A delegation of climate activists from Uganda arrived in Vatican City on Wednesday, March 23, to ask Pope Francis for his support in the campaign to stop the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

The group, made up of Vanessa Nakate, Diana Nabiruma, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye and Maxwell Atuhura, and accompanied by Tomás Insua, Laudato Si’ Movement, Executive Director, participated in the General Audience of the Holy Father in the Paul VI Hall, and received a special greeting from Pope Francis.

Later, the delegation met with the members of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. There they were received by Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, coordinator of Ecology and Creation, and other members, for a meeting.

Among the interventions, Fr. Joshtrom noted that “the earth and the poor in Uganda are crying out against EACOP, and if we want a peaceful, sustainable world, we must stop the EACOP and transition out of crude oil into renewable sources of energy.” 

Vanessa Nakate, founder of the “Rise up” climate movement, expressed on her social networks the joy of the visit to the Vatican: “Today I was honored to meet Pope Francis. I told him French oil giant TotalEnergies’ EACOP will destroy nature and harm people in Uganda and far beyond. As Pontifex says: ‘We must take care of our common home.’ We cannot drink oil.”

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline, if completed, would be over 1,443 kilometers from Hoima in Uganda to the port of Tanga and would become the longest heated crude oil pipeline in the world.

Campaigners warn that the risk of oil spills poses “a major threat” to the livelihoods and well-being of tens of millions of Ugandans and Tanzanians. In addition, they add that it would generate “more than 34 million additional tons of carbon emissions each year, which would accelerate the climate crisis.”

Nakate warned that Wednesday’s meeting with Pope Francis is “vital” because, although “environmental advocates and scientists have alerted world leaders to the dangers facing people and the planet,” there is still “continuous investment on fossil fuels.”

“It is time to step up our efforts to end the fossil fuel era, and for the Pope to recognize our StopEACOP campaign gives even more moral authority to our demands,” she added.

For her part, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, founder of the Fridays for Future movement in Uganda, mentioned: “This tour is important because they are big decision-makers and what they decide impacts us, the people. Also, Total is a big company that’s being supported by large institutions and we are reaching out to them so that they withdraw from supporting Total’s activities until it withdraws from fossil fuel projects.”

The “StopEACOP” campaign is gaining momentum and putting pressure on the remaining supporters and funders of the East African pipeline. On March 17, the world’s fourth-largest insurer, SCOR, announced that it “will not provide facultative insurance or reinsurance with respect to this project,” joining 15 major banks that have ruled out support for the pipeline.

StopEACOP activists are on a tour of Europe during which they made an intervention at the UN in Geneva, met with French government officials, gave speeches to tens of thousands of people in Paris and met with BNP Paribas representatives to demand an end to bank financing of fossil fuels.

The Laudato Si’ Movement is part of the #StopEACOP coalition of more than 40 organizations acting together to stop EACOP for nature, for people and for the climate. More than a million people have already raised their voices against EACOP, including the African bishops’ call to stop oil and gas exploration in Africa, published on September 24, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development of the Vatican, and Archbishop Jean-Marc Aveline of Marseille.