By Guest Writer
OPINION: Last week, 13th September, 2022, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on violations of human rights in Uganda and Tanzania linked to the investments in fossil fuel projects particularly the 1443 km East African Crude Oil Pipeline.
This was welcome with mixed reactions by different groups of people and political giants in the region.
The deputy speaker Thomas Tashobya who has supported the pipeline hit back blasting the European Union Parliament (EU) for meddling into the sovereign affairs of Uganda and Tanzania with a resolution aimed at halting oil pipeline development.
President Museveni quickly hailed the deputy speaker threatening the oil giants in the league Total Energies saying that if it succumbs to EU Parliament pressure, Uganda and Tanzania will find another financier for the pipeline project.
The stance and argument on neo-colonialism and sovereignty shows the highest-level hypocrisy, so is the story of Pan Africanism and patriotism.
I call all those hitting back on EU to go the merits of the resolution which is rooted on human and environmental rights’ violations as well as escalating climatic changes that Uganda and the rest of the world are grappling with.
In 2013, EACOP beneficiaries were over the moon when they won a landmark $434m (over sh1.1 trillion) oil tax case in London against Heritage Oil and Gas Ltd. Ali Ssekatawa, URA assistant commissioner for litigation and URA lead counsel then, and currently EACOP chief supporter had wild excited comments on the same.
But no one saw that as a form of neo-colonialism and meddling in the sovereignty of Uganda because for a sovereign Uganda, we would have upheld the decision made by own courts.
Before Ugandans digest the colonialism propaganda, they must be convinced how owning 15% of their own resource at the expense of 75% owned by Total energies (62%), CNOOC (8%) and government of Tanzania (15%) is patriotic.
I urge our leaders not to misinterpret the principle of the Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources (PSNR) that gives States the right to possess, use and dispose freely of any surface and subsurface Natural Resources, connected with their territory and for their purpose.
It must be exercised in the interest of National Development and well-being of the people concerned. Much as we have power as a country to contract with Multinational Corporations like Total, CNOOC and others to help us explore and exploit our resources, the interest of people and the current climatic trends are fundamental yet have been overly ignored. And the EU is easily pointing out what has been ignored.
Last but not least, EU has been our development partner therefore we have no right to only praise it when it agrees with us, and name it an agent of neo-colonialism when they disagree with us.
I urge our leaders and all stakeholders to treat the resolution homogenously, address the resource rights of oil host communities, respect the rights of human rights defenders in the oil region and most important recognize that Uganda is vulnerable and grappling with climatic impacts that are attributed to fossil fuel investments henceforth spearhead its phasing out and just transition.
Uganda is a party to so many conventions and international treaties, and we cannot exploit or make sovereign decisions in isolation of such but of course national laws take precedence. We have only one earth, lets take care of it.
The author is Aryampa Brighton, a lawyer and Chief Executive Officer, Youth for Green Communities (YGC).
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