Uganda human rights defender detained by military forces for opposing a crude oil pipeline project News
Uganda human rights defender detained by military forces for opposing a crude oil pipeline project

Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) arrested Ugandan environmental activist Stephen Kwikiriza in Kampala under “alarming circumstances,” according to a press release published on Wednesday by the group the Environment Governance Institute (EGI).

Stephen Kwikiriza is an environmental activist and a human rights defender who works with the non-governmental organization EGI. He is from the Kingfisher project area and has been campaigning against developing the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop).

According to the published statement, UPDF’s officers dressed in plain clothes arrested the activist on the morning of June 4 while he went into town. He later sent a text message to his colleague from EGI, confirming his detention by the country’s military without giving any further details on the reasons behind this arrest. Kwikiriza’s phone numbers went offline, and all communications with him were lost.

Furthermore, the EGI stated that Stephen Kwikiriza’s location, current conditions, and the charges against him were not yet known, more than 24 hours after a legal team’s efforts to locate him by visiting military and police detention centers.
The EGI additionally pointed out in its statement that the detained human rights defender has been living in a safe place in an “undisclosed location” since March because of alleged UPDF threats.

The EGI and the movement Stop EACOP condemned Stephen Kwikiriza’s detention. Stop EACOP described it as an “abduction” that is part of a series of “intimidations and arrests” of environmental activists protesting against the EACOP project and its harmful effects on local communities and wildlife. These effects include the loss of land, environmental degradation, and human rights violations.
The EGI demanded an official and comprehensive investigation of Stephen Kwikiriza’s detention and asked Ugandan authorities to ensure Kwikiriza’s safe return home. At the same time, the Stop EACOP alliance urged authorities to immediately release the activist.

The EACOP is a controversial project that will build a pipeline buried over 1000 kilometers, stretching from western Uganda to the eastern coast of Tanzania, where the oil will be sold to the international market. This project is operated by the company Total Energies in partnership with the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) and the governments of Uganda and Tanzania. The pipeline project’s implementation has sparked protests violently suppressed by local authorities. Earlier this year, 11 university students faced an imprisonment sentence for protesting against the pipeline project.