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WorldUganda frees anti-pipeline activist

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Uganda frees anti-pipeline activist

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Kwikiriza, an activist with an environmental group opposing a $5 billion internationally funded oil pipeline project in Uganda, has been released from custody, according to his employer.

In a statement on Monday, EGI announced that the activist was discovered abandoned by the roadside in Kyenjoyo and is now safe.

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“Unfortunately, he is in poor condition after enduring severe beatings, mistreatment, and abuse throughout the week. Doctors are conducting various examinations.”

The Environmental Governance Institute (EGI) is actively campaigning against the construction of the 1,445 km (900-mile) East African Crude Oil Pipeline, which aims to transport oil from western Uganda’s oilfields to a port on the coast of Tanzania.

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Kwikiriza was reportedly detained by the Ugandan military on Tuesday, according to EGI.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expressed concern, stating that Kwikiriza was allegedly apprehended by Ugandan army officers dressed in civilian clothing, marking a “particularly worrying escalation of repression.”

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A senior military officer confirmed Kwikiriza’s detention to the Agence France-Presse news agency on Monday.

“He was taken into custody for questioning regarding his illegal activities, including mobilising fellow activists to oppose the oil pipeline,” the officer told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that he was released after interrogation.

“I have not been made aware of him being beaten during interrogation. It’s a matter that can be investigated and verified.”

FIDH said 11 environmental activists “were kidnapped, arbitrarily arrested, detained or subjected to different forms of harassment by the Ugandan authorities between May 27 and June 5, 2024.”

“The Ugandan government needs to end its harassment of opponents of oil development in the country, such as the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project, which has already devastated thousands of people’s livelihoods in Uganda and, if completed, will displace thousands of people and contribute to the global climate crisis,” Myrto Tilianaki, senior environmental rights advocate at HRW, said in a statement.

French energy giant TotalEnergies owns the majority of the stake in the pipeline, with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation and the Ugandan and Tanzanian governments holding minority stakes.

“TotalEnergies E&P Uganda does not tolerate any threat or attack against those who peacefully defend and promote human rights,” TotalEnergies said in a statement to the Reuters news agency on Monday.

The company has dismissed claims made by activists and international organisations that the pipeline will result in the displacement of tens of thousands of people and the destruction of fragile ecosystems.

In September 2022, the European Parliament voiced its opposition to the pipeline through a resolution it adopted.

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