Welcome to another article from Curious Earth’s ‘Stories on the Frontline’ series, our special features dedicated to giving a voice to the Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA) of climate change.

Extractivism, ecocide and the effects of the climate and ecological crisis do not affect the global population equally. As the climate crisis escalates, it is essential we pass the mic, and offer solidarity, strength and solutions to the earth defenders on the frontline around the world. 

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP)

Total Energies and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) are planning to build an oil pipeline through the heart of Africa, impacting the environment and communities from Uganda through Tanzania to the coast. 

A map showing the route of the EACOP through Uganda and Tanzania.
The EACOP route (map taken from SEI/IGSD, The East African Crude Oil Pipeline – EACOP: a spatial risk perspective, via StopEACOP)

The stats:

To find out more about how the project is impacting local communities in East Africa, we spoke to one of the StopEACOP activists based in Tanzania; Richard Senkondo (Executive Director Organization for Community Engagement (OCE))…..

Why did you become a climate activist?

I became a climate activist to increase global efforts of saving the Earth from detrimental effects of global warming. My core mission is to increase accountability and alleviate corporate impunity in polluting the Earth.

How has EACOP already affected your community?

EACOP has distorted livelihood patterns for thousands of people in my country (Tanzania), majority being peasants and small scale fisherfolks who live below US $2 per day. There is a high need to research the consequences of EACOP on fisherfolks operating at the Chongoleani Peninsula in Tanga region.

EACOP has increased the magnitude of poverty to majority project affected persons (PAPs). Since 2018, project affected persons were prohibited from developing their properties after the first evaluation was completed. Unfortunately, compensations for affected properties were provided late in 2022 and 2023, which were definitely very low. Inflation of currency i.e Tanzanian shilling versus US Dollar constrained PAPs from acquiring similar properties to what they lost.

Gender effects; restrictions on property development imposed since 2018 had severe consequences for women who are mainly farmers in rural Tanzania. Majority of women opted to cultivate on farms that were far from their homes, which reduced time spent taking care of children and elders. There is an urgent need to do research that covers the gender aspect as the social consequence of EACOP.

Violations of human rights are evident in Tanzania. Activists who advocate against EACOP have been highly targeted. Moreover, PAPs who publicly express their grievances against EACOP have been warned to remain quiet. 

What other impacts will you suffer if the project continues?

Tanzania remains an active region of seismic events. The likelihood of oil spills caused by earthquakes is of high confidence. Spills in the Indian Ocean will affect both people, and marine and coastal biodiversity. Moreover, the pipeline cuts across three regions (Kagera, Geita and Shinyanga) which are part of the great Lake Victoria basin. Should spills occur in these regions, oil will enter Lake Victoria, thus affecting people and aquatic organisms.

Rampant events of corruption, like other extractive sectors in the country (minerals, coal and natural gas), benefit the minority elite class – revenues from EACOP will continue to benefit the minority not the majority of Tanzanians.

What are you and your fellow activists doing to try and fight against the project? 

We mobilise project affected persons (PAPs) and raise awareness of their basic human rights, land regulations and the consequences that EACOP will cause.

We work with journalists beyond the borders to publish local news on EACOP that local media do not report.

We work with global human rights and climate activists to advocate against the development of EACOP.

We challenge EACOP at courts of justice in Tanzania despite intimidations from security agencies.

We increase pressure on the government through advocacy, calling on the government to abandon fossil fuel projects including EACOP and immediately transition to renewable energies of which Tanzania has proved to have a large endowment.

Can you shed some light on the current state of the project and its funding situation?

The project is still in the upstream state. We know there’s drilling in Tilenga oil fields and Murchison Falls. A majority of PAPs have received their compensations. There are some PAPS who completely refused to sign compensation agreements; the matter is not yet resolved to date. In priority areas, warehouses / yards for coating oil pipelines have already been built. The construction of the Oil jet in Chongoleani Tanga is ongoing; drilling and welding are key activities in the Indian Ocean. At Chongoleani Tanga, mangroves and many other trees have been cleared for the construction of Oil reservoirs. Every day, heavy trucks are busy carrying long EACOP pipelines from Dar es Salaam port to regions where EACOP cuts across.

The aim of the campaign is to ensure the project doesn’t get to the midstream level – where the pipeline comes into play – and so far, the campaign has successfully gotten 27 banks and 28 insurers from the global north and Asia to refuse funding. Just this month, Probitas1492 were the latest major insurer to confirm they will never insure EACOP, after a targeted campaign. However, there are concerns China could step in and the campaign is going to focus a lot on trying to persuade, in particular China Re and SINOSURE as far as insurance goes, to not underwrite the project. Without insurance, they can’t undertake the project. Other targets would be the Standard Bank in South Africa and ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China).

What would you say to people who support the project – who say it will create local jobs and bring money into the region? 

People should not be deceived by corrupt politicians who serve their interests. They must ask themselves what other extractive sectors have brought them jobs or money.

What can our readers and followers do to help #StopEACOP?

They should visit the StopEACOP website to understand better the campaign and its objectives: www.stopeacop.net 

They can also follow the StopEACOP campaign on social media (X and Instagram – @stopEACOP) and amplify the posts to reach a wider audience and also engage in the digital actions.

StopEACOP campaigners during their week of action, holding a sign covered in oil and mud.
StopEACOP campaigners during their week of action.

Be curious! 

All images courtesy of Stop EACOP.

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