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Trial against EACOP starts on Wednesday in France

The trial of a case in which a section of Non-Governmental Organisations are seeking to stop construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) shall start on Wednesday in France.

In October 2019, six Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) tracking developments in Uganda’s oil and gas industry brought proceedings against TotalEnergies in France claiming that it had not sufficiently managed and identified social and environmental impacts of Tilenga and EACOP projects in Uganda and Tanzania.

This follows collapse of mediation. In a statement published on October 12, TotalEnergies said NGOs snubbed mediation process which had been proposed by Paris civil court and accepted by the aforesaid oil firm.

“TotalEnergies could have provided an opportunity to initiate a constructive dialogue with the NGOs that brought the proceedings, similar to the dialogue that the Company’s affiliates in Uganda and Tanzania have maintained with the majority of local associations since the projects began,” the oil firm said.

The mediation was in connection with a court hearing expected on October 12, 2022, forcing the court to push the proceedings to December 7, this Wednesday.

The NGOs said they snubbed mediations since the issues raised in court could not be resolved by “simple mediations.”

The NGOs based their case on the merits of France’s “duty of vigilance law” adopted in 2017 which requires companies of a certain size to publish in their management report a vigilance plan on measures taken to identify risks and prevent potential violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, human and environmental health and safety.

This should be in relation to the company and its sub-contractors activities. The NGOs involved in the case include two from France and four from Uganda.

They are Friends of the Earth France, Survie, Africa Institute of Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), National Association of Professional Environmentalists (APE) or Friends of the Earth Uganda and Navigators of Development Association (NAVO

In a press release on Tuesday the NGOs said in preparation for this hearing, the court summons have been updated with new testimonies and evidence of ongoing human rights violations.

“While the first oil drilling are imminent, the file has also been strengthened with respect to environmental and climate change aspects, thanks to new scientific studies and expert reports that highlight not only the major risks associated with these projects, but also the failure, or even non-existence, of measures taken by TotalEnergies to address these risks,” they said.

They want judges to order TotalEnergies, subject to a financial penalty to: bring its vigilance plan into compliance with the law by including all the risks of serious harms associated with the Tilenga and EACOP projects, as well as the appropriate vigilance measures to be developed.

They want the French oil firm to address these risks; effectively implement these vigilance measures, including emergency measures such as immediate payment of compensation and food support for communities deprived of their livelihoods.

Juliette Renaud, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth France said: “The situation is only getting worse for local communities, who for years have been suffering violations of their fundamental rights and land grabbing linked to the development of TotalEnergies oil mega-project. We finally have the opportunity to get to the heart of the matter in court and hold this transnational corporation accountable for its actions.”

But, TotaEnergies in an October 12 press release said it will argue in court that its vigilance plan had been implemented effectively after it checked that its affiliates in Uganda and Tanzania had applied apt action plans to ensure respect for biodiversity and rights of communities.

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