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Uganda activists file new Paris case over TotalEnergies’ East Africa oil pipeline project

3 July 2023 18:16 (UTC+04:00)
Uganda activists file new Paris case over TotalEnergies’ East Africa oil pipeline project

Ugandan activists brought another legal case Tuesday against French oil giant TotalEnergies, seeking damages over alleged food and land rights violations in the company’s East Africa operations.

The civil suit filed in Paris comes four months after the collapse of a similar case brought by activists who wanted to stop TotalEnergies’ pipeline project in Uganda and Tanzania, alleging environmental risks and an infringement of rights.

Campaigners who oppose a project they insist violates the Paris climate accord were disappointed when the case was dismissed on procedural grounds before going to trial.

The new litigation cites TotalEnergies’ alleged failure to comply with France’s “duty of vigilance” law and seeks compensation for the company’s alleged violations of land and food rights over six years.

TotalEnergies has long denied the allegations.

Five French and and Ugandan civic groups, including the French branch of Friends of the Earth and the Uganda-based Africa Institute for Energy Governance, or AFIEGO, are plaintiffs in the case.

Community challenges stemming from TotalEnergies’ projects include under-compensation as well as the “construction of small, inappropriate replacement housing that is not suitable to the family sizes of affected households,” said Dickens Kamugisha, AFIEGO’s chief executive.

TotalEnergies is the majority shareholder in the 897-mile (1,443-kilometer) East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline, which would carry oil from wells in western Uganda to Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port of Tanga. Authorities have described it as the world’s longest heated oil pipeline.

Some oil wells are to be drilled within western Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park, where the Nile River plummets 130 feet (40 meters) through a 20-foot-wide (6-meter-wide) gap and the surrounding wilderness is home to hippos, egrets, giraffes and antelopes.

The pipeline would then pass through seven forest reserves and two game parks, running alongside Lake Victoria, a source of fresh water for 40 million people.

That route’s ecological fragility is one reason why some activists oppose the project despite assurances from TotalEnergies that the pipeline’s state-of-the-art-design will ensure safety for decades.

Ugandan authorities see the oil drilling project and the pipeline as key to economic development, saying oil wealth could help lift millions out of poverty.

Uganda is estimated to have recoverable oil reserves of at least 1.4 billion barrels.

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