Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday pledged to pursue a massive and controversial oil project in East Africa, rejecting a resolution by European lawmakers calling for it to be postponed for “rights violations”.
France’s TotalEnergies and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) signed a $10 billion deal earlier this year to develop Uganda’s oilfields and ship crude through a 1,445-kilometre (900-mile) pipeline to the Tanzanian port of Tanga in the Indian Ocean.
The program has faced strong opposition from rights activists and environmental groups who say it threatens the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and the region’s fragile ecosystems.
The European Parliament resolution adopted on Thursday expressed concern about “human rights abuses” in Uganda and Tanzania linked to investments in fossil fuel projects.
These included “the unjustified imprisonment of human rights defenders, the arbitrary suspension of NGOs, arbitrary prison sentences and the eviction of hundreds of people from their land without fair and adequate compensation”.
He said more than 100,000 people were at risk of being displaced by the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and called for adequate compensation.
He also urged TotalEnergies to take a year before launching the project to study the feasibility of an alternative route “to better safeguard the protected and sensitive ecosystems and water resources of Uganda and Tanzania”.
– ‘We will have our oil’ –
Museveni said on Friday that the project “will proceed as stipulated in the contract we have with TotalEnergies and CNOOC”.
“Total Energies convinced me of the Pipeline idea; if they choose to listen to the European Parliament, we will find someone else to work with,” he said on Twitter.
“Anyway, we will have our oil coming out by 2025 as planned. So the people of Uganda should not worry.
The project aims to extract the massive crude reserves beneath Lake Albert, a 160 kilometer long natural border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and ship the oil through what would become the world’s longest heated pipeline.
Lake Albert sits on about 6.5 billion barrels of crude, of which about 1.4 billion barrels are currently considered recoverable.
Earlier Thursday, Ugandan Vice President Thomas Tayebwa reacted angrily to the European Parliament’s resolution.
“These are projects that have been approved by the Ugandan parliament, the parliament of a sovereign country and anything to do with challenging their approval is an affront to the independence of this house and we cannot take it lightly. light,” he said.
– ‘Strong political message’ –
But the environmental group Friends of the Earth France welcomed the position of MEPs.
“This sends a strong political message against the Tilenga and EACOP projects, whose human, environmental and climate costs are undeniable and simply unacceptable,” campaign manager Juliette Renaud said in a statement.
Tilenga is the oilfield development project operated by TotalEnergies in the Lake Albert region of northwestern Uganda.
TotalEnergies insisted that it had taken steps to reduce the overall impact of the program on people and the environment.
“We are doing everything we can to make it an exemplary project in terms of transparency, shared prosperity, economic and social progress, sustainable development, with respect for the environment and human rights,” he said. he said in reaction to the resolution of the European Parliament.
Museveni has in the past hailed the project as a major economic boost for the landlocked country, where many live in poverty.
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