By RODNEY MUHUMUZA, Associated Press
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The Ugandan leader warned Friday that his government may “find someone else to work with” as French partner TotalEnergies faces growing pressure to pull out of a partnership for pipeline construction opposed by climate activists.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s remarks followed a resolution by the European Union Parliament urging the international community “to exert maximum pressure on the Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities, as well as on the developers and stakeholders of the project”, to stop oil activities around Lake Albert.
This resolution cited human rights concerns centering on fair compensation for affected communities as well as environmental fears. More than 120,000 people will lose land to make way for the oil project, according to an assessment by environmental group Friends of the Earth.
The 897-mile (1,443-kilometer) East African crude oil pipeline, planned by TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, is increasingly in trouble as activists, accusing it violates the spirit of the Paris climate accord, are trying to deprive it of funds by plaintiff banks and insurers.
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But in Uganda, an East African country whose authorities see the pipeline as key to economic development, opposition to the project has sparked outrage. Ugandan officials say oil wealth can lift millions of people out of poverty and that stopping the pipeline immediately would be detrimental to the country’s interests.
The National Assembly on Thursday issued a statement affirming Uganda’s sovereignty and condemning the European Parliament’s resolution.
Museveni said TotalEnergies had assured him the pipeline – which would link the oil fields of western Uganda to the Indian Ocean port of Tanga in Tanzania – would go ahead, but warned on Twitter that “ if they choose to listen to the European Parliament, we will find someone else to work with.
“Anyway, we will have our oil coming out by 2025 as planned. So the people of Uganda should not worry,” he said.
Uganda is estimated to have recoverable oil reserves of at least 1.4 billion barrels. The China National Offshore Oil Corporation and TotalEnergies said in February that the total investment would be more than $10 billion.
Oil wells will also be drilled in Murchison Falls National Park in western Uganda. Here the Nile plunges 130 feet (40 meters) through a gap just 20 feet (6 meters) wide and the surrounding wilderness is home to hippos, egrets, giraffes and antelopes. The pipeline would then cross seven forest reserves and two game parks, skirting Lake Victoria, a source of fresh water for 40 million people.
This ecological fragility is one reason some activists oppose the project despite assurances from TotalEnergies that the pipeline’s state-of-the-art design will ensure safety for decades.
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