Uganda has suspended the launch of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project until next month out of respect for the death of Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli and amid concerns that his demise could derail it altogether. On its eventual completion, the $3.55bn, 1,445-km oil pipeline will run from the oilfields of western Uganda to the Tanzanian seaport of Tanga and will be the longest electrically heated pipeline in the world. (It has to be heated because of the waxy nature of Uganda’s oil). It will be constructed and operated by a joint venture company comprising the Uganda National Oil Company, the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation, France’s TOTAL and China’s CNOOC.
Magufuli is generally agreed to have been instrumental in formulating the project and in smoothing the way for the signing of the inter governmental agreements in 2017 and the Tanzania Host Government Agreement (HGA) three years later. The question of compensation for the people adversely affected by the pipeline has not been entirely resolved, however, and concerns have even been raised that his death may put the entire project in jeopardy. According to Winfred Ngabiirwe, Executive Director of the Global Rights Alert (GRA) civil society organisation representing some of the residents, Magufuli’s absence could at the very least delay negotiations.
Earlier this month, TOTAL announced that it would take steps to minimize the damage to the lives of those disrupted by the pipeline and pledged to give the 723 households whose primary residences are affected by the pipeline project either a new house in a new location or money.
Although he became increasingly authoritarian in later years and ended up notorious for his COVID denial, as a cabinet minister he earned a reputation as a hard and honest worker who was responsible for building a road network connecting many parts of the country and for introducing a new rapid bus system in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital.