Home Environment Human rights activists condemn arrest of Eacop protesters in Kampala

Human rights activists condemn arrest of Eacop protesters in Kampala

Activists protesting against Eacop in Kampala recently
Activists protesting against Eacop in Kampala recently

Members of the StopEACOP campaign, together with human rights advocates, have condemned the arrest and detention of four Ugandan activists who were protesting against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop).

Climate activists Bob Barigye, Zarika Mutesi, Shamim Naruwada and Phionah Nalusiba were on July 11 held in police custody at the Kampala Central Police Station for one night.

“Our colleague Bob and three women are once again in danger because the people who hurt the environment and destroy communities will do anything to keep making profits. Arrests and threats against activists will not stop us from fighting for Mother Nature. We want the activists to be set free without any conditions, since there is no case against them. The government of Uganda must respect the right to protest,” said Brian Atuheire, director of Africa Initiative on Food Security and Environment (AIFE Uganda).

350.org, a global grassroots climate change advocacy nonprofit, said in a statement that the arrest and detention of these individuals violate their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

The four activists have since been charged with inciting violence, yet the information in the public domain, including videos and pictures, shows the police violently arresting people who were peaceful in their protest, according to 350.org.

The Eacop project, which has raised environmental and social concerns among green energy campaigners, has sparked widespread debate and resistance among frontline communities in Uganda, hence the demonstration yesterday.

As the world faces the urgent need to address climate change and transition to renewable energy sources, it is essential to re-evaluate the pursuit of new fossil fuel projects, 350.org said.

“We call upon the government of Uganda and Tanzania as well as the project proponents, TotalEnergies, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and financial institutions that are thinking of providing financing or insurance to this controversial project to reconsider for the sake of the frontline communities already suffering the negative impacts of this project and prioritise sustainable development by shifting their focus towards renewable energy alternatives, which can provide long-term benefits for both the environment and local communities,” 350.org said in a statement.

This comes barely two weeks after Sharif Bagiire, another Ugandan climate activist, was arrested after he took part in a protest with a number of students who had organised themselves to oppose the controversial Eacop project.

“The arrests of these activists are a clear attempt to silence dissent and suppress opposition to the EACOP. We call upon the international community and civil society organisations to join us in condemning these arrests and demanding justice for those detained,” said Zaki Mamdoo, StopEACOP campaign coordinator.

Samuel Okulony, Director of Environment Governance Institute Uganda, said that it’s not a crime to voice opposition to the controversial EACOP project or to advocate for the government and project proponents to explore alternative, sustainable solutions.

“Peaceful protest and dialogue are fundamental pillars of a democratic society, and these rights must be protected and upheld,” he said.

Charity Migwi, Africa Regional Campaigner at 350.org, condemned what she termed the continued intimidation and arrests of activists protesting against the Eacop project, arguing that the activists were only “exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest against a project that they believe will have devastating consequences for the environment and the people of Uganda and beyond. The Ugandan government should immediately release the arrested activists and drop all charges against them.”

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