By RODNEY MUHUMUZA, Associated Press
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda’s leader warned Friday that his government could “find someone else to work with” as French partner TotalEnergies faced mounting pressure to pull out of a partnership to construct a pipeline opposed by climate activists.
The comments by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni followed a resolution by the European Union’s Parliament urging the international community “to exert maximum pressure on Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities, as well as the project promoters and stakeholders,” to stop oil activities around Lake Albert.
That resolution cited human rights concerns centered around fair compensation for affected communities as well as environmental fears. More than 120,000 people will lose land to make way for the oil project, according to an evaluation by the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
The 897-mile (1,443-kilometer) East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline, planned by TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, is increasingly in trouble as activists, charging that it violates the spirit of the Paris climate accord, try to starve it of funds by petitioning banks and insurers.
But in Uganda, an East African country whose authorities see the pipeline as key to economic development, opposition to the project has sparked indignation. Ugandan authorities say oil wealth can lift millions out of poverty and that stopping the pipeline now would be detrimental to the country’s interests.
The national assembly issued a statement Thursday asserting Uganda’s sovereignty and condemning the EU parliament’s resolution.
Museveni said TotalEnergies had assured him that the pipeline — which would link oil fields in western Uganda to the Indian Ocean port of Tanga in Tanzania — would proceed but warned on Twitter that “if they choose to listen to the EU Parliament, we shall find someone else to work with.”
“Either way, we shall have our oil coming out by 2025 as planned. So the people of Uganda should not worry,” he said.
Uganda is estimated to have recoverable oil reserves of at least 1.4 billion barrels. The China National Offshore Oil Corporation and TotalEnergies said in February that the total investment would be more than $10 billion.
Oil wells will also be drilled within western Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park. Here the Nile plummets 130 feet (40 meters) through a gap just 20 feet (6 meters) wide and the surrounding wilderness is home to hippos, egrets, giraffes and antelope. The pipeline would then pass through seven forest reserves and two game parks, running alongside Lake Victoria, a source of fresh water for 40 million people.
That ecological fragility is one reason why some activists oppose the project despite assurances from TotalEnergies that the pipeline’s state-of-the-art-design will ensure safety for decades.
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