Uganda Parliament slams ‘racist’ EU position on oil pipeline

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, chairs the plenary session at Parliament on September 15, 2022. PHOTO/ David Lubowa

What you need to know:

  • MPs say the motion aims at sabotaging Uganda’s economic development. 

Lawmakers led by the Deputy Speaker, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, yesterday condemned Members of European Union Parliament, accusing them of economic sabotage, racism and interference over a motion seeking to block the Shs14 trillion oil pipeline project. 
“This motion seeks to curtail the progress of Uganda’s Oil and Gas developments and by extension, the country’s socio-econmic growth and development….the resolution represents the highest level of neo-colonialism and imperialism against the sovereignty of Uganda and Tanzania,” Mr Tayebwa’ s statement reads.    

The EU Parliament voted on a motion for a resolution to stop the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), citing human rights violations and the negative environmental effects of the project both in Uganda and Tanzania. 
 Mr Tayebwa said the motion is based on misinformation and deliberate misrepresentation of facts on environment and human rights protection aimed at sabotaging Uganda’s economic development.

The  EU Parliamentarians advised member countries not to render any diplomatic and financial support to Uganda-Tanzania oil pipeline project. 
 In a statement backed by lawmakers, the Deputy Speaker talked of “economic racism” targeting developing countries  and described the EU motion as a direct attack on not only the sovereignty of Parliament, but the whole country. 
 “Uganda is a developing country, and a sovereign state that has its unique development needs and priorities.  I, therefore, call upon the European Union Parliament to withdraw the motion for a resolution that is against the UN Charter that provides for Uganda’s right to self-determination and sovereignty over its natural resources,” Mr Tayebwa said. 

He added: “These are individual MPs abusing their authority.  You want to say we did not do a good job here? That they have more information about our resources than we do? This is just a scare of seeing an African country going to progress, and you would no longer be begging every day. You can question anything but issues of economic sabotage and blackmail.”
 The EACOP is a 1,445 kilometer pipeline that will transport crude oil from the Albertine Graben to the coast and the international market. 

 Government is relying on the more than six billion barrels of the resource to move the country to middle income status, provide jobs, among other benefits. More than Shs14 trillion is expected to be invested in the pipeline works alone.
 Mr Tayebwa said the premise on climate change as advanced by the European legislators is disproportionately applied to Africa, yet member states of the EU continue to explore and use fossil fuels, including plans for future drilling. 

 “It is imprudent to say that Uganda’s oil projects will exacerbate climate change, yet it is a fact that the EU block with only 10 percent of the world’s population is responsible for 25 percent of global emissions, and Africa with 20 percent of the world’s population is responsible for 3 percent of emissions. The EU and other western countries are historically responsible for climate change. Who then should stop or slow down the development of natural resources? Certainly not Africa or Uganda,” Mr Tayebwa said.

 He added: “Fifty-three licences have recently been issued in the North Sea and Germany has revived its coal plants.  In addition, western countries are seeking to import gas from African countries.  All this is in a bid to ensure energy security in their respective states. Is energy security a preserve for only the European Union? Does Uganda not have the same right?”
 In the statement, he also dismisses claims of non-compensation of Project Affected Persons, saying more than 70 percent have been cleared. 

MPs say
 The Tororo Woman MP, Ms Sarah Opendi, said considering the position of the EU as a prominent development partner, the Executive needs to engage the body for continued smooth diplomatic engagements. 
 Mr Asuman Basalirwa, the Bugiri MP, added: “Do they perhaps have information we do not have? Do they know something they do not?”

 Mr Felix Okot Ogong, Uganda’s representative to the Pan African Parliament, said: “Billions of dollars are siphoned from Africa in form of raw materials and as you try to add value, they interfere. The Pan African Parliament has resolved no one should dictate what we do with our resources. Our government should stand firm as a sovereign state,”
 Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala County MP, said this is an agenda by western countries to keep Africa impoverished. He called for prudent management of the resources if the country is to gain economic independence. 
 The state minister for regional affairs, Mr John Mulimba, said the Executive will study the resolution and report back to the House. 
 

Statement on EU resolution

Honourable Members, you will recall that the European Parliament passed a resolution on the Uganda’s oil and gas Projects (Tilenga, Kingfisher & East African Crude Oil Pipeline(Eacop)) and I wish to respond as follows:
A European Union Parliament Motion for a Resolution (2022/2826(RSP) was brought to the attention of my office, wherein the EU Parliament advises the governments of Uganda and Tanzania not to develop the above listed oil and gas projects. The same motion equally advises EU membership not to render any diplomatic, financial, or other support to our oil and gas projects. The motion seems premised on allegations of potential environmental impacts, human rights abuses and climate change targets. I believe formal communication of this motion by the European Parliament will be made and a formal response will be made. I will, however, make the following comments, at this time:
 
1.  The Parliament of Uganda condemns the motion for a resolution by the EU Parliament that calls on Uganda and Tanzania to stop the development of the oil and gas projects in the East African region. The resolution is based on misinformation and deliberate misrepresentation of key facts on environment and human rights protection. It represents the highest level on neo-colonialism and imperialism against the sovereignty of Uganda and Tanzania.
 
2.         This motion seeks to curtail the progress of Uganda’s oil and gas developments and by extension, the country’s socio-economic growth and development. It also seeks to deny Ugandans and East Africans the benefits and opportunities from the oil and gas sector. This represents the highest form of Economic Racism against developing countries, given that:
 
a)         Various member states in the European Union continue exploring, developing, and have increased the production and use of fossil fuels in recent months. 
 
b)         There are more than 9,000 oil and gas production licences in USA, including plans to drill in Alaska and the Arctic Sea. 53 licences have recently been issued in the North Sea and Germany has revived its coal plants.  In addition, western countries are seeking to import gas from African countries.  All this is in a bid to ensure energy security in their respective states. Is energy security a preserve for only the European Union? Does Uganda not have the same right?
 
c)         The propaganda largely targets the 1,445 kilometre East African Crude Oil Pipeline, which will run for 296 kilometres in Uganda. The EACOP represents less than 0.1 percent of the operational global pipeline network of 1.18 million kilometres.
 
d)         It is imprudent to say Uganda’s oil projects will exacerbate climate change, yet it is a fact that the EU block with only 10 percent of the world’s population is responsible for 25 percent of global emissions, and Africa with 20 percent of the world’s population is responsible for 3 percent of emissions. The EU and other western countries are historically responsible for climate change. Who then should stop or slow down on development of natural resources? Certainly not Africa or Uganda.
 
e)         More than 70 percent of the persons affected by land acquisition for the projects have been compensated or resettled and are undergoing livelihood improvement projects in agriculture, financial literacy, vocational skills, among others. Efforts to fully compensate all project affected persons are ongoing, with cooperation from the local communities and leaders. Land is not utilised by the projects before the compensation processes are concluded, and any related grievances are addressed through a participatory process.
 
3.         Colleagues, we are all aware that our country has been gifted with sizeable oil and gas resources that are already generating and creating value for our people in terms of employment, provision of services and goods, technical and other skilling. These resources will also generate significant revenue for the state, support petro-chemical industrialisation and the development of other sectors of the economy such as agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, health, among others.  Also, aware that this House has approved significant investment in oil roads and other infrastructure to support the development, it is pertinent that as we have done in the past, we address efforts that aim at frustrating the sovereign right to exploit our resources. 
 
4.         Like many African countries, Uganda is a developing country, and a sovereign state that has its unique development needs and priorities.  I, therefore, call upon the European Union Parliament to withdraw the motion for a resolution that is against the UN Charter that provides for Uganda’s right to self-determination and sovereignty over its natural resources. This House and through responsible Committees will continue providing oversight to the oil and gas sector. As such, there is no justifiable basis for the EU Parliament or any other institution to recommend that we leave our resources in the ground on these reasons.
 Thank you!
 
RT HON THOMAS TAYEBWA, DEPUTY SPEAKER

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