Blame govt, not Bobi Wine, for Europeans’ concerns over EACOP

Author: Musaazi Namiti. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • We do not even know that proceeds from our oil will not be looted.   

Bobi Wine, like President Museveni, is supported by Ugandans who view him as their leader. They love him. Some have been maimed, even killed, by security forces because of their support for him. He may be leading a mere Opposition political party, the National Unity Platform, not a country, but people who support him and have had their rights violated expect him to fight for them, to leap to their defence when they are in trouble. 

When the European Parliament adopted a resolution voicing concern over “human rights violations” in Uganda and Tanzania linked to investments in oil projects, including the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), Bobi Wine, aka Robert Kyagulanyi, appeared to side with members of the European Parliament. The government is not happy about this. 

But Bobi Wine is not responsible for “wrongful imprisonment of human rights defenders, the arbitrary suspension of NGOs, arbitrary prison sentences and the eviction of hundreds of people from their land without fair and adequate compensation” — concerns raised by MPs in their resolution. The resolution does not even say that the EACOP project — in which $10b is to be invested — should be halted altogether. It urges TotalEnergies, one of the companies that will be involved in oil drilling, to take a year before launching the project to study the feasibility of an alternative route. That route, the resolution noted, can help “safeguard protected and sensitive ecosystems and the water resources of Uganda and Tanzania”. 

It is the responsibility of the governments of Uganda and Tanzania to talk to the European Parliament and make a compelling case for their project. They should allay the MPs’ concerns by providing incontrovertible evidence that everything is as it should be and that whatever the European Parliament has expressed concerns about is groundless. But is this really the case? Let us deal with reality. The saddest moment for any parent is to lose their child. There is irrefutable evidence of parents who have lost their children, killed by security forces trying to stop protests over rotten leadership. Some of those children were supporters of the party Bobi Wine leads.

Those children are going to be dead for trillions of years. Their parents will never see them. Meanwhile, people responsible for these gross human rights violations sit in their living rooms and play/joke with their children/grandchildren. We have seen photos of daughters of our leaders celebrating decades in marriage — or being married off. Where is fairness? Where is justice? Why criminalise political support? Why should Bobi Wine stay silent?

Bobi Wine’s Facebook page has plenty of evidence of NUP supporters he says have been abducted and held incommunicado. Some have not been seen for years. In July, the head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Ross, met with President Museveni and raised serious concerns about gross human rights violations in Uganda. And a writer named Kakwenza Rukirabashaija had to go into exile after being brutally tortured by security forces over his views. 

While we agree that oil in Uganda belongs to Uganda and is a public asset from which all Ugandans should benefit, we do not even know that proceeds from our oil will not be looted given the corruption, incompetence and mismanagement we have had to deal with for decades.

Uganda Airlines is a case in point. Before it was liquidated in 2001, it was the prize example of how not to run an airline. It was revived in 2019, and we have already been treated to shocking stories of mismanagement. Even a kiosk can be managed better.

Mr Musaazi Namiti is a journalist and former Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk
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