June 11, 2024

Uganda: Independent Investigation Needed for Abduction, Beating of EACOP Activist

TotalEnergies, CNOOC Should Speak Out Against Violence and Intimidation of Project Opponents

(Brussels, June 12, 2024) – The Ugandan government should urgently authorize an independent, transparent investigation into the abduction, enforced disappearance, and beating of activist Stephen Kwikiriza, Climate Rights International said today. Mr. Kwikiriza is an opponent of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and Kingfisher oil development project, which are jointly owned by TotalEnergies, the Chinese National Overseas Oil Corporation (CNOOC), and the Ugandan National Oil Company.

Mr. Kwikiriza was abducted on June 4 in Kampala and found the evening of June 9 in Kyenyoyo, five hours from Kampala, after being dumped on the side of a road. He had been severely beaten and is recovering in hospital.

Mr. Kwikiriza, an environmental observer with the Environmental Governance Institute, lives in the Kingfisher project area, one of the two oil exploitation projects related to EACOP. Mr. Kwikiriza had previously received threats due to his work documenting the environmental devastation and human rights violations suffered by his community because of the Kingfisher project, and had been staying in a safe house in Kampala.

“The abduction, interrogation, and ill-treatment of Stephen Kwikiriza is an extremely worrying development that indicates the length the Ugandan government and proponents of EACOP and the Kingfisher project will go to silence dissent,” said Brad Adams, Executive Director at Climate Rights International. “This was an enforced disappearance, a very serious crime under international law. Because of a long pattern of impunity in Uganda, a swift independent and transparent investigation must be conducted to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.” 

On June 4, Mr. Kwikiriza was picked up by what appear to have been plainclothes officers from the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), Uganda’s military. His wife filed a missing persons report, but there was no sign of a police response and Ugandan authorities never acknowledged his detention. An application for an order of habeas corpus was also filed at the High Court of Justice of Uganda on June 6.

Uganda’s police and military have long been responsible for serious human rights violations against civil society activists and critics, including violence, threats, intimidation, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture.   

Climate Rights International expressed deep alarm about reports it has received of renewed threats in recent days against a number of other Kingfisher and EACOP critics, some of whom have gone into hiding.

“The Ugandan government should take immediate and effective steps to halt threats and abuses against peaceful critics, and issue a public statement making it clear that it will hold accountable anyone, including members of the security forces, involved in violence or intimidation,” Adams said.

EACOP has been described by critics such as the #StopEACOP campaign as a carbon bomb that will lead to massive and unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and is already causing serious human rights violations and environmental degradation, Climate Rights International said. A 2022 report by the Climate Accountability Institute estimated “emissions totaling 379 million tonnes CO2e (MtCO2e) for the full value chain of emissions from pipeline transport of crude oil to the oil’s end use by global consumers.”

“TotalEnergies and CNOOC should publicly condemn the abduction, enforced disappearance, and ill-treatment of Stephen Kwikiriza by Ugandan security forces,” said Adams. “They should make it clear that they expect these crimes to stop and that those responsible are brought to justice. Silence from these big and influential multinational companies will signal that they are indifferent – or worse – to this brutal repression that appears to protect their business and interests.”

Photo Credit: Stop EACOP protest by Benoît Derouet via Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share by Email

Related Articles