Oct 4, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Museveni and Samia need to call the dogs off Eacop project

After several false starts that resulted in a delay of over 10 years, the Uganda-Tanzania pipeline (formerly East African Crude Oil Pipeline – Eacop) got underway after the project’s partners announced the final investment decision earlier this year By the end of 2025, they all said, the 1,444-kilometer pipeline would deliver crude oil to the port of Tanga in Tanzania. It still looks likely, but trouble is brewing in Eacop paradise.

The global campaign against Eacop by activists who say it is a monstrosity in a world threatened by climate change where fossil fuels frowned upon as devil’s liquid, and that it would displace millions of people and destroy nature reserves, has picked up steam.

Earlier in the week it was widely reported that Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest lender, was getting cold feet and pulling out got Eacop finance. Deutsche Bank has joined 15 banks that have pledged not to fund the pipeline.

French energy giant TotalEnergies, which is developing the pipeline with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), has pledged committed to taking action to reduce the environmental and human impacts of the project, but environmental activists don’t believe it.

The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, is aware of the risks, a gentleman who is not a big fan of Western media, or freedom of the press, published an article in the UK Telegraph arguing for the pipeline. Museveni was unusually moderate in his tone and argument, arguing that fossil fuels have a role to play in the green energy transition and rightly pointing out the problems that still plague clean fuel sources such as solar and wind.

But he has an East African and democratic problem. One of the most powerful voices against the pipeline is Omar Elmawi, Stop Eacop coordinator. Elmawi is Kenyan and lives and works in a more democratic country than Uganda, where by now he would have been forcibly silenced or jailed.

Moreover, these environmentally sensitive times require a type of leadership that Kampala has proven to be remarkable Proved incompetent.

Around the world, there is a strong connection between green activists and activists around the wide range of other rights and freedoms. Unless you’re Saudi Arabia, it’s going to be difficult to show up back home with the blood of democracy activists and opposition on your hands while you’re looking for money partly made in or from institutions in democracies to invest back home .

In fact, even Saudi Arabia can get away with it because it is making great efforts towards clean energy. It’s even building a new city, Neom, a green metropolis built in a straight line for 100 miles without cars.

Uganda and Tanzania must strike a green bargain to pave Eacop’s path. At 1,444 kilometers, it’s probably a bit anachronistic today, and so it needs some really great counter-narrative and action to appease its enemies.

If the two countries would offer and start, say, a billion trees or a mega-project to clean up polluted Lake Victoria, they could strengthen their hands. However, quick success would be to take the dogs away from the opposition.

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu has already brought several dogs back to the kennels. Museveni might at least cancel a few puppies.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer and curator of the Wall of Great Africans. [emailprotected]