Uganda: Growing number of human rights defenders harassed after monitoring East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline, CSOs report
"Growing number of human rights defenders harassed after monitoring Uganda’s oil pipeline project" 6 March 2023
Recently the Ugandan government approved the construction permit for the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which will allow a future export of 246,000 barrels of oil per day. The consortium behind the project is now seeking additional financing. Meanwhile, there is growing harassment of civic actors monitoring development of the EACOP. Defenders are being subject to government surveillance, cancellation of their operation permits, frozen bank accounts, repeated arrests and abuse. [...]
Civic actors in Uganda are assisting affected communities to assert their rights in the face of involuntary resettlement and loss of livelihoods. However, they are facing increasing criminalization from the national government. Based on confidential interviews, civic actors told Just Finance International that they are encountering threats from both the police, subsidiaries of the EACOP consortium and state agencies in Uganda.
Representatives from 20 Ugandan civil society organizations, all working with EACOP affected communities, have reported office break-ins, stolen computers and cell phones, surveillance of staff, threats to freeze bank accounts, digital surveillance and attempts to hack emails and organization websites. Some of the organizations have even been “exposed” in state-controlled media in an effort to harm their reputation.
These NGOs reported that over 30 human rights and environmental defenders have been arrested by the Ugandan police in the past year for campaigning to stop EACOP for providing economic or legal advice to affected communities. In many cases, defenders have been held in custody for more than 48 hours longer than legally allowed before being released. Defenders have also been detained outside the legally allowed locations and have been unable to communicate with relatives or their organizations. In some cases, they have been physically injured, according to civil society representatives.
Several organizations have raised concerns that reprisals may discourage human rights defenders from carrying out their activities. [...]