Mediation collapses, NGOs want case against EACOP to proceed to trial  

Six civil society organisations, two of which are from France and four from Uganda, are seeking to stop construction of the pipeline. Photo | Courtesy  

What you need to know:

  • In October 2019, a section of civil society organisations brought proceedings against Total Energies in France claiming it had insufficiently identified and managed the social and environmental impact of the Tilenga and EACOP projects in Uganda and Tanzania.

A case in which a section of civil society organisations is seeking to stop construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) will continue to trial in Paris following collapse of mediation. 

In a statement published on Wednesday, Total Energies indicated that civil society organisations had snubbed a mediation process with Total, which had been proposed by a Paris Civil Court in France.

The mediation was in connection with a court hearing that was expected on Wednesday, forcing the court to push the pleadings to December 7.

In October 2019, Total said, a section of non-government organisations had brought proceedings against it in the Nanterre Civil Court in France’s “duty of vigilance” law, claiming it had insufficiently identified and managed the social and environmental impact of the Tilenga and EACOP projects in Uganda and Tanzania.

France’s “duty of vigilance”  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 is not only in relation to the company’s own activities but also those of its subcontractors. 

Total said that whereas it had accepted the mediation, and saw it as an opportunity to initiate a constructive dialogue, civil society organisations had refused to participate. 

The statement does not mention which civil society organisation, however, Mr Dickens Kamugisha, one of the civil society activists involved in the case, said there are six non-government organisations, of which two are from France and four from Uganda.

Mr Kamugisha heads the Africa Institute for Energy Governance while other non-government organisations include Friends of Earth and Survie from France, National Professional Environmentalists, Navigators for Development, and Civic Response on Environment and Development based in Uganda.  

On Wednesday Mr Kamugisha told Monitor that they had snubbed the mediation because the issues raised in court could not be managed by “simple mediation.”

“The issues have been going on for some time such as denying people from using their land through cut off debts,” he said, noting that Total’s failure to assess new developments on land when assessing property for compensation, was indirect displacement.

“The issues at hand involve damages, and mediation cannot work in this case. It is necessary that the process is determined by the court,” he added.

However, Total said it will argue in court that its vigilance plan had been implemented effectively given that it had properly checked that its Uganda and Tanzania affiliates had applied appropriate action plans to respect the rights of local communities and ensure respect for biodiversity, within the framework of National Interest Projects decided by the governments of Uganda and Tanzania.

It also noted that its affiliates in both countries had commissioned third-party experts to monitor the situations of the people affected by the project, highlighting that their feedback on Tilenga, which covers 4,929 households, had indicated that 92 percent of the compensation agreements had been signed with at least 88 percent of compensation paid.

Project affected persons 

The EACOP will affect close to 3,648 households, of which 74 percent of compensation agreements have been signed and almost 60 percent compensated. 

Total also says that in cases where payment has not been received, the households concerned naturally continue to access and enjoy full disposal of their homes and land.