Only the Brave Talk About Oil: Human rights defenders and the resource extraction industries in Uganda and Tanzania

The resource extraction industries, comprising the oil, gas, and mining sectors, is growing exponentially across East Africa.The enormous economic opportunity presented by these natural resource endowments has raised proportionally large concerns for sustainable environmental governance, revenue management, public health, community compensation, and intergenerational justice.

Human rights defenders (HRDs) have organized around these sectors to fulfil a crucial advocacy and monitoring role. In those regards HRDs in East Africa seek to influence both the regulatory frameworks governing the extractive sector as well as the public discourse which itself further influences policy-making, while raising the alarm when actors diverge from their responsibilities or when abuses go unaddressed.

Despite their critical role, HRDs have found the extractive sector to be resistant to monitoring and hostile to criticism, and HRDs who consistently engage these economies have found themselves under attack by both State and non-State actors.

This report by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project examines the situation of human rights defenders engaging with the mining sector of Tanzania and the oil and gas sectors of Uganda. It has been produced with the objective of improving understanding of the capacity, risks faced, and needs of human rights defenders engaging on this important sector, and to subsequently promote an improved working environment for those HRDs.

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Human Rights Defender of the month: Alex Njenga John

Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.

Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.

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