The East African Crude Oil Pipeline: Why Are Some East Africans Opposed?

March 25, 2022 by Abby Morenigbade

What is the East African Crude Oil Pipeline?

In 2006, Uganda discovered what turned out to be 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable commercial oil in the Albertine Graben Region.[1] Since then, different activities relating to the exploration and potential utilization of this oil have taken place.[2] The latest public activity concerning the utilization of the oil took place on February 1, 2022, when the project partners, French multinational oil company TotalEnergies (Total), China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC), and the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC), announced a final investment decision (FID) and the launch of the Lake Albert Development Projects representing a total investment of approximately $10 billion.[3] The Lake Albert Development projects consist of two extraction projects: the Tilenga and KingFisher upstream oil projects in Uganda, and the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).[4]

The EACOP is a proposed 1443km pipeline that will transport an estimated 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Kabaale, Uganda to the Tanga port in Tanzania.[5]  In Uganda alone, the pipeline will pass through 10 districts and will take up 2740 acres of land.[6] This route was selected by the Ugandan government because it was less costly than an alternative route to Lamu in Kenya.[7] In order to transport the waxy crude oil using the pipeline, the pipeline will need to be heated to a temperature of 50 Degrees Celsius and if built, the pipeline would be the longest heated pipeline in the world.[8] Proponents of the EACOP have lauded it for the potential the oil revenue has to boost the economies of landlocked Uganda and Tanzania. According to the official EACOP website, construction and operation of the pipeline will require an investment capital of 3.5 billion USD, and because of this investment, there is the potential for a 60% increase in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) for Uganda and Tanzania.[9] Total also estimates that the construction of the pipeline will potentially create 3,800 direct jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs.[10]

What is the opposition to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline?

Despite the project partners’ forecasted economic and employment benefits, many East Africans and East African civil society organizations continue to voice strong opposition to the construction of the pipeline and associated projects. For them, the harmful impact the projects have had, and will have on local communities, as well as its projected impact on the environment is not worth the risk.[11] Although construction of the pipeline has not yet begun, the land acquisition process has already begun. Three hundred to four hundred households will need to be resettled and some 1700 to 3000 households will be economically displaced in Uganda.[12] Already, communities have expressed worry surrounding being displaced and receiving a fair and prompt compensation should their land be taken.[13] This begs the question of whether the rights of indigenous communities to Free, Prior and Informed Consent has been respected in accordance with international standards.[14] Additionally, indigenous communities working in the fisheries sector have already been negatively affected by oil exploration as they can no longer access fishing grounds at Lake Albert.[15] Although there have been promises of thousands of jobs, these promises have not been realized.[16]

Not only will the extraction of oil in Uganda generate up to 34 million tons of carbon emissions each year, the pipeline will also run alongside the Lake Victoria basin. Lake Victoria is the African continent’s largest freshwater reserve which sources the Nile and which 40 million people rely on for drinking water and food production.[17] Should the oil spill from the pipeline at any point, there is a great risk that the spill will poison the lake and millions of Africans will no longer have access to the drinkable water or seafood that the lake provides. The poisoning of this major body of water will inhibit a decades-long commitment to achieving universal access to clean water. It will also violate many of the human rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to food, the right to education, the right to health, the right to earn a livelihood, the right to adequate housing, and the right to life and safety, among others.[18]

In addition to running alongside Lake Victoria, the pipeline will run through and pose risks to several nature reserves and habitats such as Murchison Falls National Park, the Taala Forest Reserve, the Bugoma Forest, and the Biharamulo Game Reserve. These different reserves are home to endangered animals, such as African elephants, which play a crucial role in maintaining suitable habitats for other animals, and the eastern chimpanzees which are nearing extinction in many African countries.[19] In all, nearly 2,000 square kilometers of protected wildlife habitats will be negatively impacted by the EACOP.[20]

What actions have been taken in opposition to the projects?

There are several civil society organizations taking various actions on behalf of local communities in opposition to the construction of EACOP and related projects. One such organization is is an organization that is “building an African movement to fight climate change” and it currently has a campaign calling on banks not to finance the pipeline. As a result of the pressure that and over 260 other organizations – over 100 of which are Africa based – put on banks, three French banks and a total of eleven other international banks have refused to finance the pipeline.[21] However, there are other banks still considering financing the EACOP.

In December 2019, 6 NGOs took Total to the High Court of Nanterre alleging failure to respect French Duty of Vigilance law in its operations in Uganda. The Duty of Vigilance law aims to make French companies liable for the impact of their activities on local communities amongst others. One of the issues brought up is the issue of the announced cut-off date, the delay of which has affected compensation arrangements to impacted communities and their ability to continue using their land. On 30 January 2020, the French High Court issued a statement saying that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the case. The NGOS appealed and the French Court of Appeals ruled that the case fell within the jurisdiction of the commercial court. [22] In the past, local communities on the African continent have had an extremely difficult time getting justice for human rights violations committed by oil companies during oil extraction and transportation.[23] However, the creation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011, and Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights are attempts to give companies greater guidance and guidelines and help prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations.

Additionally, on October 13th 2021, Inclusive Development International (IDI), an international human rights organization and two other organizations filed a complaint against the World Bank to the Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman on behalf of people adversely affected by sub-projects of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, through its financial intermediary investment in Britam Holding Plc.[24]


Both Uganda and Tanzania are parties to the Paris Climate Agreement whose main goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement does not outline the specific commitments each country must make; instead, each nation can set their own emissions targets (NDCs) consistent with their level of development and technological advancement. Is the extraction and transportation of more than 1 billion barrels of crude oil via the EACOP over several years in alignment with the overall goal of the Paris Agreement and the countries’ emission targets? Since both Uganda and Tanzania have not contributed to the emission of as much greenhouse gasses in the past when compared to countries like the U.S., China and India, who are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide, should they be excused so that they too can develop their economy using fossil fuels like the West has done?[25] For some, the answers to these questions are a resounding no. If so, what ought to be done? For many the simple answer is to leave the crude oil in the ground, and fund renewable sources of energy in Uganda and Tanzania. The current and future devastating effects of the EACOP and related projects far outweighs any economic benefits, thus making the extraction of the oil feel more like a curse than a blessing. For others like Total there is a way to proceed with the Lake Albert Development Projects while still maintaining the integrity of the environment surrounding the oil fields and the pipeline, but many are not convinced.





[1] East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP),  Banktrack

[2] Tullow in Uganda: Development planning for the Lake Albert Development Project, Tullow Oil PLC

[3] Uganda and Tanzania: launch of the Lake Albert Resources Development Project,

[4] Id. (


[6] EACOP (East African Crude Oil Pipeline), Directorate of Petroleum- Uganda

[7] Tom Ogwang & Frank Vanclay, Cut-off and forgotten?: Livelihood disruption, social impacts and food insecurity arising from the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, 74 Energy Rsch. & Soc. Sci. 3 (2021)

[8] Unlocking East Africa’s Potential, East African Crude Oil Pipeline, EACOP (2018)

[9] Route Description & Map, East African Crude Oil Pipeline

(Note that since some banks have refused to fund this project, the investment capital needed has increase to 5 billion USD but this number is not reflected on EACOP’s website. Cost of Hoima-Tanga pipeline hits $5b as risk averse banks walk away from project, The East African


[11] Meet the #STOPEACOP alliance, #STOPEACOP

[12] Ogwang, supra note 7 at 6.

[13] Id.

[14] See Indigenous People, Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation.,affect%20them%20or%20their%20territories.

[15] Complaint concerning IFC investment Britam Holding Plc, Project No 37294 (October 13, 2021),

[16] Ogwang, supra note 7 at 7.

[17] Isabelle L. Heritier, Total’s EACOP pipeline another step closer to going ahead,,Nile%2C%20between%20Uganda%20and%20Tanzania.

[18] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations; See also NGOs warn financial institutions and investors of human rights risks associated with financing the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, Business and Human Rights Resource Center,

[19] Why Stop EACOP: For Nature, #STOPEACOP,

[20] The East African Crude Oil Pipeline – EACOP a spatial risk perspective, Map For Environment (April 7 2021)

[21] Heritier, supra note 13,Nile%2C%20between%20Uganda%20and%20Tanzania.

[22] French Court of Appeal remands case against Total over alleged failure to respect Duty of Vigilance law in Uganda to commercial court,Business & Human Rights Resource Center (Dec 10, 2020).

[23] To learn more about the gross human rights violations that resulted from Shell’s activity in Ogoniland, located in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, see e.g, Richard Boele, et al., Shell, Nigeria and the Ogoni. A study in unsustainable development: I. The Story of Shell, Nigeria and the Ogoni People- Environment, Economy, Relationships: Conflict and Prospects for Resolution, 9 Sust. Dev. (2001); No Clean-Up, No Justice: An Evaluation of The Implementation of UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, Nine Years On. Friends of the Earth Europe (2020).

[24] World Bank’s Back Door Support for East African Oil Pipeline Imperils the Planet, Complaint Alleges, Inclusive Development International (October 14, 2021)

[25] Andriy Blokhin, The 5 Countries That Produce the Most Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Investopedia (January 31, 2022)