Kampala, Uganda — The StopEACOP Coalition celebrates news that charges have been dropped against nine courageous Ugandan students and youth activists who faced arrest and have been in and out of court for over a year simply for exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest the controversial East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
In October 2022, these students held a nonviolent demonstration supporting the EU Parliament’s resolution, raising concerns about EACOP’s human rights abuses and environmental destruction. Their unwavering commitment despite facing criminalization shows the power of peaceful resistance.
Nonetheless, their release occurs within a growing clampdown on environmental defenders in Uganda. A recent report by Human Rights Watch extensively documents the severe crackdown that activists confront when raising questions about the EACOP, marked by arbitrary arrests and an oppressive atmosphere of dissent perpetuated by the Ugandan government supporting the contentious pipeline. This HRW report aligns with multiple communications from the UN Special Rapporteur expressing concerns regarding human rights violations associated with the project.
Despite being repeatedly alerted about the harassment and criminalization of environmental defenders raising their voices against EACOP, and despite its legal duty to prevent human rights violations associated with its activities, Total is stubbornly going ahead with this oil project.
This worrying trend violates basic democratic freedoms and demands action. Ugandans have a right to express their opinion on the kind of development they want under their constitution, and asking for an alternative to the controversial EACOP pipeline is not criminal.
These students’ unwavering commitment, despite intimidation, shows the power of nonviolent resistance. They represent the hope and resilience of a generation committed to a sustainable Uganda that invests in its people, not fossil fuel pipelines that fuel the climate crisis. Their release proves the power of solidarity to overcome repression.
We applaud these courageous young activists, but our mission is far from over. The charges were an effort to silence critics of the pipeline. We urge all stakeholders, especially banks and insurance companies considering funding this project, to withdraw their support due to the significant risks involved and the harm it poses to people, nature, and the environment. The world is paying attention, and our voices will not be silenced