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"Nsubuga", Farmer

This is where  the pipeline will pass.I am very worried because it is so close to my house and I don’t know what will happen.


All along the route of the planned East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), the echoes of communities voicing the same concerns. If built, the 1,443 kilometer pipeline would link the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil fields in western Uganda to the Tanzanian coast.

Diana Nabiruma, Africa Institute of Energy Governance

There is a lot of resistance against the EACOP because the Tilenga, Kingfisher, and EACOP oil projects are bad for people, are bad for nature, and are bad for climate change.

Maxwell Atuhura, Environmental Activist

I object the pipeline because it has displaced thousands and thousands of people without enabling them to regain their land elsewhere.


TotalEnergies and the Chinese company CNOOC acquired the rights to develop

the oil fields along with Ugandan and Tanzanian companies. Uganda has considerable renewable energy potential. It doesn’t need the pipeline.

"Nsubuga", Farmer

There were trees all over here but they were cut and the government isn’t saying

anything about this.


Like some 90% of farmers, Nsubuga accepted money in exchange for a plot of his land,but he described a process that was lengthy and confusing and many promises, including some assistance with the school fees, unkept.

"Nsubuga", Farmer

Over the years, the same coffee  plants our grandparents had farmed helped pay the children school fees throughout the school year,but now this is not the case anymore and the children’s school fees are always going up.


Problems around the relocation of the families’ graves, caused more resentment towards

TotalEnergies.The compensation offered at the time wasn’t always enough for the

traditional rituals to be conducted.

Not far from here, Lubega is one of the few farmers who refused compensation

from TotalEnergies.

"Lubega", Farmer

The first time they came they told us that a mature coffee tree will be valued at 33,000 Ugandan shillings (US$9). We told them that it takes a lot of  time to grow coffee until it’s this big.You have to dig the pit, buy the seedlings, plant the coffee, so their valuation was unfair.

That’s why I first refused to sign the contract. I don’t think the forms they brought were clear.

I didn’t notice certain words, couldn’t read them. A lot was not clear.


TotalEnergies promised farmers would not be worse off but those leaving their land have not

been fairly compensated. The money received didn’t allow  them to purchase land as fertile or as big in the same area. 100,000 people across Uganda and Tanzania will lose their land and livelihoods.

Maxwell Atuhura, Environmental Activist

People were dependent on their land for survival, schooling their children, medication and all sorts of income in their home. They lost it. And it was long-term, the families

grew up being supported by that land. But one project is coming and

taking it in just a few hours!


In a response to Human Rights Watch reporting about inadequate compensation, TotalEnergies said they continue to pay close attentionto respecting the rights of communities concerned

and added they believe the compensation paid met the standard of full replacement value.

"Lubega", Farmer

Once the pipeline starts working, I don’t know if I will still be able to grow

stuff like beans or coffee. I fear it will never be the same. Those who resist and those

who defend them, risk arrest and continuous threats from the Ugandan authorities.

Diana Nabiruma, Africa Institute of Energy Governance

If you’re campaigning to stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, it is very difficult.

More so if you’re working in a country such as Uganda where the civic space is repressed.

Now when they realize that arrest  can't stop you, then intimidation, threats,

delegitimization,and other types of activities that aim at stopping the work that we do

are perpetrated against us.

Maxwell Atuhura, Environmental Activist

The method of continuing has been silencing those who want to talk.  They [Ugandan authorities] create fear to talk about these dangers to see that nobody else should

talk about it.


Jealousy, a farmer and a pastor from the northern part of the country, decided to take the fight against EACOP and TotalEnergies to France.

Jealousy, pastor and farmer

Then when I was coming back to my motherland Uganda, I reached at Entebbe airport,

I was arrested, detained in jail for nine hours.  And after I came back, I got

intimidation calls from different people. They called me, I didn't know them,

saying you’re sabotaging government,you’re sabotaging the oil project.


And while the farmers wonder what the futureholds for them, activists hope international

financial backers will steer clear of supporting EACOP.

Diana Nabiruma, Africa Institute of Energy Governance

We would also like to see the international community ensuring that investments or money is flowing into the green economic sectors. It's not enough for them to take away funding from the fossil fuel sector. They must ensure that the funding that has been going to that sector flows to renewable energy and other green economic sectors so that Ugandans and people elsewhere,  can prosper  while conserving nature.

We can’t name the Ugandan filmmakers for security reasons. We would like to thank them and all the contributors who spoke with us.



  • Anti-fossil fuel activists and environmental defenders in Uganda face repeated harassment, including arbitrary arrests, for protesting a planned oil pipeline.
  • The project has devastated thousands of people’s livelihoods in Uganda and risks locking in decades of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the global climate crisis.
  • The Ugandan government should respect the rights of all activists and drop criminal charges against people for exercising their freedoms of assembly and expression.

(Nairobi) – Environmental defenders and anti-fossil fuel activists in Uganda routinely face arbitrary arrests, harassment, and threats for raising concerns over a planned oil pipeline in East Africa, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 22-page report, “‘Working On Oil is Forbidden’: Crackdown Against Environmental Defenders in Uganda” documents the Ugandan government’s restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly related to oil development, including the planned East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Civil society organizations and environmental defenders regularly report being harassed and intimidated, unlawfully detained, or arbitrarily arrested.

“This crackdown has created a chilling environment that stifles free expression about one of the most controversial fossil fuel projects in the world,” said Felix Horne, senior environment researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government of Uganda should immediately end arbitrary arrests of anti-oil pipeline activists and protect their right to exercise freedom of expression, in accordance with international human rights norms.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 31 people in Uganda between March and October 2023, including 21 environmental defenders.

The oil pipeline is one of the most significant fossil fuel infrastructure projects under development globally. It will include hundreds of wells, hundreds of kilometers of roads, camps and other infrastructures, and a 1,443-kilometer pipeline, the longest heated crude oil pipeline in the world, connecting oilfields in western Uganda with the port of Tanga in eastern Tanzania.

The French fossil-fuel giant TotalEnergies is the operator and majority shareholder, alongside China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), and the state-run Ugandan and Tanzanian oil companies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading authority on climate science, and others have warned that no new fossil fuel projects can be built if the world is to reach Paris Agreement goals and limit the worst impacts of climate change.

Ugandan security officials detain a protester during a march in support of the European Parliament resolution to stop the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline in Kampala, Uganda, October 4, 2022. © 2022 REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

The activists are protesting both construction of the pipeline and the treatment of people in its path. Over 100,000 people in Uganda and Tanzania will lose their land for the oil developments. Many activists told Human Rights Watch that the constant threats from local government and security officials make it more difficult to provide support to those who have lost land.

The Ugandan authorities have routinely detained and arrested activists and human rights defenders on politically motivated charges. An environmental defender, Maxwell Atahura, described his 2021 arrest in Bullisa: “[The police] were asking me questions about oil … at a certain point they were calling me a terrorist, saboteur of government programs…. At the end they wrote on the police bond unlawful assembly.” Atahura also said that he has received threats and that he eventually relocated to Kampala for safety.

President Yoweri Museveni, a staunch backer of the EACOP pipeline, has warned he will not “allow anybody to play around … [with his] oil.”

Since October 2021, at least 30 people protesting or trying to address the impacts of the oil projects have experienced politically motivated arrests in Kampala and other parts of Uganda. In 2021, the government suspended 54 organizations on the basis of vague language in the country’s Non-Governmental Organisations Act of 2016, including several working on the oil sector and other environmental issues. Local organizations that continue to work on the oil issue do so under intense pressure from government and security officials who press them via phone and in person to halt their oil sector activities.

With limited options to influence government policy, some Ugandan nongovernmental groups alongside their international partners have filed suit in France against TotalEnergies. Two people who travelled to France for a court hearing in December 2019 have experienced continuous harassment by security and government officials since their return.

Activists in Uganda have heavily criticized the project because of the risks it poses to the environment, local communities, and its contribution to climate change. Activists have criticized the government for approving the project, as well as Ugandan and international companies potentially involved in its finance, insurance, construction, or operation.

Local civil society groups have become invaluable in assisting people whose land has been acquired for the oil developments to understand the compensation process and the various avenues open to them to secure fair compensation, Human Rights Watch said. In July Human Rights Watch reported human rights violations associated with the pipeline’s land acquisition project including inadequate compensation, and constant pressure from officials; threats of court action and threats from local government and security officials for those who have rejected compensation offers.

In an October 23 letter to Human Rights Watch, TotalEnergies stated they recognize “the importance of protecting Human Rights Defenders and do not tolerate any attacks or threats against those who peacefully and lawfully promote Human Rights in relations to their activities.” 

Human Rights Watch has also written to Uganda’s National Bureau for Nongovernmental Organisations, a semi-autonomous office under the Internal Affairs Ministry, the Internal Security Organisation, and the Uganda Police Force, but none responded.

Due to the opposition of the pipeline from civil society organizations and climate activists in Uganda and around the world, many financial institutions and insurance companies have made a public commitment to not support the pipeline. Financing for the pipeline is yet to be finalized, although in March, a TotalEnergies official stated that the company anticipates that funding should be in place by the end of 2023.

“The construction and operation of EACOP poses grave environmental risks, human rights risks, and contributes to the global climate crisis.” Horne said. “Financial institutions and insurance companies should avoid supporting the Ugandan oil pipeline due to the devastating impacts of fossil fuels on climate change as well as future risks of serious human rights impacts.”

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