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6 Feb 2024

Nina Lakhani, The Guardian

Uganda: Students climate activists face 'arbitrary' prison sentence for protesting against the EACOP

" Ugandan climate activists face charges after a month in maximum security jail" 6 February 2024

Eleven Ugandan climate activists who were allegedly beaten and held arbitrarily in a notorious maximum security prison will appear in court on Wednesday charged with a colonial era anti-dissident offense, as reprisals continue against opponents of an internationally bankrolled oil pipeline.

If convicted, the 11 activists, all university students, face up to a year in jail. Four of them – Nicholas Lutabi, Jacob Lubega, Shafik Kalyango and Abdul Aziz Bwete – were allegedly arrested and beaten by police armed with guns, teargas and batons as they marched peacefully towards parliament in the capital city, Kampala, on 15 December.

They were targeted after becoming separated from a larger protest calling on the Uganda government to stop construction of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop), a $5bn fossil-fuel project backed by the French conglomerate TotalEnergies and a Chinese national oil company, as well as the governments of Uganda and Tanzania. The climate activists said they were forced into an unmarked building within the parliament entrance, where the police officers repeatedly kicked, punched and beat them with heavy objects. It is the same place and same abusive treatment reported by at least two dozen anti-pipeline activists over the past two years. [...]

A spokesman for the Ugandan government said he knew nothing of the arrests and insisted it was a police matter. The police did not respond to a request for comment. TotalEnergies did not respond either, but it has previously categorically denied any knowledge or involvement in the crackdown and intimidation of peaceful protesters or other pipeline opponents.