Ugandan police have arrested six members of an NGO critical of the country’s oil industry plans.
The police arrested six members of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), a statement from the NGO said.
In August, Uganda ordered a number of NGOs – including AFIEGO – to halt operations. The NGO Bureau said these 54 groups were violating a 2016 law.
The organisation backs the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC) and as such opposes oil developments. These include the upstream Tilenga project, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and the proposed refinery.
The arrests aim to silence the “organisation and other critical voices. AFIEGO informs all its stakeholders that everything is being done to ensure the release of our staff and partners.”
Those arrested include AFIEGO CEO Dickens Kamugisha, assistant communications officer Rachael Amongin and others. Among those arrested are a breastfeeding mother and someone in need of medical treatment.
The police are holding the six members of staff at the Kira Police Station, just north of Kampala, the NGO said. The police reportedly plan to transfer them to Jinja.
It is not clear what the charges are against the six.
The Ugandan police and NGO Bureau have not yet commented on the case.
The police raided AFIEGO’s Kampala office on October 13, arresting staff. The authorities released them on a bond. The charge was of operating without a permit, with the police reporting the NGO Bureau had ordered the arrests.
AFIEGO described the charge as “irregular” and that these would not withstand scrutiny in court. The bureau in August had said AFIEGO was operating with an expired NGO permit.
“AFIEGO’s statement released today gives a detailed account of tactics that look like intimidation because of their work on EACOP,” said East Africa Hub Director, Nyaguthii Chege. The official went on to say the arrests implied “mischief … and as members of Inclusive Green Economy Network – East Africa (IGEN-EA), we’re worried by this trend.”
The police have carried out a number of arrests in order to intimidate, the NGO said.
The Ugandan police arrested an AFIEGO member, Maxwell Atuhura, in May with a journalist. The police detained Atuhura again this month, in Buliisa.
United Nations rapporteurs have flagged concerns around the way in which the police have pursued AFIEGO, in a letter in July.
Amis de la Terre published a report criticising French support for TotalEnergies in its Ugandan oil plans earlier this month. The French NGO has raised concerns about the AFIEGO arrests.
.@emmanuelmacron @elysee @JY_LeDrian @francediplo @FrenchEmbassyUg @JaAniambossou: il est temps de prendre position publiquement contre le harcèlement constant subit par les https://t.co/QxKqX8KMVi des droits en Ouganda, dont @AFIEGOug. Demandez leur libération immédiate! https://t.co/LrTWdrtVlt
— Les Amis de la Terre FR (@amisdelaterre) October 23, 2021
A number of NGOs have signed on to a petition calling for the six members of AFIEGO to be released.