Concerns mount over environmental activist 'abducted by UPDF'

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Concerns mount over environmental activist 'abducted by UPDF'
Col. Deo Akiiki, the Deputy Spokesperson of the UPDF.

A member of the Kingfisher community and a dedicated advocate for environmental governance with the Environment Governance Institute (EGI), Stephen Kwikiriza, has reportedly been abducted by plain-clothed officers of the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF).

This incident follows the recent arrest of seven Ugandans outside the Chinese embassy in Kampala, raising further concerns about the suppression of dissent and human rights violations associated with the Kingfisher project.

The individuals were apprehended while attempting to deliver a petition outlining the detrimental impacts of the oil project, including land loss, environmental degradation, and violations of human and community rights.

Kwikiriza's alleged abduction took place on June 4, 2024, according to the report.

Samuel Okulony, an Environment Specialist at the Environment Governance Institute, expressed deep concern regarding Kwikiriza's disappearance.

"His wife later reported that he was abducted by UPDF officers in plain clothes"

"All of his known phone numbers are currently unreachable. Stephen's whereabouts and condition remain unknown. A legal team is actively contacting and visiting various military and police detention centers in an effort to locate him and take appropriate action," he stated.

Efforts to locate Kwikiriza have been met with frustration as his whereabouts remain undisclosed.

This has prompted a unified legal campaign by advocacy groups and concerned individuals to exert pressure on authorities for his immediate release.

"The Stop EACOP coalition is particularly alarmed since Stephen had been residing in an undisclosed Safe House since mid-March due to threats from the UPDF deployed in Kingfisher," Okulony added.

The Kingfisher project, developed by the Chinese company China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), with Total Energies as the main shareholder, is an oil project situated in western Uganda along the shores of Lake Albert.

Deo Akiki, the deputy spokesperson for UPDF, responded to the allegations, stating that the case should have been reported to the police for investigation.

"The person who issued the statement assumed the roles of a judge and prosecutor by identifying the individual as a UPDF officer. The role of the UPDF and Police is not to abduct but to arrest," Akiki said in an interview with the Nile Post.

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