Environmentalists have stepped up a pressure campaign in East Africa amid reports that China is considering backing a major oil pipeline that runs from the Ugandan oilfields to Port Tanga in Tanzania.
Hundreds of environmental and community demonstrators staged coordinated multi-country protests at the corporate headquarters of various Chinese lenders on Monday, as well as Chinese embassies across Africa, Europe and North America, demanding the institutions to back out of the financing deal for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
The protests were staged in Kampala in Uganda, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with solidarity demonstrations in South Africa, Paris, New York and London.
Activists want Chinese lenders – including state-owned China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure), Export-Import Bank of China (Eximbank), and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) – to drop their plans to bankroll the controversial US$5 billion project.
The development of the Ugandan oilfields and the pipeline threaten pristine ecosystems, biodiversity hotspots, water resources and community land, according to the activists behind the StopEACOP campaign.
The activists said China and Chinese firms should not be a “last resort” for a project with a devastating social and environmental impact on Africa.
At each location, the groups tried to deliver petitions calling for the end of the pipeline and the associated upstream oil projects in Uganda, Tanzania and the DRC.
But officials from the Chinese embassies in Uganda and South Africa refused to receive the documents, and seven activists were arrested in Kampala.
Other protests were held outside Sinosure offices in London and in Paris at the China Exim Bank and ICBC offices. Last Friday, a protest was held at the Chinese embassy in Washington.
The campaign focused on China after several international banks and insurers backed out over environmental opposition and the Chinese lenders were reported to be considering whether to step in.