Por su valeroso trabajo a favor de la justicia climática y los derechos comunitarios vulnerados por proyectos energéticos extractivistas en Uganda.
El Instituto Africano de Gobernanza Energética (AFIEGO, por sus siglas en inglés) es una organización ugandesa que empodera a las comunidades para levantarse contra proyectos extractivos de petróleo y gas que perjudican el ambiente. A través de la incidencia, las campañas mediáticas y las acciones legales locales e internacionales, AFIEGO ha garantizado que se escuchen las voces de las comunidades en los ámbitos de toma de decisiones.
El descubrimiento de las reservas petrolíferas comerciales de Uganda en 2006 hizo que en la última década aumentaran el acaparamiento de tierras, los desplazamientos forzosos y la degradación ambiental. Fundada en 2005, AFIEGO ha adquirido un papel fundamental en la protección de los derechos de las comunidades afectadas. La organización ha estado en la primera línea de las acciones para frenar la construcción del Oleoducto del Este de África (EACOP, por sus siglas en inglés), que transportaría el crudo de Uganda hasta un puerto en Tanzania. Mediante la recopilación de pruebas para los tribunales y dando visibilidad al impacto del oleoducto planeado sobre las comunidades locales, AFIEGO ha sido fundamental a la hora de generar presión a nivel internacional para detener la construcción.
Debido a su trabajo, AFIEGO ha sufrido represalias por parte del gobierno de Uganda en forma de amenazas y acoso contra su personal, así como arrestos y encarcelamientos. A pesar de todo, AFIEGO sigue luchando por la protección ambiental y el bienestar de las comunidades afectadas utilizando métodos jurídicos innovadores y creando espacios para que se escuchen las voces de la sociedad civil.
Biography in English
In the face of the global climate crisis, AFIEGO stands with communities against oil and gas exploitation projects. Resisting government and corporate threats, the organisation ensures that communities affected by colonialist extractive energy projects can raise their voices on national and international levels. With their bottom-up work at the intersection of societal, economic and environmental concerns, AFIEGO models a democratic and renewable energy path for African countries.
The discovery of Uganda’s oil reserves
The discovery of Uganda’s commercial oil reserves in 2006 has led to a lengthy process by the government and private companies to begin oil production. The Ugandan government estimates there are between 1.8 and 2.2 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the country’s north-western Albertine region. Due to this discovery, there are now several oil extraction and refinement projects under construction or consideration. These projects are operated by international firms such as the French company Total Energies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), all with the support of the Ugandan government. The main projects include the Tilenga and Kingfisher pipelines, which would provide the oil for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), and the Uganda Oil Refinery, which plans to extract 60,000 barrels per day.
These projects, if completed, would involve exploration and extraction of reserves underneath farmland and lakes, as well as in the Murchison Falls National Park, the largest and oldest national park in Uganda. According to the German NGO urgewald, the Tilenga Pipeline would displace more than 31,000 people, and EACOP would displace more than 86,000 in Uganda and Tanzania.
Upholding community rights against oil projects
AFIEGO, which was founded in 2005 by four students, is one of the most important actors in Uganda mitigating the harmful impacts and rights violations, such as land grabs and environmental degradation, associated with these projects. They work closely with communities, grassroots groups and other civil society organisations at the national, regional and international levels. At all levels, their work is deeply rooted in the needs and concerns of the communities they represent. AFIEGO has elevated local community-based organisations to stand up for their rights and make their voices heard by companies and officials alike.
One example of AFIEGO’s engagement is their ongoing struggle together with the Kyakaboga community. In 2012, more than 7,000 Kyakaboga community members were displaced by the Uganda Oil Refinery project. Since then, the community has fought to receive the fair and timely land relocation and compensation they are entitled to. In 2014, AFIEGO and the community took their case to the High Court of Uganda to fight this injustice. The case remains ongoing. While a full realisation of justice has not yet been achieved, tangible outcomes like relocation have occurred thanks to AFIEGO’s efforts. Although work is ongoing to make such solutions more sustainable, Kyakaboga has inspired other communities to take action and have their say in government projects.
AFIEGO has adopted a multi-faceted approach, including advocacy, media campaigns, and local and international legal action, to protect the environmental and human rights of communities affected by the exploitation of oil and gas. One of the most damaging projects is the EACOP pipeline, funded primarily by Total and CNOOC. According to Total, the project consists of the construction of a buried 1,443 km oil pipeline between Kabaale, Uganda, and the port of Tanga in Tanzania. The pipeline would cut through 178 Ugandan and 231 Tanzanian villages, causing mass displacement and environmental harm.
AFIEGO is a prominent actor in the #StopEACOP campaign, a network of more than 20 domestic and international organisations. The organisation provides the network with key updates on the events on the ground, creating a direct link to affected communities.
AFIEGO has filed several lawsuits aimed at preventing oil developments with their negative impacts on people and the environment. For example, AFIEGO’s lawyers have filed a case against EACOP before the East African Court of Justice. The organisation is also challenging the environmental certificate provided to the Tilenga oil extraction project, which would connect to EACOP. Finally, AFIEGO is a party to legal proceedings in France, together with three other Ugandan and two French civil society organisations, against the oil megaproject. This constitutes the first lawsuit based on the 2017 French law on the duty of vigilance of transnational corporations.
Work on energy security
At the time of AFIEGO’s founding, Uganda was suffering from a period of frequent power cuts. Today, energy security continues to be a problem for many communities: Uganda ranked seventh out of the 20 most access-deficit countries, with more than half of the country lacking access to electricity, according to a 2019 report by the International Energy Agency.
An important aspect of AFIEGO’s work has been the promotion of green and renewable energy as a means to tackle this energy insecurity. They have successfully pushed for amendments to the recently passed Electricity (Amendment) Act, 2022, which amended certain provisions of the Electricity Act of 1999. After a long and tedious process of engagement on the issue, the new law will provide subsidies for rising energy bills and greater accessibility to solar energy equipment.
Threats and harassment
As a result of their activities to prevent environmental damage and protect the rights of communities, AFIEGO and their staff have faced threats and harassment from the authorities. Their office has been raided on several occasions and their staff arrested and detained. In a widely condemned move in August 2021, the National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organisations indefinitely suspended 54 civil society organisations in Uganda, including AFIEGO, supposedly on the grounds of violating regulations. The organisation has continued to operate since this announcement, albeit, under increasing pressure.