Religious groups oppose Uganda, Tanzania oil pipeline project

Wednesday, October 27th, 2021 00:00 |

Religious groups have demanded an end to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project raising concern over the increased appetite for fossil fuels despite being hazardous to human health and natural habitats.

A global multi-faith event dubbed Faiths 4 Climate Justice bringing together diverse religious groups, instead wants countries engaged in drilling oil and gas to focus on renewable energy sources, such as geothermal, wind and solar.

Rev. Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest and Executive Director at GreenFaith International also wants funders and partners of these projects to stop facilitating exploration and production of fossil fuels.

Leading a delegation of more than 250 communities; 50 organisations, denominations and lineages, represented, Rev. Harper specifically criticised the French government for backing the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop), which he noted will displace thousands of small landholder farmers along the line.

When completed, the Eacop will be the largest heated crude oil pipeline in the world. “This is exactly the kind of project that the world cannot afford because of the climate emergency associated impact,” he said in Tanga, Tanzania early in the week.

TotalEnergies, an energy company that produces and markets energies on a global scale, is a financier of this project.

“We have various actions targeted at places of prayer and worship, as well as decision makers’ offices to take this message home,” he pointed out. During the event, banners were displayed on religious buildings and demands to decision-makers made through letters, singing of hymns about the climate crisis, ringing of bells as well as prayers and meditation.

In France, Uganda and Tanzania, religious groups planned actions to oppose the Eacop, which is expected to run from Uganda through to Tanzania’s port for export.

“We are reminding different faiths of their duty to conserve the environment,” he said.

The event also held virtually attracted more than 50 million people from across the religious divide and countries worldwide.

The Eacop is expected to transport 216,000 barrels of oil every day, which, experts say, will produce more than 34 million tonnes of carbon annually - significantly greater than the current combined emissions of Uganda and Tanzania. 

“The moral insanity of Eacop becomes even more evident when we recognise that barely 25 per cent of Ugandans and fewer than 35 percent of Tanzanians have access to modern sources of energy. Eacop will not improve these figures.

“These countries need investments to help them ensure universal access to clean, affordable energy - not a fossil fuel pipeline that will accelerate climate change,” Rev. Harper further observed.

Halima Salim, a local, told GreenFaith coordinators that they were afraid that thousands would be displaced as the pipeline snakes its way from Uganda to be exported through Tanzanian ports, yet compensation would not be guaranteed.

“In addition, land for farming is expected to shrink significantly,” she noted.

Baraka Lenga and Baraka Machumu, the GreenFaith’s Tanzania coordinators, provided capacity building for locals about climate change and how the Eacop was linked to climate crisis. “The project will exacerbate the climate crisis and the future generation is likely to suffer more than we suffer now,” said Lenga.

Further, he noted, the project will place at risk vital water sources.

“It will also destroy some of the world’s most important elephant, lion and chimpanzee reserves, and open up more critical ecosystems to even more oil extraction,” said Machumu.

Speaking in Chongoliani village in Tanzania, Cosmas Daud, representing the Catholic Church, said their farm land was taken with little compensation, and now they cannot afford to lose another one.

“Today many people have no place to call home,” he said.

A head of this year’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) underway in Glasgow, Scotland, over 400 events have been held in held in some 41 countries to make demands from authorities and places of worship.

More than 60 organisations, denominations, and lineages stood in support of these events, and vowed not to relent in their push.

In Zimbabwe for instance, youth came out to strongly state the bare minimum for Africa in the CoP26. 

Jonathan Chiwai, a youth activist and GreenFaith coordinator in Harare, led a team of youth in song and display of placards as they marched on Harare streets with the demands they had for negotiators at the CoP26.

“Major energy firms and our governments should invest in universal access to clean, affordable energy for our communities, not a fossil fuel pipeline that will displace thousands of farmers and accelerate climate change,” he said arguing that most of the Ugandan and Tanzanian citizens lack regular access to electricity.

“Our countries need clean and affordable natural energy for absolutely everyone, not a pipeline to export oil that will destroy the climate but benefit only a few,” said a Uganda Interfaith leader.

He said the Eacop project will not change this; “instead, it will endanger our drinking water and open up more of our country to oil extraction. How can our governments support a project that will do this to our countries? It is morally incomprehensible.”

According to Rt Rev Nathan Kyamanywa, a former Diocesan Bishop of Bunyoro - Kitara Diocese in Uganda’s Church of Uganda – Anglican, and who is also the Climate Change Ambassador for IRCU, East African governments should look beyond the 'now ', see beyond themselves and invest in sustainable natural energy rather than something that will destroy the future before it comes.

In solidarity with Tanzanians and Ugandans opposed to the Eacop, were multi-faith action implementers in Paris, where grassroots people of faith demonstrated outside the global headquarters of Total Energies Company.

French religious groups called on TotalEnergies Company to end its involvement in the project.

“The moral logic behind this project does not exist. French people from diverse religious backgrounds are calling on Total to stop the project,” said Dr Martin Kopp of GreenFaith, the sponsor of the action in Paris.

In New York City, Jewish youth activists and interfaith allies blockaded the entrance to the headquarters of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which invests billions of dollars in oil, gas, and deforestation projects. 

A mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, one of the largest in Southeast Asia rolled out a banner across the street from the national capital complex calling on the government to end coal production.

The adjacent Catholic cathedral and a large nearby Protestant church responded with banners calling for an end to deforestation and a surge in renewable energy development.

Over 200 high-level faith leaders and 50 religious groups representing more than 50 million members have signed onto these demands.

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