“Only the Brave Talk About Oil”: Human Rights Defenders and the Resource Extraction Industries in Uganda and Tanzania

“It takes more than courage to engage in this, because when you suffer, it’s not only you. You put all of your family through that who do not have somebody else to rely on.”
Tanzanian Human Rights Defender

“Who is ready to die? Who is ready to risk his life? Sometimes if you don’t have human rights blood, you can’t do it. Some find it’s not worth it and some of them don’t want to. It takes heart, it takes courage.”
Tanzanian Human Rights Defender

“It’s only the brave that are going to remain in NGOs, if you begin observing the attitude towards the work by NGO actors, it is varying… it becomes difficult, because only the brave will talk about oil.”
Ugandan Human Rights Defender


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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Source: The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project