The East African Crude Oil Pipe Line

Uganda’s oil was first discovered in 1938, but it is in recent years that oil production has truly come into sight. Full-scale oil production is not expected to start any soon in 2021, but oil is already central in the country’s long-term planning agenda, as well as a prominent political issue. Contracts have been signed, companies have moved in, legislation is being passed, and Uganda’s government is presenting a vision of a country transformed by oil.

For example, according to the “Uganda Vision 2040”, the National Planning Authority presents a map to create a land of wealth and stability:

Ugandans aspire to live and work in a peaceful, secure, harmonious, and stable beautiful country where the rule of law prevails and respect for fundamental human rights observed. Ugandans want a corruption-free nation with strong democratic structures and systems with demonstrated serration of powers for checks and balances.

Uganda Vision 2040

Ugandans aspire to have unity in diversity and equal opportunities irrespective of gender, tribe, ethnicity or religion enshrined in the hope of a progressive and developmental culture that blends traditional beliefs and national values.

Uganda Vision 2040

Uganda will need to consolidate a secure and stable society operating on the principles of justice, equality, and the rule of law. The country will foster good governance through democracy, equal representation, equity, tolerance, constructive dialogue, and openness towards others at local, national, and international levels. Uganda will also need to enhance its important and constructive regional role, especially within the framework of the EAC. Uganda will strive to be an active member of the international community which contributes to its economic development, peace, and security.

Peace, security, and defence are prerequisites for a sustainable socio-economic transformation, democracy, and national unity. Society fabrics at individual, household, community, and national levels must be at peace for any development to take place. Uganda, therefore, needs to promote tolerance, benevolence, constructive dialogue, and openness towards others in order to have a peaceful society that supports rapid economic and social development.

Eighty percent of roads (rather than the current 4%) will be paved; all Ugandans, urban and rural, will live in planned settlements. Tourism will bring in $12bn (up from the current $622m), managed by a Uganda Tourism authority. International airports will increase from one to four with high-speed trains linking Uganda to ports in neighboring countries. Young people will be equipped with globally competitive skills from centers of excellence in health, education, and science, and a universal health insurance system will be built among others.

Uganda Vision 2040

However, despite the above commitments by the Ugandan government, Oil and gas development and related infrastructure activities continues to cause conflicts in the Albertine region of Uganda between the government, communities, and Oil companies. There is increased human rights violations and abuse linked to the three major oil development projects namely; The Tilenga, Kingfisher, and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) led by the Chinese and French multinational corporations in partnership with the government-owned Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) and the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) which are the shareholders in a pipeline company with Total E&P, Uganda B.V. (TEPU), and CNOOC Uganda Limited (CUL) that will develop, construct and operate the pipeline. Total East Africa Midstream (TEAM) BV is the developer of the project. The project is collectively known as “the East African Crude Oil Pipe Line (EACOP) “. The project is a 1445km long, 24-inch diameter, buried and heated East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) from Kabaale, Hoima in Uganda to Chongoleani in Tanga, Tanzania, is being developed to transport crude oil from Uganda to Tanga port in Tanzania. The project involves large-scale land acquisitions that require communities affected by expropriations to receive compensation. Construction of the pipeline threatens to enable the opening up of critical ecosystems including Murchison Falls National Park to oil extraction. In addition, it is expected to cause large-scale displacement of communities and pose grave risks to protected environments, water sources, and wetlands in both Uganda and Tanzania.

The ESIA describes the route of the EACOP pipeline in Uganda in the following manner:

The export pipeline originates at the Pump Station 1 located at the future Kabaale Industrial Park, in Hoima District. Initially, it crosses relatively low terrain with undulating topography characterised by widespread cropland, settlement, and transport infrastructure between Hoima and Mubende districts. The RoW also traverses gently undulating grass and farmland, hills with open plateaus, open grassland, wetlands in Gomba and Ssembabule Districts, and a relatively flat landscape towards Mutukula near the border with Tanzania.

In Hoima District, the corridor passes in between Wambabya and Bugoma Forest Reserves, and traverses through a modified section of Taala Forest Reserve in Kyankwanzi District, and crosses near the eastern border of Kasana-Kasambya Forest Reserve in Mubende District. There are watercourse crossings including the Kafu River between Hoima and Kakumiro Districts, Nabakazi River between Mubende and Gomba Districts, Katonga River between Gomba and Ssembabule Districts, and Kibale and Jemakunya Rivers in Kyotera District. On the approach to the Tanzania border, and the north-western corner of Lake Victoria, the corridor crosses a substantial zone of wetlands in a high average rainfall zone . . . for approximately 90 km.

Review of Adequacy of ESIA for the TEP Uganda Tilenga Oil Development Project

The Albertine Watch has documented rampant land grabbing, forced evictions, extrajudicial killings, violence and environmental harms related to the projects, and a pervasive lack of meaningful consultation and consent among affected communities, including cases of forced labor and other serious human rights abuses in violation of international, regional and national law. Companies involved in the EACOP project have breached major international, regional, and national legislations and available evidence indicates that Total and CNOOC have fraudulently acquired ESIA certificates to operate the project without the approval of local communities and the indigenous peoples impacted by the project. Furthermore, the project if allowed to operate will cause serious environmental and social damage. The extraction of crude oil from Lake Albert could paralyze fisheries activities. The risk of an oil spill into Lake Victoria would have disastrous consequences for millions of people (in about eight countries) who depend on the two lakes and their watersheds for drinking water and food production.

There is evidence of human rights violations related to forced evictions and no or unfair compensation during the implementation of the resettlement procedures adopted by the Total. This affects the human rights of local and indigenous communities impacted by the project. It should be noted that Total Uganda has subcontracted a part of the land acquisition and resettlement programmes for those affected by the Tilenga project to a company called Atacama Consulting Ltd, in partnership with Synergie Global Consulting Limited and Nomad Consulting. Despite Total Uganda’s commitment to ensure these land acquisition and resettlement programmes comply with specific conditions, the majority of human rights violations have occurred under these programmes where many people did not receive fair compensation for the land, others were forcefully evicted, intimidated and were made to sign several documents they did not consent to sign. Land acquisition carried out by Total and its subcontractor Atacama Consulting did not seek to “improve, or restore, the livelihoods and standards of living of displaced persons.” According to friends of the Earth. These procedures violated the right to development and the right to an adequate standard of living of the communities affected.

The consultants of Total and the Atacama consulting intimidated project affected persons and communities. They did agree to provide compensation in kind, they deliberately chose land in areas that were not among the project affected persons stated choices. The affected persons and communities argued that compensation in kind should involve acquiring land suitable for both grazing and for crops, but their requests were not considered. The affected persons and communities also accuse Atacama Consulting of trying to separate families by offering plots of land too small to accommodate a clan or household.

There are increased cases of harassment of the community members and those opposed to the project, people are forced to sign different forms without clear explanation, stamp and sign empty forms, and fill valuation forms using a pencil but sign in ink. People’s properties along the pipeline have been assessed and valued and communities were consequently instructed to cease any activity on the demarcated lands. This prevents them from putting up new developments on their land, including graves, and growing crops. Additionally, compensation for the land has still not been paid and is expected to be postponed until the financial investment decision has been taken. For those who received their payment, it has been inadequate and unfair compared to the values of their lost properties. The delays in paying compensation and the restrictions on using the land have already impacted people’s livelihoods and the continuation of everyday life.

Conversation with on the ground activist monitoring EACOP activities

Communities in the project areas are strongly opposed to the pipeline projects. As in their opinion, they believe that the pipelines may increase environmental harms, loss of lives, and rampant human rights violations, land theft among others.

The EACOP has led to the increased army, and police presence in different locations in the project areas. According to the evidence obtained by the Albertine Watch, there are at least 5000 UPDF armies, Oil and gas protection police, and secret LDU’s stationed in different locations in the Albertine region, particularly in Buliisa (Watembo Barracks), Nkondo, Kikube, and Hoima, some of which including the Oil and gas protection police unit which were established since the Oil exploration activities began in the region. Over 200 armies are stationed in Buliisa (Watembo) in Butiaba alone, and several others are based in the Kikube areas where active Pipeline work has kicked off.

Many human rights defenders are unable to disclose their locations for fear of reprisal, creating a “chilling effect” that discourages defenders from speaking up for the communities they represent in national and international forums. The pending creation of specialized oil and gas police force in Uganda will likely only further complicate this repressive environment

Oxfam, GRA, CRED and NCEE. Empty Promises Down the Line? (September 2020), “Limitations of the HRIA.”

For example, in Hoima and Bulisa districts, women’s livelihoods are being affected. A large portion of women in these districts earns money by cutting grass for thatching people’s houses in the remote areas of Kaisotonya and Sabagoro near the shores of Lake Albert. However, “Security agencies led by security groups and the army guarding oil wells sometimes block communities from frequently accessing the park to pick grass because it is located near the oil wells. People found cutting grass are beaten and chased away from these areas. “Furthermore, whilst government attention was previously focusing on illegal fishing, once this was no longer a dominant focus of concern such illegal activity rose to higher levels, greatly reducing fish stocks in Lake Albert and taking the other main source of income away from the region’s women – fish mongering. This situation has worsened in recent times as the oil production is kicking off and work on pipeline construction is in full gears.

In order to maintain security, both the companies and government have increased security presence in Buliisa and Hoima with more frequent patrol activities around the Oil well pads, refinery construction sites as well as across the Albertine region. There are one new Oil and gas police station and intelligent center in Kikube district were in the past there was no permanent police post. Furthermore, Ugandan police and army vehicles have provided an escort to both Total and CNOOC exploration companies and teams in the region. Oil companies employ private security companies for their works, a practice that has been allegedly linked to human rights abuses to such a severe extent that voluntary principles have been put in place to ensure rights-respectful conduct. As a result of military security operations around Oil projects have led to widespread human rights violations against local communities in the region. The report of the UN Higher Commissioner of Human Rights in Uganda also documents reports of sexual harassment by police and armies in the project areas.

Since serious prospecting work began, the Lake Albert region has seen the influx of military police, and other Ugandan government security personnel. When Heritage began its exploration in the late 1990s, it was well aware of the risk and cooperated closely with UPDF; a local brigade held daily briefings and weekly meetings with drilling teams. In the past, border regions with the DRC have been the staging ground for the insurgency of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group of Islamist and local opposition forces. The strength of the ADF, however, is in steep decline despite the Ugandan government’s stance that it still represents a threat.

Heightened security may, however, have a paradoxical outcome for the oil industry. While the military has always played a large role in Ugandan politics, its increased role is a sign that Museveni’s ability to govern the country through political means is slipping. The personalization of military forces in oil regions underlines this trend. Salim Saleh, the younger brother of Museveni and retired UPDF Lieutenant General, is a partial owner of Saracen Uganda, which provided security inside some of Heritage’s drilling site operations. It spun off from Executive Outcomes, a private security company co-founded by Heritage’s CEO Tony Buckingham. Saracen has a dubious track record in the region and was implicated in the plundering of natural resources in the eastern DRC along with a network that included high-ranking UPDF officers by a 2002 United Nations panel of experts. Museveni’s grip on security in oil areas is bolstered by a US government-funded Special Forces Group of the presidential guard brigade mandated to protect Uganda’s strategic assets, including its oil fields, and led by Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the president’s son.

The increased military presence has brought stricter security and decreased mobility to the Lake Albert region, stirring up social grievances towards the oil industry among the local population. There are fears that grievances over the management of oil revenues and the negative social and economic footprint of the industry in local areas will ‘unleash the genie of civil war and insurgency in Uganda.’ Already, pre-existing conflicts over land and between communities have been exacerbated by oil discoveries

For example, several torture cases and arbitrary detention all connected to the EACOP project in areas of Kabale, Masaka, Buliisa, Kikube among others. In Kabale, police detained and interrogated villagers and others for their opposition to the EACOP project. Furthermore, in Buliisa several youth activists and women were arrested two times for shouting in the village about their dissatisfaction with low or no compensations of their land by Total.

The government has also failed to explain the land compensation process to affected communities and individuals. The process has fostered corruption and profiteering and has consistently involved long delays, during which affected communities wait with no information regarding their land or compensation. Even when affected communities have received compensation, it has been inadequate. They report that they received less than the real value for their land because the measurement did not account for all of their acres or for the value of improvements to the land. The valuation exercise was undertaken by Total sub-contractor Atacama consulting led to crop damage and decreased yields for which the communities especially those in Ngwedu did not receive any compensation. Those families and Individual farmers who have received compensation have never been able to secure new farmland due to the scarcity and expense of farmland in the neighboring areas. These communities and the peoples have lived in the area their entire lives and report that they have no place to relocate should their land be taken without due consideration of their rights to fair compensations.

NGOs that educate and sensitize peoples and communities about oil and gas issues, update them about recent developments, and advise them on how to engage with government and the international oil companies are always targeted.  They are always on a collision course with the authorities who perceived them as enemies of progress because of their ability to mobilize large groups of people to talk about issues that the government-held as sensitive.

Civil society should be given room to operate and monitor the oil and gas sector freely. The ongoing censorship of the activities of NGOs operating in the Albertine Region should be stopped so that they can freely interact with communities there. The government should also heed to calls by civil society to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative34 (EITI) so that Ugandans can easily track financial transactions in the sector.

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