Harare — At least 26 Ugandans have filed a lawsuit against French oil firm TotalEnergies in Paris, France, seeking compensation for alleged human rights abuses at the company’s huge megaprojects there. According to AFP, people from the impacted areas, joined by five French and Ugandan charity organisations, say that the energy company TotalEnergies caused “serious harm,” to their rights to land and food.
Two enormous TotalEnergies projects, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, a 1,500km pipeline bringing crude oil to the Tanzanian coast through a number of protected nature reserves, and the Tilenga exploration of 419 oil wells, one-third of which are in Uganda’s largest national park of Murchison Falls, are at the centre of their complaint before the Paris court. Ugandans have also claimed that several areas experienced floods as a result of work at the oil treatment facility for the Tilenga project.
Local environmentalists and experts believe the deforestation left local residents vulnerable and negatively affected about 4,000 people. Trees hugely reduce the likelihood of flooding by slowing and reducing surface run-off as well as by storing water.
While in breach of their property rights, those impacted by the work have been denied free access to their land for three to four years.
According to the organisations, the two TotalEnergies projects have reportedly resulted in the total or partial expropriation of land belonging to more than 118,000 individuals.
EACOP: A Crude Reality, by environmental non-profit 350.org, features the testimonies of communities directly affected by Total Energies’ mega project. One Ugandan community member says they lost their family home after being refused resettlement and forced to take cash compensation.
When criticised about the EACOP project, Total Energies said the EACOP and its upstream Tilenga oil project in Uganda are “low-cost and low-carbon”.
“I want to mention our projects in Uganda and Tanzania that are regularly criticised by NGOs. These are the major industrial projects for the two countries. The announcement in February 2022 of the launch of this project is part of our commitment that is exemplary in terms of sustainability,” said CEO of Total Energies, Patrick Pouyanne.
According to Pouyanne, villagers had been offered a choice between replacement housing and cash compensation.
In 2022, a delegation of climate activists from Uganda and Tanzania travelled to Europe to highlight the devastating impact of EACOP to policy makers, faith leaders and financiers. They were joined by climate activists from Europe and across the world to demand climate justice.
While more than 30 financial institutions around the word have officially announced that they will not support the project, the #StopEACOP campaign continues to target funders and possible financiers supporting the acceleration of the climate crisis by destroying biodiversity and protected areas in a process leading to human rights abuses.