TotalEnergies to Review Land Buys in East Africa Projects

TotalEnergies has announced the commissioning of an assessment of its land acquisition process for a Tanzania-Uganda oil pipeline project and an associated field development project.

The review follows allegations by an interfaith organization that the French energy giant failed to protect hundreds of graves that would be touched by the construction of the 1,443-kilometer (896.64 miles) East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

“As the land acquisition process draws to a close, this mission will evaluate the land acquisition procedures implemented, the conditions for consultation, compensation and relocation of the populations concerned, and the grievance handling mechanism”, TotalEnergies said in a press release.

“It will also assess the actions taken by TotalEnergies EP Uganda and EACOP to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions for the people affected by these land acquisitions and suggest additional measures to be implemented if needed”.

It has tasked ex-Benin Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou for the review, calling the SouthBridge consultancy founder a recognized expert in African economic development. Zinsou, an economist who taught at Paris universities, had already worked with TotalEnergies before, as disclosed by the company.

The assessment report is scheduled for submission to TotalEnergies by April.

“The Tilenga [upstream development project in Uganda] and EACOP projects include a land acquisition program covering some 6,400 hectares, carried out on behalf of the Ugandan and Tanzanian governments”, the media statement said. “This program concerns 19,140 households and communities owning or using plots of land and includes the relocation of 775 primary residences.

“To date, 98 percent of the households concerned have signed compensation agreements, 97 percent have received their compensation, and 98 percent of households to be relocated have taken possession of their new homes”.

In a November report international environmental watchdog GreenFaith documented cases of a lack of compensation for affected burial places; incomplete or poorly constructed relocation sites; risks of limited access to graves due to households having to relocate; and insufficient documentation to account for graves that would be affected.

New York city-based GreenFaith estimated over 2,000 graves in Uganda and Tanzania have been or would be affected by the pipeline designed to run from the town of Kabaale in Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania. It said the figure was based on data from operator and 62-percent owner TotalEnergies itself.

It accused the company of failing to respect local traditions and follow international best practices and engineering standards in treating graves along the EACOP route. “[T]he company did not follow international best practices related to identifying grave sites, developing plans to relocate affected graves, providing compensation for impacted families, and respecting the spiritual and religious needs of affected family and community members”, GreenFaith said, using testimonies from residents, among them Catholics and Muslims. “Worse still, Project officials neglected on many occasions to use due diligence and advanced survey techniques such as ground-penetrating radar, even when local community members made it clear that graves were located in the proposed work area”.

The most common complaint was an inadequacy of compensation for affected graves, GreenFaith said.

GreenFaith said it based the report on public documents from TotalEnergies and field surveys in six districts in Uganda and three districts in Tanzania.

GreenFaith added to a list of campaigners asking majority shareholder TotalEnergies and its partners—China National Offshore Oil Corp. and the national oil companies of the two East African countries—to junk the project.

TotalEnergies dismissed the GreenFaith report. It said in a statement that in accordance with World Bank project standards on cultural heritage, the project partners “developed a management plan for cultural and archaeological heritage” and conducted interviews “with key stakeholders, including communities”, as well as created an “inventory of sites of archaeological, historical, cultural, artistic and religious importance”.

“As much as possible, the project has adopted an avoidance protocol when choosing locations”, TotalEnergies said in the statement emailed to Rigzone in November. “In the event that a cultural site cannot be avoided, precautions were taken to minimize the disruptions, inform and engage with stakeholders and ensure that cultural standards are strictly respected.

“Relocation of sacred sites involves strict adherence to the respective families/ clan’s traditional beliefs or customs, e.g. conducting relocation ceremonies to shift the spirits from sacred trees; sacred watercourses; springs and marshes; traditional religious cultural sites (clan sites and family shrines) to another place”.

On claims of a lack of compensation, TotalEnergies said affected residents “are compensated according to the values agreed with the Chief valuer”.

“The owner of the grave can, if he wishes, move the grave himself (the costs of expiatory rites and travel are then covered supported by the projects), or ask the projects to carry it out on its behalf, free of charge for him”, it added, referring to the pipeline and the associated oil development project.

TotalEnergies already dismissed earlier allegations concerning the displacement of residents, environmental damage, rights violations and climate risks.

It says on its website that only about 5,000 people would be displaced by EACOP, belying allegations the project would force hundreds of thousands of inhabitants to relocate. TotalEnergies highlights that the relocation sites on 5,600 ha of land offer “better conditions”.

And instead of environmental harm, EACOP would lead to a “positive net impact on biodiversity”, it says. TotalEnergies says it has decided to restore wetlands in the Victoria Nile area and 2,000 ha of tropical forest, as well as deploy a species reintroduction program for the black rhinoceros.

On greenhouse gas emissions, TotalEnergies says the projects have integrated mitigating solutions such as the solarization of facilities and zero flaring.

Read the original article on the website of Rigzone