On the cloudy afternoon of April 23, 2016, the regional heads of state of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda under the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Programs (NCIP) cluster gathered at Commonwealth Resort, Munyonyo for their 13th extraordinary meeting that will forever be memorable.

It was announced here that Uganda had chosen the southern route through Tanzania, not a member of the cluster, “as the cheapest option” for developing the proposed crude oil export pipeline.

The EACOP, a 1443 km channel, will wind through 10 districts in Uganda and through 23 districts in Tanzania to the port of Chongoleani-Tanga, along the Indian Ocean. Uganda and Tanzania share a unique history dating back to the pre-colonial period. The EACOP route cuts through areas such as the Tanga, Bagamoyo and Kagera regions with much of this history.

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As I traveled the route from Tanga to Kagera with colleagues from the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) and the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA), we reminisced about this historic interrelationship that is EACOP.

Tanga is one of the oldest cities and ports in Northeastern Tanzania, located on the Pemba Channel of the Indian Ocean and was founded by Portuguese traders around 1500 as a trading post for ivory and slaves. The port underwent more transformation during the German colonial rule from 1894 to 1918 when Tanganyika was placed under the trusteeship of the League of Nations

The delegation led by Colonel RO 00027 (Rtd) Fred Mwesigye, Ugandan High Commissioner to Tanzania, a national resistance historian, visited the site for the Marine Storage Terminal (MST) in Chongoleani – Tanga, where the EACOP route terminates. This MST, with evacuation, cutting and filling operations 90 percent complete, will have four tanks, each with a storage capacity of 500,000 barrels of oil.

On our way to Tanga from Dar es Salaam, we passed through Bagamoyo, another historic city on the coast. Bagamoyo has carved its name in history as the epicenter of the rise and fall of the slave trade.

It was a vital trading town on Tanzania’s coast during the height of the Arab-run slave and ivory trade. Only in 1922 was the slave trade abolished in this area. Today, this historic coastal town has some of these monuments erected as a lasting reminder of the remnants of colonialism and the slave trade.

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In Singida district, we visited the Main Camp & Pipe Yard (MCPY)-11 in the Musisi district of Ntondo village. Progress on early civil works for the camp by Nyanza Roads, a local Tanzanian construction company, was at 98% and expected to be completed by the end of February 2023. farm to supplement EACOP energy needs during the operational phase of the project.

The EACOP will cross the Kagera River using horizontal directional drilling technology at Kyaka Point, Missenyi district on its way to Tanga.

The Kagera region is emblematic of the modern history of the liberation struggle for Uganda, by President Julius Nyerere, the Founding Father of Tanzania and General Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda.

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The war broke out here between October 1978 and June 1979 and led to the overthrow of former Ugandan president Idi Amin. This was preceded by an invasion by Idi Amin’s army of the Kagera salient there, leading to a full-blown war between Uganda and Tanzania. Amin’s army was defeated by a combined force of the Tanzanian army (Bakombozi) and the rebel groups in exile in Uganda.

Who was then best suited to lead this 1500 km expedition from Dar es Salaam, through Bagamoyo, via Singida to the historical Kagera region other than RO 00027, Colonel Fred Mwesigye, a historical but also war memorial walking encyclopedia. By chance I ran into my old comrade Daniel Mukombozi whose name is clearly the result of the bakombozi war of 1979.

In Hoima, where the EACOP begins its journey, is home to the Omukama kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, Kabalega John Chwa II, one of the greatest cultural leaders known for his fierce resistance to British colonial rule.

The EACOP is an umbilical cord code that connects the people of Uganda and Tanzania. It is a congruence of the history of triumph over adversity. It weaves the thread of slave trade, German occupation, Nyangire revolts to the ensuing liberation struggle. I have no doubt that those who fight it have “learned nothing and forgotten nothing”.

With the accession of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the East African Community, the EACOP is expected to complete the integration of East Africa. The DRC is expected to start its own oil project which will most likely use the EACOP to end up in the international market, erasing the imperialist history of the Belgian Congo.

We are not history makers; we are made by history. The further you look back, the further you look forward. The EACOP is just around the corner and on track to release the first drop of Ugandan crude oil onto the international market.

Ali Ssekatawa is the director of legal and business affairs at the PAU

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