Museveni and Samia must put a halt to the Eacop initiative.
When multiple false starts and more than a decade of delay, the Uganda-Tanzania pipeline (officially the East African Crude Oil Pipeline – Eacop) gained launched early this year after the project partners made the final investment decision.
They all agreed that by the end of 2025, the 1,444-kilometer-long pipeline would start carrying crude oil to the Tanzanian port of Tanga. That remains a possibility, but the danger is building in Eacop paradise.
The worldwide movement against Eacop has gained traction, with campaigners claiming that it is an abomination in a world threatened by climate change, where fossil fuel is seen as the devil’s liquid, and that it will displace millions of people and destroy natural reserves.
Early this week, it was widely reported that Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest lender, had changed its mind and dropped out of funding Eacop. Deutsche Bank is one of 15 banks that have agreed not to fund the pipeline.
TotalEnergies, the French energy company that is building the pipeline alongside China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), has committed to take efforts to reduce the project’s environmental and human effect, but environmental activists are skeptical.
Aware of the dangers, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who isn’t a lover of Western media or press freedom, penned an article in the UK’s Telegraph arguing for the pipeline.
Museveni, in an unusually reasonable tone and reasoning, asserted that fossil fuels had a role to play in the transition to green energy, and accurately pointed out the challenges that currently beset clean fuel alternatives like solar and wind.
He does, however, have an East African and democratic issue. Omar Elmawi, organizer of Stop Eacop, is one of the most successful opponents of the pipeline. Elmawi is Kenyan, and he lives and works in a more democratic country than Uganda, where he would have been brutally silenced or imprisoned by now.
Furthermore, in these ecologically sensitive times, Kampala has shown a remarkable lack of leadership.
Globally, there is a strong link between environmental activists and advocates for a broad variety of other rights and liberties. Unless you are Saudi Arabia, it is becoming more impossible to turn up with the blood of democracy advocates and opposition activists on your hands while searching for money earned in or by institutions in democracies to invest at home.
In reality, Saudi Arabia is able to get away with it because it is focusing heavily on renewable energy. It is also constructing a new city, Neom, a green metropolis that will stretch for 160 kilometers without any automobiles.
To ease Eacop’s road, Uganda and Tanzania must make a green deal. It is undoubtedly a touch outdated now, at 1,444 kilometers, and hence requires a very large counter-narrative and action to appease its detractors.
If the two nations pledged to plant, say, one billion trees or embarked on a massive effort to clean up filthy Lake Victoria, they could strengthen their hands. A speedy victory, on the other hand, would be to call the dogs off the enemy.
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu has already returned some canines to their kennels. Museveni should call off at least a couple pups.
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