Tanzania: Concern Grows for Tanzanian Communities Opposing TotalEnergies' Oil Pipeline

press release

Global Witness is growing increasingly concerned for the safety of communities and campaigners challenging the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) - set to run through Uganda and Tanzania - with reports of police repeatedly harassing and intimidating those who voice their opposition to the project.

Since last month, nine community members have been repeatedly summoned by police, forced to travel around 120km back and forth to the station, where they are reportedly interrogated but not charged with any offenses. This week, they had their phones confiscated and sent for "inspection", while they were forced to sign statements about their relationship with climate activists.

Police have forced the community members to return to the station twice this week alone, as fears grow their phones will be used to track down and criminalise other campaigners. Today, police threatened that their questioning and summoning of campaigners won't stop until they give up information.

These interrogations come just months after Global Witness received information that police were ordered to arrest Tanzanian activist Richard Senkondo, 32, so he could be interrogated by the country's national intelligence and security agency, the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS). Richard has been living in hiding ever since.

Hanna Hindstrom, Senior Investigator at Global Witness, said:

"The targeting of critics of the EACOP pipeline casts a chilling shadow over environmental activism in Tanzania. We urge the Tanzanian authorities to immediately withdraw the arrest order for Richard and cease their harassment of communities.

"TotalEnergies is set to make untold millions from the displacement of communities along the EACOP route, apparently ignoring the fact that this destructive project has been made possible by silencing anyone brave enough to speak up for their rights."

Police's search for Richard and the harassment of communities is the latest in a crackdown on defenders linked to the EACOP pipeline, who TISS officers have also previously interrogated, according to a 2023 Global Witness investigation into the impacts of the pipeline on communities, in which Richard is featured.

The report notes that at least 47 defenders protesting oil or EACOP were arrested in Uganda alone between September 2020 and the time of publication in December 2023. Included in these figures are seven students who were arrested in Uganda on 24 November for peacefully opposing EACOP.

Since publication of the Global Witness report, the crackdown has continued. On December 11 2023, 42 households in Uganda - including several prominent defenders featured in Global Witness's report - were given four day's warning of a court case aimed at forcing them to accept compensation for their homes and land. The ruling was delivered within four days of filing the case, and after only one hearing.

In early January 2024, four more students in Uganda were arrested for protesting the pipeline.

Until recently, the situation in Tanzania has been opaque, with an effective ban on civil society mobilising around the pipeline.

Zaki Mamdoo, coordinator of the Stop EACOP campaign, said:

"The silence from the diplomatic corps in Tanzania speaks volumes about the influence of the fossil fuel industry. Where is the outrage that ordinary people are being forced off their lands without enough compensation and then threatened into silence by a repressive regime to make way for a European oil project?"

Hanna Hindstrom, Senior Investigator - Land and Environmental Defenders

Evie Calder, Senior Communications Advisor, Forests and Defenders

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