Kampala (AFP)

Uganda's main environmental group AFIEGO said in a statement six of its activists had been in custody at a police station near Kampala since Friday.

"For several months, AFIEGO has been the target of continuous and increasing pressure and intimidation from the Ugandan authorities who want to prevent it from continuing its activities against Total's oil megaproject" in Uganda, said in a statement Friends of the Earth and Survival which call for their immediate release.

The two French associations say that this is the fifth time in 15 days that critics of the TotalEnergies project have been targeted.

AFIEGO, one of 54 NGOs shut down by Ugandan authorities in August for alleged breaches of the law, believes the arrests are part of a "coordinated effort to silence critical voices" speaking on behalf of communities threatened by the oil project.

In April, the governments of Uganda and Tanzania signed agreements with TotalEnergies and Chinese giant CNOOC paving the way for the construction of an oil pipeline, the East African Crude Oil Pipe Line (EACOP), which will cover 1,443 km the product of deposits discovered in 2006 in the region of Lake Albert, in western Uganda, to a Tanzanian port in the Indian Ocean.

TotalEnergies has promised to take measures to reduce the impact on populations and the environment of this project valued at $ 3.5 billion.

But conservationists believe that this project is losing access to their land to tens of thousands of farmers and poses an ecological threat to this region rich in biodiversity.

AFIEGO is part, alongside Friends of the Earth and Survival, of a consortium of environmental groups that have taken TotalEnergies to court in France for failing to comply with its legal obligations to protect the environment and the rights of the populations affected by the project.

© 2021 AFP

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