviction which pushed them off their land, asserting that it was very illegal and unconstitutional and subjected them to degrading treatment.

The Kapapi community, as commonly referred to, is composed of both pastoralists and cultivators that were lawfully living in Waaki North, Kapapi Central, Waaki South, Runga, and Kiryatete villages in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties in Hoima district since the 1950s.

In a February 2021 report from Total Energies Uganda, titled “Tilenga Project – Resettlement Action Plan 4,” it identified Kapapi, Runga, Waaki, and Kiryatete villages as areas that will be affected by the proposed Tilenga Feeder Pipeline Component (RAP 4).

The Tilenga feeder pipeline corridor is approximately 95 km long originates from the Tilenga Project Central Processing Facility (CPF), about 8 km northeast of Buliisa town in Buliisa District and 5 km south of the Albert Nile. The purpose and the need for the Tilenga feeder pipeline, according to Total Energies, is to deliver crude oil to the planned refinery in Kabaale and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC), as the Government nominee, holds a 15% participating interest in the Tilenga project; Total Energies E&P Uganda B.V., the operator, holds 56.67% while the other partner, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) Uganda Limited holds 28.33% shares.

On 10th February 2023 at 1:00 am local time, unidentified dozens of men cladding Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) uniforms, together with armed guards from Magnum, a private security company violently evicted over 2,500 locals from 1294.99 hectares of land with no compensation or resettlement, looted animals and food stuffs. The eviction was executed without a court order.

Through their lawyers Arinaitwe Peter & Company Advocates, Mulega Eria and 13 others on behalf of the pastoralists community in a Civil Suit no. 78 of 2023, sued a UPDF Brigadier General. Nabasa Peter, Bogere Patrick, a Hoima Rural District Police Commander, Kyakashari Micheal, the Deputy Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Hoima district, one Gafayo Ndawula William, Kiiza Nathan Byarugonjo, Oketcha Micheal, Oromo Luzira, Magnum Security company limited, Muhwezi Aston, William Kiiza, Kyamanywa Alex, Wilber Kiiza, Hoima district Land Board and Commissioner land registration among others.

In a second matter, Civil Suit no. 79 of 2023, Ajaruva Uchida and 112 others on behalf of the crop growers community, sued a UPDF Brigadier General Nabasa Peter, Bogere Patrick, a Hoima Rural District Police Commander, Kyakashari Micheal, a the Deputy Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Hoima district, a one Gafayo William Ndawula, Kizza Nathan Byarugonjo, Oketcha Micheal, Asimwe Moses Byangire, Oromo Luzira and Magnum security company limited among others.

Both communities are accusing the latter of carrying out a forceful and violent eviction from their land, alleging a disregard of lawful procedures driven by a desire to profit from EACOP related projects.

In both suits, both communities demand for several remedies from the courts of law, such as a permanent injunction restraining all defendants and their agents from further interference with their land, an order for an immediate return onto their land, and compensation.

Arinaitwe Peter, one of the lawyers, expressed optimism that Courts would hear the cries of the Kapapi people, who have endured destitution, significant suffering, and displacement, with some living in internally displaced people’s camps following the brutal eviction.

“We are optimistic that the honorable Court will listen to the cries of the Kapapi people. These people are destitute, they have suffered immensely, and some of them are currently residing in internally displaced people’s camps due to a brutal eviction carried out by the individuals mentioned in different suits. Our purpose here is to ensure that their voices are heard, have justice served, and that they are immediately returned to their land while the legal case is ongoing.” Said Mr. Arinaitwe.

Mr. Kataza Samuel, one of the community environmental defenders, called on Hoima Court to expedite the hearing of their matters since many of the residents are undergoing hardships as a result of forceful evictions.

“Our people are enduring immense suffering, with many families torn apart by poverty. They are scattered across in different parts of the country, struggling for survival, while some are forced to live with relatives. Unfortunately, essential services like shelter, food, healthcare, and education for their children remain elusive. We are here to seek justice for our violated rights, and, therefore, we implore Court to intervene urgently,” He added.

As we write this story, the grabbed land continues to be heavily guarded by Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) Soldiers and Magnum Security Company guards.

Court is yet to fix hearing dates for both suits.

 

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Ugandan Activists Face Criminal Charges Following Pipeline Protest

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More than 30 environmental and human rights defenders, many of them students protesting the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, have been arrested in Kampala and other parts of Uganda since 2021. Photo courtesy of Phototheque AT.

Human rights watchdogs sound alarm on crackdown on environmental advocates in the East African nation.

IN UGANDA, the climate crisis poses a real and present threat to citizens. So too does the act of protesting against climate-polluting projects, due to the state’s brutal crackdown on climate activists.

That threat is being felt by 11 young climate activists, all of the them Kyambogo University students, who have been embroiled in Uganda’s criminal-legal system since late last year. The students were arrested while protesting against the controversial East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), a 1,443-kilometer pipeline that will transport crude oil produced in Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to Tanzania’s port of Tanga for export.

The most recent crackdown came on Dec. 15, when four activists, members of Justice Movement Uganda, were arrested — and, they say, beaten — by security forces during a peaceful march to deliver a petition to the country’s parliament. The petition asked parliament to halt the pipeline project and free seven of their colleagues who were arrested in November and locked up in the country’s Luzira Maximum Security Prison.

“My friends and I, numbering over 50 students, marched from our hostels of residence to parliament, but only a few us managed to reach the gate of the parliament because we were attacked by police from the start,” Bwete Abdul Aziiz, one of the four students arrested on Dec. 15, told Earth Island Journal. The 26-year-old Kampala resident was separated from the main body of protesters along with a few other marchers. Although this separation helped the smaller group reach the grounds of the parliament, it led to their alleged assault and arrest by Ugandan security forces.

“They kicked us all over our body and slapped us repeatedly,” Abdul Aziiz said of the assault. The security forces then drove the activists to the Central Police Station, where they were detained for four days. On Dec. 19, the same day the first group of seven protesters gained their freedom, Abdul Aziiz and three others, Lubega Jacob, Lutabi Nicolas, and Kalyango Shafik, appeared in court on the charge of causing public nuisance, which carries a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment. From there, they were remanded to Luzira, where they spent the holidays. It was not until Jan. 10 that they able to obtain a bail. They appeared in court on March 11, and are due back on April 17 for further hearing.

Since their release on bail, the activists say they have been receiving anonymous calls often accompanied by threats of physical harm unless they stopped campaigning against TotalEnergies. The French energy company, together with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Tanzania State oil companies, is currently building the pipeline.

“Ever since we got bailed out, life has not been the same, due to continuous threats from unknown people, and we have been shifting our places of residence over and over due to fear for our safety,” says Abdul Aziiz. He has since lost his job, which he relied on to support himself, his two siblings, and his mother, and to pay his tuition at Kyambogo University where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Arts and education.

THEIR ORDEAL, analysts say, demonstrates the incredible odds faced by Ugandan climate justice activists trying to stop a massive fossil fuel project in a continent that is on the frontlines of the climate catastrophe. “What has been happening is that the judicial system is harsh for those against the project, like any other advocates who asks question about governance issues in the country,” a Ugandan oil and gas expert, who wishes to stay anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, told the Journal.

Under the leadership of President Yoweri Museveni, a staunch backer of EACOP, climate activists in Uganda regularly report being threatened, harassed, and prosecuted. At least 30 environmental and human rights defenders, many of them students, have been arrested in Kampala and other parts of Uganda since 2021, according to a November report by Human Rights Watch, which was published before the November or December arrests.

“The illegal arrests and fake trials of activists who are protesting against EACOP is part of the government and oil companies’ strategy to instill maximum fear among Ugandans so that no one questions the excesses happening in the EACOP plans,” Dickens Kamugisha, CEO of public policy research and advocacy group AFIEGO-Africa Institute for Energy Governance, told the Journal. “In effect, the arrests and trials have no legal basis but just evil objectives to continue shrinking the civic space.”

Once described as a mid-sized carbon bomb by the Climate Accountability Project’s Richard Heede, the EACOP, which will cost an $5 billion to construct, comes with six pumping stations to maintain the oil flow and pressure in the pipeline (two in Uganda and four in Tanzania). It will terminate at Tanzania’s coastal city, Tanga, with a terminal and jetty from which crude oil will be loaded onto tankers. It is expected to be operational by 2025, and if completed, would be responsible for 34 million tons of carbon emissions per year for some 25 years.

Human Rights Watch has warned that the oil pipeline has already “devastated thousands of people’s livelihoods in Uganda” by displacing them from their homes “and will exacerbate the global climate crisis.” The project passes through multiple ecologically sensitive areas in Uganda and Tanzania and requires land acquisitions covering some 6,400 hectares. Consequently, villagers have reported cases of land grabbing, displacement, disruption to families and villages, and unfair and inadequate compensation for losses.

Impacted communities say the Ugandan state has enabled TotalEnergies in violating their rights. Nyakato Magreat, a single mother from Kasinyi village in Buliisa District, which had previously rejected TotalEnergies plan to make use of their lands, provided an example of the government’s role. Speaking at a mock tribunal organized by a coalition of civil societies, Make Big Polluters Pay (MBPP), last May, she recounted how soldiers invaded their village to force them to back down.

“The Hon. Minister for lands came to our community with many soldiers who were carrying guns, and most of us accepted the compensation amount of UGX 3,500,000 ($905) per acre, which we had earlier rejected out of fear. Total then gave me a small one-bedroom house on a small plot of land, despite my large family,” she said.

A December report by international NGO Global Witness also outlines evidence that TotalEnergies has been involved in efforts to intimidate impacted communities to accept offers for their land. The report documents cases where community members say they were forced to sign agreements without a chance to read them, as well as cases where armed security forces accompanied company and government officials making the compensation offers, pressuring them to sign.

TotalEnergies has denied involvement in the arrests of climate activists or pressured disposition of lands. In response to request for comment, the energy company said that it is committed to respecting internationally recognized human rights and standards anywhere it operates. A similar request for comment sent to the Ugandan Police Force went unanswered as at press time.

But activists continue to insist that the company is an accessory to violations committed by the Museveni government. “I think that the actions of Total and others amount to aiding and abetting injustices. By virtue of contract with the government, they have powers and can walk away if the other party/government violate people’s rights,” Kamugisha said via text. “But they are enjoying the outcomes of violence, displacements, and fear created.”

The Ugandan activists are not alone in their experience. Around the world, environmental activists face serious threats of violence as they defend their lands and the climate. What’s more, governments are increasingly criminalizing peaceful protest by climate protesters. That includes through the enactment of new anti-protest laws in places like Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, and the enforcement of existing ones in places like Germany, Italy, France, India, and Egypt.

“EACOP IS A TIME BOMB which needs to be stopped as soon as possible due to the environment hazards and social violations it encompasses,” Mpiima Ibrahim, a climate activist and student of Kyambogo University, told the Journal. The 22-year old, who escaped arrest during the march in December, believes that although “many people say it is a pathway to development, EACOP is actually a pathway to extinction, since science has made it very clear that we have approximately one decade to cut down our global emissions before we face severe climate catastrophe.”

Despite contributing only 2 to 3 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Africa continues to experience extreme weather events ranging from floods to droughts and to heatwaves, which leave a trail of destruction and fatalities. Last year, Libya’s storm-fueled flood claimed over 11,300 lives in September.

At around the same time, more than 3,000 people lost their lives due to flash floods in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and at least 860 people were killed in Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which affected Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius, Malawi, Réunion, and Zimbabwe, according to reports. Today, over 29 million people continue to face unrelenting drought conditions across Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Mauritania, and Niger.

All of which is why, amidst the brutal crackdowns, Ugandan climate activists are not backing down. “Everyday we make sure that we are doing something to stop this deadly project,” Abdul Aziiz says, “and our goal is to see that climate justice prevails and climate destroyers must be punished.”

Original Source: earthisland.org

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Insurance firms should shun the East African Crude Oil Pipeline

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Police officers detain a Ugandan activist during a demonstration on September 15, 2023, over plans to build the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), in Kampala, Uganda [File: Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters]

The project is already devastating local communities and will contribute to climate change if completed.

Last year was the hottest on record, with extreme weather events in many corners of the globe. It was also the year in which countries reached a landmark agreement at the UN Climate Conference (COP28) to begin “transitioning away from fossil fuels”.

If governments are to comply with this agreement and avert global climate collapse, there cannot be any new expansion of coal, oil and gas production. This includes the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), one of the largest and most controversial fossil fuel projects currently under development.

Financing for EACOP is yet to be secured, but if it is and the project moves forward, a 1,443km (897-mile) pipeline will stretch from oil fields in western Uganda to the port of Tanga in eastern Tanzania.

The project’s completion would not only contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions which fuel climate change but also harm local communities. That is why, Human Rights Watch is calling on insurance firms to stop providing support for it.

The pipeline is planned to traverse some of Africa’s most sensitive ecosystems, including Murchison Falls National Park and the Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Ramsar site. Pipeline ruptures, inadequate waste handling, and other pollution impacts would cause significant damage to the land, water, air and the species that rely on them.

Our research found that the project’s initial land acquisition process has already devastated thousands of people’s livelihoods in Uganda, causing food insecurity and household debt that has resulted in children dropping out of school.

During our interviews with local communities, many described being largely self-sufficient before the project began, using revenue from coffee, bananas and other cash crops to pay for school fees and other household expenses. When their land was allocated for the pipeline construction, they were not compensated immediately for it.

They waited an average of three to five years after the land evaluation process took place, and interviewees repeatedly told Human Rights Watch that the payments they received were not adequate to purchase replacement land. They said they were worse off than they were previously.

While they were waiting for compensation, many farmers understood that they were not permitted to access their land to tend perennial crops, and were therefore deprived of crucial income.

Residents described how the payment delays impacted their food security, pushing them to sell household assets, including livestock, or borrow money from predatory lenders at excessive rates to buy the food they would have previously grown on their plots and cover other expenses. This has left many families poorer and more insecure about their future.

If the pipeline is completed, more than 100,000 people in Uganda and Tanzania will permanently lose land to make way for it.

Civil society groups in Uganda and Tanzania have called for the pipeline not to be built, citing climate, environmental and social risks. Ugandan civil society groups say that, instead of building the pipeline, the Ugandan government should develop its abundant renewable energy resources – particularly solar and hydropower – to drive economic development and secure access to energy without further contributing to climate change.

Their demands have been met with hostility from the Ugandan authorities. Our research documented the Ugandan government’s systematic harassment, arbitrary arrests of and threats against environmental defenders and anti-fossil fuel activists for raising concerns over the pipeline project and oil development.

In this context, it is deeply troubling that insurance companies are enabling this and other big fossil fuel projects by providing insurance for them. This is despite the fact that new oil projects are wholly inconsistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

In late 2023, Human Rights Watch wrote to 15 insurance and reinsurance companies and shared our findings on the grave environmental and human rights risks associated with the pipeline. Only two companies – Lloyd’s of London and Chubb – responded to us, and neither agreed to reassess their involvement in the project.

In early March, civil society groups across the world organised a global week of action to end fossil fuels, including confronting insurance companies about their role in the climate crisis and asking them to rule out support for fossil fuel projects. Anti-fossil fuel activists held peaceful protests at regional offices of the insurance companies still involved in the East African project with the message: “Insure our futures, not fossil fuels.” Increasing numbers of insurers have made public commitments to not underwrite the pipeline, but others have persisted.

Continued support for EACOP is a mistake. By underwriting the project, insurers are helping to build the longest heated oil pipeline in the world at a time when the world is warming at dangerous levels. Insurance companies should refuse to support this project.

Original Source: Aljazeera

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How Kiryandongo land conflict has affected children

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Parents affected by the seven-year-old land conflict in Kiryandongo District have said hundreds of their children are facing hunger and lack of education.

The children have been forced out of school since 2017 and their parents, who derived livelihood mainly from cultivation, are now struggling to put food on the table since their land is now occupied by a ranch.

Currently, the farming families are now trapped in the middle of farms belonging to Agilis Partners, Great Season SMC Limited, and Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, who have set up ranches measuring about 9,300 acres in Mutunda and Kiryandongo sub-counties.

The ranch land had for long been occupied and farmed by more than 35,000 families who came to the area after they fled war and natural calamities from other districts in Uganda, according to Witness Radio, a non- governmental organisation.

Ms Esther Namuganza, a resident of Kimogoro Village, Mutunda Sub-county, lives with her five children in an area known as Ranch 20.

She recalls that on November 23, 2017, agents of Agilis Partners told the people living within Ranch 20 and 21 that it had acquired the land and that they would have to vacate.

“The first eviction took place on November 23, 2017. It was a Thursday. We grew big-headed and refused to vacate the ranches because we are the citizens of Uganda, we have nowhere to go,” she says.

Her family is one of a few that still remain on the land but with nowhere to grow food.

“We eat one meal a day and even at times we just take porridge. We don’t eat during the day to save for tomorrow. If you say I’m going to have lunch and supper, what about tomorrow?” Ms Namuganza wonders.

Annet Muganyizi, a former Senior Four student who dropped out of school in 2017, says all the schools, health facilities and water sources on the land have all been destroyed.

Mr John Byaruhanga of Nyamutende Village in Kiryandongo Sub-county said agriculture used to be their only source of livelihood in the ranches.

“When Agilis Partners came, everything changed for the worse. We were beaten, tortured and evicted at gunpoint. When we ask those armed men where they want us to go with our children and cattle, they just tell us to vacate. When you try to resist, they arrest you. I am one of those who have been arrested twice,” he says.

However, the spokesperson of Agilis Partners, Mr Emmanuel Onyango, earlier dismissed the allegations of unending forceful evictions.

“To be honest, I don’t know why people keep on accusing us of evictions yet we still have people residing on Ranch 20 and 21,” Mr Onyango said . He explained that if indeed they were evicting people, “there wouldn’t be anyone left on the land.”

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the Kiryandongo deputy RDC, said the Bunyoro land question cannot be sorted out without thinking about its history.

“We had 38 ranches here, which, on guidance of these international organisations, told the government to restructure the ranches. The ranches were restructured, people settled there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he said.

Source: Daily Monitor

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