Outrage over the kidnapping of an opponent from the East African pipeline

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Campaigners are calling for an investigation into the kidnapping and assault of Stephen Kwikiriza, an outspoken opponent of a controversial drilling and pipeline project in Uganda.

Kwikiriza was kidnapped in Kampala on June 4 by some popped up to be plainclothes officers of the Ugandan Army. Five days later he was dropped 150 miles away, on the side of a road in Kyenyoyo. Kwikiriza said he was stripped to his underwear and given only minimal food and a bucket for sanitation. He said he was severely beaten and knocked unconscious, sustaining injuries that required hospital treatment.

“This was an enforced disappearance, a very serious crime under international law,” he said. said Brad Adams, head of Climate Rights International. “Due to a long-standing pattern of impunity in Uganda, a swift, independent and transparent investigation must be conducted to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”

Kwikiriza was previously threatened for his work at the Environmental Governance Institute, documenting the damage caused by the Kingfisher oil field in eastern Uganda. The Ugandan military provides security to drilling company China National, and it is said to be so concerned in violence and sexual abuse against the local population, as well as the destruction of fishing boats.

Kingfisher is one of two oil fields that would feed the planned East African crude oil pipeline, which would extend 900 miles to the Tanzanian coast. Led by French oil giant TotalEnergies, the project threatens to displace more than 100,000 people. a report last year involved TotalEnergies in the coercion and intimidation of families living along the pipeline, leading to condemnation of activists, companiesAnd governments worldwide.

The planned East African crude oil pipeline.  Yale Area / Source: TotalEnergiesThe planned East African crude oil pipeline.  Yale Area / Source: TotalEnergies

The planned East African crude oil pipeline. Yale Area / Source: TotalEnergies

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders said Kwikiriza’s disappearance is part of an “alarming crackdown” on opponents of the pipeline. In response to the kidnapping, campaigners criticized TotalEnergies for not doing more to protect critics.

Juliette Renaud, from Friends of the Earth France, said that the CEO of TotalEnergies “repeatedly emphasizes that they are committed to respecting freedom of expression, yet have consistently turned a blind eye to the increasing harassment, threats and arrests that environmental defenders are suffering.”

The Ugandan subsidiary of TotalEnergies told The guard that it was relieved to hear that Kwikiriza had been released and that people hoped for his full recovery. It added that it “will not tolerate any threats or violence against those who peacefully defend and promote human rights.”

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