Students in Greater Hoima under their umbrella organisation Uganda National Students Association (UNSA) Greater Hoima Secretariat on Thursday protested the European Union (EU) Parliament resolution to delay the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) that cited gross human rights violations and environmental concerns.
Holding placards reading ‘Leave our oil,’ and blowing vuvuzelas, the students started their protest at Hoima boma grounds, matched to Main Street and later to Wright Road before police intercepted them.
However, the police later gave them a green light, proceeded with their protest through Kwebiiha Road to Bunyoro Kitara Road and finally to Rukurato Road where they headed to the Omuhikirwa (Prime Minister) of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, Mr Andrew Byakutaaga to whom they handed over their petition.
Reading the statement to the Omuhikirwa, Faith Daisy Kemigisa, a student from St James secondary school in Hoima city, said they were dismayed and disturbed by the resolution putting a halt to the construction of the EACOP that she said is by far the biggest project to transform Uganda’s economy.
In the statement, the student read condemning the Europeans’ posture of dictating on sovereign countries especially Africa saying their meddling keeps the continent under the beggar-thy-neighbour policy.
“We are aware that without harnessing our natural endowments to invest directly into the livelihoods of our people, Uganda will remain dependent on the mercy of almsgivers even when we have mineral deposits of oil, uranium gold, copper and many more. The blatant plunder of resources in the Congo by Belgium, the killing and maiming of indigenous people in the process, the theft by Imperial British South Africa, Germany in Tanganyika and elsewhere it historical injustice that has maintained the economic disparities which in our view, Europe continues to think they have the legitimacy to order us around,” Kemigisa read.
Adding: “Without apology from the European Union and a programme on reparations for this stolen wealth, we reject Europe’s assumption of the position of morality police for Africa or any other parts of the world.”
The student continued that as signatories to various international agreements on the respect for human rights, Africa and Uganda in particular is committed to building strong and accountable institutions to “steer itself from a gruesome past of state inspired abuses.”
“We have done this and continue to do in adherence with our laws and in the spirit of freeing our society of violent extremism, ethnocentric hate speech, terrorist tendencies that have in the past plunged whole countries into genocides, disruptive violent uprisings and war.”
Kemigisa read that many challenges faced by the people of Uganda including lack of access to better quality education, dignified healthcare and nutritional services among others are a result of limited resources adding that stopping one single initiative aimed at changing the current position of suffering and poverty is an act of sabotage and enmity to the students’ basic survival.
She said Uganda has paid a huge sum of its already small budget to create capacity to benefit from the oil and gas sector, investing more than Euro 309m in construction of Hoima International Airport and more than US$500m in roads to ease movement of labour and equipment within the oil region.
“It is immoral for members of the European Union [Parliament] who have enjoyed good education at prestigious universities to sit on their high horses and put a crashing stop to our prospects, on our dreams and aspirations more especially for the thousands of students who have spent hours and years of hard work to equip themselves with knowledge and skills and are now ready for employment in the oil field.”
The statement said to achieve an industrial driven economy that can create meaningful employment for Ugandans, there must be without doubt exploration of other alternative universally accepted sources of energy in addition to the few dams that were constructed.
Kemigisa continued reading that the EU is one of the biggest buyers of Russian oil and gas resources with Europe alone having operational nuclear power plants and France with 56 nuclear place and 70 per cent reliance on nuclear power.
With 10 of the 19 European states getting more than a third of their total energy from nuclear power to run their robust industrial networks, the statement said they dominate the manufacturing sector.
It is against this backdrop that the students said they support the extraction of the oil and gas and the construction of the EACOP.
“We support the government on both the refinery and pipeline as one of the sure ways to end out energy woes for meaningful participation in industrialisation. As students, we stand against the economic sabotage of Europe in their resolution to stop Uganda from developing its capacity to use nuclear energy,” the statement continued.
Receiving the petition, the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Prime Minister, Mr Andrew Byakutaaga, promised to hand the petition to His Majesty, the Omukama, Dr Solomon Iguru.
However, he said the kingdom has already shown its dissatisfaction with the EU resolution over Uganda’s oil.