By Hilda Nakabuye and Moses Mulindwa
Conscious that there might be those amongst us that may be excited by the “supposed” economic prospects of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and associated oil fields (Tilenga and Kingfisher), a closer look at the EACOP and the associated oil fields only prove one thing, that this is a trap that will cost Uganda and Tanzania significantly from the impacts the project will have to people, nature and the environment as TotalEnergies and China National Offshore Oil Company make unprecedented profits at our expense.
This opinion piece proceeds to explain why.
There are those convinced that the Campaign to StopEACOP is informed just by our environmental concerns, which are many, but they are oblivious to the fact that we are also worried about the health, livelihood, climate and economic consequences that this behemoth of a pipeline will have to Ugandans, Tanzanians, East Africa and the entire world.
It is worth reminding us all that in Uganda and Tanzania, and indeed the entire African continent, climate change is a concern for everyone affecting agriculture, food security and water resources.
Africa is already severely impacted by climate impacts caused by centuries of fossil fuel exploitation and alarming increased emissions. EACOP and the associated oil fields (Tilenga and Kingfisher) will, thus, significantly affect food production in both Uganda and Tanzania as the 1,445 km pipeline will take over fertile farmlands that have, hitherto, contributed to the impressive food yields for the 2 countries.
Additionally, the approximately 70 million barrels of oil to be evacuated annually through the pipeline will emit about 34 million tonnes of CO2 annually.
Then there are those that try to justify the Pipeline from an economic perspective. These could not be any further from the truth.
If you are one of those that have been convinced EACOP will bring huge economic dividends to Uganda and Tanzania, we would like to remind you that Uganda and Tanzania, through its Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC), only own 15% shares, each, of the pipeline as Total Energies and China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) cumulatively own 70% of the shares.
To us, the huge dividends here seem to be going to TotalEnergies and CNOOC and their shareholders, at the expense of Ugandans and Tanzanians.
A group of members of parliament issued a minority report on the EACOP Bill (now law) on how the process leading to its enaction was hurried and irregular. The MPs mentioned, among other things, how Uganda will miss huge amounts of money from taxes and retrospective project costs of approximately $500 million to be added to the project without any audits.
This, therefore, legitimizes these costs without any questions asked.
The situation becomes more perilous, as the oil fields at Tilenga and Kingfisher are also majority-owned and operated by Total Energies and CNOOC, respectively.
Additionally, Uganda ( and Tanzania) has already incurred a significant debt burden from the oil prospects. Even worryingly, both Uganda and Tanzania have passed the EACOP special provisions law that, according to an article in The New Vision (in the case of Uganda), Total Energies and CNOOC also get a very advantageous tax package, which means less money for the Ugandan people.
These benefits for the oil barons include exemption from paying corporate tax for 10 years (which is normally at 30% of the profits made), Total Energies and CNOOC will only pay 5% withholding tax, instead of 15%, and the company will not have to pay value-added tax (VAT) for the exports of goods and services for EACOP.
To us, history seems to be repeating itself. The discovery of oil in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola have impoverished have the countries in addition to the loss of community land and culture.
As Ugandans, we are opposed to this project because we realize that the only thing truly Ugandan (and the same case for Tanzania) about it are the negative socio-economic impacts it will have on health, livelihoods, and the environment, as Total Energies and China National Offshore Oil Company and their shareholders laugh all the way to the bank.
As a continent, we should know better before submitting to corporate colonialism and extractivism and fiercely refuse to succumb to the charm of the dying fossil fuel industry.
Hilda Nakabuye and Mulindwa Moses are climate change activists from Uganda.