Amsterdam and Kampala, January 12, 2023: Just Finance International takes note of TotalEnergies’ response to our investigative piece, “Risk of poverty after land acquisitions for Uganda’s mega oil pipeline”, published on the Business and Human Rights Centre website. Contrary to TotalEnergies’ claims, before publishing our piece, Just Finance International reached out twice to the EACOP consortium based in Kampala – of which TotalEnergies is a majority shareholder – to provide them with the opportunity to respond to the investigation findings and allegations. We have copies of the emails sent to the official EACOP consortium email account and are happy to share them with TotalEnergies and others as needed.
TotalEnergies claims in its response that the company is already in touch with the individuals mentioned in our article and that it is implementing non-binding business standards such as the Equators Principles. However, our joint investigations with Ugandan civil society partners have found that the project-affected communities featured in our article say they are continuing to be forced into accepting unilaterally determined compensation, and still face constant threats of involuntary resettlement and land acquisition. Furthermore, communities reported in late December that they were not contacted by the EACOP consortium or any of its business affiliates, while signposts used by the companies in sharing information about the project are defunct and have not been used for a long time.
Contrary to TotalEnergies’ response, most project-affected persons (PAPs) interviewed by JFI and its Ugandan partner organizations have asserted in interviews and meetings that TotalEnergies’ failed to respect the principle of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) by meaningfully informing and consulting affected communities prior to and during project implementation. Project-affected men and women have emphasized to JFI and local partners that their rights to health, decent housing, and adequate standards of living continue to be violated. These testimonies confirm the findings highlighted in a joint report by Les Amis de la Terre France and Survie, civil society organizations that, together with four Ugandan civil society organizations, have filed a lawsuit against TotalEnergies in France based on the French duty of vigilance law.
It appears that TotalEnergies and the EACOP Consortium have not adequately developed and implemented environmental and social due diligence measures to identify and remedy the irreversible environmental and social impacts of the pipeline, despite a recent resolution by the European Parliament criticizing TotalEnergies and China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s complicity in violating human rights and demanding that the EACOP consortium suspends the project to allow for the study of an alternative solution to better safeguard the protected areas, as well as provide timely redress and fair compensation for the project-affected communities. Furthermore, the compensation needs to be delivered on time. Many PAPs complain about long delays and that they are deprived of their free use of land even before receiving the compensation.
TotalEnergies’ failure to deliver accountability to PAPs, raises questions about the company’s lack of compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other non-binding standards, such as the IFC standards, although the company claims to adhere to them. Assessments by Banktrack and other NGOs also found the EACOP project was not compliant with the Equator principles and that “serious human rights impacts have already occurred before commercial extraction and construction of the pipeline has even begun.”
According to the EACOP consortium’s Resettlement Action Plan, nearly 25,000 individuals in Uganda are affected by the EACOP project and over 200 households need to be resettled. TotalEnergies’ estimates of the actual number PAPs contradicts the ‘18,700 Project Affected Persons’ mentioned in the company’s response to Just Finance International, which raises concerns about the company’s abilities to accurately assess, identify and remedy the social impacts that arise from involuntary land acquisition and resettlement.
Just Finance International recommends that the EACOP consortium – of which TotalEnergies is the majority shareholder – suspends project implementation until it meaningfully resolves the complaints of project-affected people and guarantees that every person, including women, children, and vulnerable populations such as the elderly, can continue to have the same living conditions they had before the land acquisition process started. The EACOP consortium must also respect the cultural beliefs and customs of Indigenous communities throughout project implementation such as by providing compensation for the destruction of graves and the cutting down of holy trees. Local communities have reported that they have not always received compensation for the loss and damage to these spiritual sites, despite their great significance.
TotalEnergies should also ensure that all state and commercial actors involved in the project cease to intimidate project-affected peoples, as well as civil society organizations working to support those communities.
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