Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni announced on 16 September that the Lake Albert oil megaproject, planned with the French group TotalEnergies, would go ahead despite a European Parliament resolution criticising "human rights violations" against opponents.
The project “will continue as stipulated in the contract we have with TotalEnergies and CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation),” Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said on Twitter. “TotalEnergies has convinced me on the pipeline idea; if they choose to listen to the European Parliament, we will find another partner to work with,” he added. “In any case, our oil will be extracted in 2025 as planned. So the people of Uganda need not worry,” he said. Museveni has praised the project in the past, citing the economic benefits to the country.
Earlier in the day, the Ugandan Parliament had strongly denounced the resolution adopted the day before – on 15 September – by MEPs criticising the mega-project. “These are projects that have been approved by the Parliament of Uganda, the parliament of a sovereign country, and anything that goes against it is an affront to the independence of this chamber and we cannot take it lightly,” said Thomas Tayebwa, the Parliament’s deputy speaker, in a statement.
Feasibility of an alternative route?
TotalEnergies announced in February a $10bn investment deal – which would involve constructing a pipeline of over 1,400km linking the Lake Albert fields in western Uganda to the Tanzanian coast – with Uganda, Tanzania and CNOOC.
In a non-binding resolution, the European Parliament said it was “extremely concerned about human rights violations” in both countries, citing “arrests, intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations”.
Estimating that more than 100,000 people are likely to be displaced along the pipeline route, MEPs called for “adequate compensation for those displaced”. In addition, the European Parliament has asked TotalEnergies to delay the project by one year in order to study “the feasibility of an alternative route that better protects Uganda and Tanzania’s protected and sensitive ecosystems and water resources”.
‘A strong political signal’
Juliette Renaud, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, said the resolution sent “a strong political signal against Total’s Tilenga and Eacop projects, whose human, environmental and climate costs are undeniable and simply unacceptable”. On 15 September, TotalEnergies said it was doing “everything possible to make this an exemplary project in terms of transparency, shared prosperity, economic and social progress, sustainable development, environmental awareness and respect for human rights”.
Under the waters and on Lake Albert’s shores, a 160km natural barrier separating Uganda from DRC, lies the equivalent of 6.5 billion barrels of crude oil, of which about 1.4 billion barrels could currently be recovered. Uganda’s reserves can last between 25 and 30 years with a peak production estimated at 230,000 barrels per day.