Detained anti-crude pipeline activist in Uganda released, pressure group says

KAMPALA (Reuters) – An employee of a environmental group campaigning to stop construction of a $5 billion crude oil pipeline in east Africa who the organisation said had been detained by the Ugandan military last week has been released.

Stephen Kwikiriza, from the Ugandan environmental pressure group Environment Governance Institute (EGI), has campaigned to stop the 1,445-km East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) which will carry crude from oilfields in western Uganda to a port on Tanzania’s coast.

In a statement on Monday, EGI said the activist was dumped on a highway in western Uganda about five hours’ drive from the capital Kampala on Sunday night around 8:30 p.m..

“According to an account from him, he was beaten and is visibly in bad shape,” the statement said, adding Kwikiriza had been taken to a hospital where he was receiving treatment.

EGI had said that Kwikiriza was detained last Tuesday by the Uganda military but Deo Akiiki, deputy spokesperson of the military, denied they were holding him and police spokesperson Fred Enanga also told Reuters they had not arrested him.

“During his captivity he was asked about why he and others are frustrating the oil project,” Samuel Okulony, Director of EGI told Reuters, adding that Kwikiriza was put in a car trunk while being driven to the location where he was dropped.

Akiiki and Enanga could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.

The pipeline is majority-owned by France’s TotalEnergies, with China’s CNOOC 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 Reuters on Monday.

The pipeline’s opponents say the project will displace tens of thousands of people and destroy fragile ecosystems. TotalEnergies denies the accusations and says the project will only displace about 5000 people.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by George Obulutsa, Kirsten Donovan)

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