Sat. May 25th, 2024

French authorities have launched an investigation into oil company TotalEnergies following a deadly 2021 jihadist attack in Mozambique. The attack, which occurred in the northern port town of Palma, resulted in hundreds of deaths and has raised serious questions about the safety measures in place for the company’s operations in the region.

The probe, led by French prosecutors, aims to determine whether TotalEnergies is responsible for involuntary manslaughter and non-assistance to people in danger.

The investigation was prompted by a legal complaint from families of victims and survivors of the attack. According to the complaint, TotalEnergies, which was involved in a major liquefied natural gas project in the area, failed to ensure adequate protection for its subcontractors. Furthermore, it is alleged that the company did not provide sufficient fuel for helicopters to evacuate civilians during the attack, leading to further casualties.

TotalEnergies has rejected these allegations, stating that it took significant steps to ensure the safety of its employees and subcontractors. The company’s representatives have emphasized that its teams in Mozambique provided emergency aid and facilitated the evacuation of 2,500 people, including staff, contractors, and civilians. Despite these claims, survivors and families of the victims insist that TotalEnergies bears responsibility for failing to take adequate preventive measures, given the known risks in the area.

The attack in Palma, which took place in March 2021, was orchestrated by Islamic State-linked militants who had been active in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province since 2017. The violence lasted several days and left several hundred people dead, with thousands displaced from their homes. The brutality of the attack, which included beheadings, shocked the international community and prompted a heightened focus on the security risks in the region.

French prosecutors are now tasked with determining whether TotalEnergies’ conduct before, during, and after the attack amounted to negligence or failure to assist those in need. The preliminary probe will evaluate the evidence presented by the complainants, which may lead to further legal action or the dropping of charges. If the investigation proceeds, it could have significant implications for TotalEnergies’ operations in Mozambique and its broader reputation.

The case has drawn attention from human rights organizations and environmental activists who have criticized TotalEnergies’ presence in Mozambique for reasons beyond the 2021 attack. In November 2023, a coalition of 124 NGOs released an open letter urging financial institutions to withdraw support for TotalEnergies’ $20-billion gas project on the Afungi peninsula. The letter cited humanitarian and security risks, as well as environmental concerns, calling the company’s continued involvement in the region “reckless.”

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