Activists demonstrating against a $4 billion oil pipeline in Uganda have been threatened and detained as non-governmental organizations in the country are scrutinized, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
Civil society and environmental groups have opposed the TotalEnergies SE-led East African Crude Oil Pipeline over displacement, pollution and other risks to residents. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has backed the project, which has also been criticized by politicians in the European Union because of human rights and environmental concerns.
“Human rights defenders including civil society organizations raising concerns and providing support to affected communities about the oil projects describe being subjected to a steady barrage of harassment, arrests, and threats in Uganda,” Felix Horne, a senior HRW researcher, wrote in the report.
TotalEnergies, in a response to HRW about the report, outlined steps it’s taken to monitor protests and said it doesn’t tolerate any attack or threats against those who lawfully promote human rights in relation to its activities. “To ensure that the government security forces equally respect these rights, the companies have maintained regular engagement with them,” Total said, according to a copy of the letter it provided to Bloomberg.
Phone calls to Uganda’s information minister went unanswered.
There have been at least 30 arrests since October 2021 of people protesting or criticizing the pipeline and the associated oil developments, HRW said. The suspension of 54 non-governmental organizations, due to non-compliance with a law that regulates them, included some working on the oil sector, according to the group.
Those detained include four students who participated in a protest at the Ugandan parliament on Sept. 15 and were charged with common nuisance.