Activists Confront Uganda Over Oil Pipeline Financed By China


By Lisa Vives

As the world tightens its belt to use less dirty oil and more solar and other clean energies, one country on the African continent is moving full speed ahead in the opposite direction. 

Uganda recently signed on to one of the largest fossil fuel infrastructure projects under construction anywhere in the world; the planned oil pipeline has already devastated thousands of people’s livelihoods and will worsen the global climate crisis, said the NY-based Human Rights Watch in a new report.

When completed in 2025, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project will have hundreds of miles of roads, camps and other infrastructure, and a 900-mile pipeline connecting oilfields in western Uganda to Tanzania.

Uganda’s support for the pipeline has angered environmental activists who point to the number of families displaced, wildlife habitats—home to vulnerable species such as elephants and chimpanzees—threatened, and carbon emissions increased as part of ongoing construction.

These considerations have led to several Western banks pulling out of investing in the more than 870 miles of the so-called EACOP pipeline, but concern is growing over news this week that Chinese financiers Sinosure and the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China could be throwing their weight behind the project instead.

“China has maintained that they’re a friend of Africa, as such they must reconsider EACOP and invest in clean energy instead of fossil fuels,” said Diana Nabiruma, a spokesperson for the African Institute for Energy Governance in Uganda in an interview with Voice of America. “We urge China to stand on the right side of history by rejecting EACOP and funding Africa’s renewable future.”

The project has a debt-equity ratio of 40:60, meaning more than half the costs need to be secured as debt.

Irene Batebe, with Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, took issue with the activists, saying that Kampala is in advanced talks with the Chinese financiers to provide credit for the pipeline.

“We are confident, by the end of October of this year, we should close the debt component,” she told Reuters, adding that Sinosure would be “one of the biggest” contributors to the debt, without giving the exact amount they would be providing. 

While Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged in 2021 to build more clean energy projects, he is still reportedly working hard on securing oil and coal flows into China itself to make sure the world’s second-largest economy is energy secure.

Samuel Okulony, director of Uganda’s Environment Governance Institute, which is also part of the #StopEACOP campaign, told Voice of America that new funding from Chinese financiers would raise questions about Xi’s green pledges.

“This is the double-speak that we condemn,” he said. “We’re tired of leaders using newspapers and big platforms to make promises that are meant to hoodwink the public but have no plans to act on them.”


IDN-InDepthNews offers news analyses and viewpoints on topics that impact the world and its peoples. IDN-InDepthNews serves as the flagship of the International Press Syndicate Group

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