EU Parliament and economic sabotage

Elison Karuhanga

What you need to know:

‘‘They are only interested in conserving poverty, under the guise of speaking on our behalf”

This week, the EU Parliament passed a resolution calling on Uganda and Tanzania to halt our oil project and in particular, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
While the motion and debate were non-binding opinions and nothing more, they succeeded in opening old wounds and igniting a debate about the colonial attitude of some members of the EU Parliament. 
Thankfully, it was the mere expression of a wish from select Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). After all, European Union policy is determined by the European Commission. This is why EU Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira stated the position of the European Commission; she informed the EU Parliament that the EU delegation in Uganda had been following the developments of our oil and gas resources closely and that Uganda had joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa correctly described the motion to Uganda’s Parliament as economic sabotage and economic blackmail. He said no project land can be utilised unless the owners have been fully compensated and any grievances resolved. 
As Mr Tayebwa stated, any challenges will be raised by MPs from project affected areas and, if need be, handled by Parliament of Uganda. Other notable representatives like veteran MP Felix Okot Ogong rejected the EU motion to tell Uganda how to develop our resources.  Kumi Municipality MP Silas Aogon said, “I express my dismay that another parliament somewhere can rise up to take a decision on behalf of our Parliament.”
Our Parliament was absolutely spot on. The attempt to govern Uganda from Brussels is arrogant and totally unacceptable. 
The scope of this problem is not only that some EU parliamentarians believe they have a right to dictate to Uganda what it can and cannot do with its resources, it is the casual and almost fact free nature of the discussion. 

The speeches were terribly low on content and filled with very fictitious or highly exaggerated and/or inflammatory statements that are as far removed from truth as light is from darkness. These MEPs had no reason to present such falsehoods to their August House. They made a trip to Uganda to learn about the project a few months ago and enjoyed some of their summer. 
While here, they met with environmental regulators, Petroleum Authority officials and ministry of Energy officials. They visited the project affected areas. Access to the environmental reports was provided and they could easily have engaged their Ugandan counterparts from the project areas. 
Speech after speech at the EU Parliament debate, they presented fiction. One MEP, Pierre Larrouturour, who met Petroleum Authority of Uganda head of environment, informed the parliament that if EACOP is constructed, “40 million people will have problems accessing water.” 

According to this logic, EACOP is worse than World War II, the Vietnam War and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. MEP Marie Toussaint claimed that EACOP would pollute Lake Albert and put the hippos at risk. My friend Maltee Gallee claimed that EACOP would release 34 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere every year. He made this claim even after TotalEnergies had provided him with the correct facts in a tweet. An hour before his presentation, he was informed that the entire Ugandan oil project (not just the pipeline) would emit a total of 13 million tonnes of carbon over a cumulative 20 year period and not 34 million tonnes per year. 

These MEPs ignored the truth and revealed to us how African matters are discussed in their Parliament. It is clear that these MEPs are not interested in protecting biodiversity, defending people or preserving the environment. They are only interested in conserving poverty, under the guise of speaking on our behalf. 
The writer is an advocate and partner at Kampala Associated Advocates                     [email protected] 

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