Clerics condemn crude oil pipeline, demand universal access to clean energy

If constructed, the heated pipeline will run along Lake Victoria for 460km. [iStockphoto]

Religious leaders have urged African governments to reject any efforts to introduce fossil fuel projects such as the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) when the rest of the world is phasing out such.

Instead, the clerics called for a faster universal access to renewable energy, but one that does not lead to destruction of the environment or cause harm to the people.

"There is no justification for allowing new fossil fuel projects when the alternative more renewable energy sources have not been exploited. We must instill proper and sustainable use of earth's resources without hurting its occupants," said Sheikh Ibrahim Lithome of the Interreligious Council of Kenya.

The religious leaders representing various faiths, including Hindu, Muslim and Christian, spoke at the 'Religious Leaders Roundtable on EACOP' event organised by GreenFaith in Nairobi on Thursday.

Sheikh Lithome said faith and religious leaders, as custodians of Earth's user manual given by the Creator, should lead in capacity building and reminding governments and all on the need to keep the environment cleaner and safer.

"Is Nairobi River, for instance, as clean as it was given to us by God? We have a responsibility to provide guidance on how to take care of the environment given to us by God. As religious leaders, if you cannot take action to change ills, at least use your voice. We can do the same in the case of the EACOP," he said.

Religious leaders during the roundtable meeting on stopping EACOP. in Nairobi on Thursday. They called for universal access to clean energy without destroying the environment. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Muslims for Human Rights Executive Director Omar Elmawi condemned the deliberate misuse of earth's resources as well as taking advantage of Africa's desire to industrialise as a justification for introducing new fossil fuel projects.

He condemned EACOP, which projects to transport crude oil drilled in Uganda to Tanzania's Tanga port, over 1,445km, on a heated pipeline.

"It is true East Africa wants to develop. But at what cost? EACOP risks tripling East Africa's carbon emissions and leaving the continent dirtier and poorer after the stakeholders cart away profits," said Elmawi.

"It is not for the good of Africa. If it were so, why should more than 1,000 families be displaced, be poorly compensated and promised jobs they will not have capacity to do?"

EACOP has, however, defended the project, saying it will uplift the economies of Uganda and Tanzania by directly injecting into them up to $3.5 billion investment capital.

The investment is associated with the construction and operation of the pipeline, which it says will increase the two countries' foreign direct investment by more than 60 per cent during the construction phase.

The project stakeholders have also promised to create thousands of jobs throughout the pipeline route.

"The pipeline will create short-term employment for highly skilled and semi-skilled professionals, and casual labourers. It is expected that casual workers who will be involved in the construction phase of the project will be sourced locally from each district, thus promoting the development of local capacity to develop other pipeline projects in the region," EACOP says on its website.

The faith leaders called on African governments to do due diligence before engaging in deals that will cause more harm than good to the continent's population and biodiversity.

"Not all that glitters is gold. We must not accept anything that will adulterate the earth in the name of helping Africa to develop," said Pastor Sam Kaloki.

The meeting was held to add voices to calls for signing of the global Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty, even as the world's focus shifts to COP27 in Egypt next month.

Tired of the losses and deaths communities have suffered due to starvation in parts of Kenya, specifically in Kilifi and Garissa, Muslim faithful held day-long prayers, seeking God's intervention.

"It is this notion that we are not to blame for the climate-induced water and other stresses that the religious leaders want made clear," said Abdirizak Maalim from Garissa.

Economic and Ecological Justice Programme Executive Director Dr Tinashe Gumbo said: "As we go to COP27, it is all about justice. We must push those behind injustices causing the climate crisis to pay."

The meeting ended with more to brainstorm about as GreenFaith Co-Director for Organising, Meryne Warah, said, "Oil projects such as EACOP happen where indigenous communities and usually poor people live. But why should such a project be militarised? Who needs security between the people and resources?"

Lithome said time had come to remind the global and local leaders of their moral duty to treat the earth and the creatures in it as sacred as they are meant to be.

"It is true that Africa needs to develop, just like the global north. But two wrongs don't make a right. We have the responsibility to provide guidance to fellow human beings on how to take care of the earth. He gave us the earth clean. We should leave it clean," he said.

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