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Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

In a statement on Thursday, French energy giant TotalEnergies announced a comprehensive review of its land acquisition practices for the contentious $10-billion projects in Uganda and Tanzania, both facing criticism from environmentalists.

Despite opposition, TotalEnergies is proceeding with the Tilenga drilling project in Uganda and the 1,443-kilometer East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) to transport oil to Tanzania’s coast.

The review mission will assess the implemented land acquisition procedures, consultation conditions, compensation and relocation of affected populations, and the grievance handling mechanism. The company aims to submit the report by April.

The Tilenga drilling project, situated in the Murchison Falls nature reserve in western Uganda, involves 419 planned wells, raising concerns about the fragile ecosystem. Drilling commenced in mid-2023, and production is scheduled to begin in 2025.

TotalEnergies, collaborating with Chinese oil company CNOOC, disclosed that its 6,400-hectare acquisition plan affects “19,140 households and communities,” with 98 percent of households having signed compensation agreements. Despite these claims, opposition to the project has grown among activists, conservationists, and those apprehensive about its impact on local populations.

Human Rights Watch, in a July report, called for a halt to the plans, asserting that the project had already “devastated thousands of people’s livelihoods in Uganda” and would ultimately displace over 100,000 people. Four environmental groups filed a criminal complaint in France in September, accusing TotalEnergies of “ecocide.”

Despite resistance, the company maintains progress, stating that the East African Court of Justice in Tanzania and a Paris court had rejected previous complaints.

In a move to address concerns, TotalEnergies appointed Benin’s former Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, a recognized expert in African economic development, to lead the land acquisition assessment. Zinsou, who has collaborated with TotalEnergies in the past through his consulting company, will play a key role in evaluating the contentious projects.

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