HRW Calls to Halt Oil Project Led by TotalEnergies, Citing Environmental and Human Rights Concerns

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for an immediate halt to a major East African oil project led by French energy giant TotalEnergies. The project, known as the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), involves a $10-billion agreement between TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation to develop oilfields in Uganda and transport the crude through a 1,445-kilometer pipeline to Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port of Tanga.

The EACOP has faced strong opposition from rights activists, environmental groups, and legal challenges in France. Critics have raised concerns about the project’s environmental impact and its consequences for local communities.

While TotalEnergies asserts that those affected by the project have been fairly compensated for their land and that measures are in place to protect the environment, HRW argues that the mega-project will irreparably harm fragile ecosystems. HRW alleges that some of the expected 100,000 people to be displaced by the project have been treated poorly.

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Researchers conducted over 90 interviews, including with 75 displaced families, during March and April of this year. Many of these families reported receiving delayed or inadequate compensation. HRW documented cases where farmers went into debt while waiting for compensation, resulting in children dropping out of school due to financial constraints.

There have been reports of pressure on affected communities to sell their land, including instances where compensation agreements were signed in a language that the signatories could not read. HRW also highlighted the presence of government and security officials at public meetings, which created an intimidating environment for those affected by the project.

TotalEnergies is currently facing legal action in Paris, with five Ugandan and French aid groups, as well as 26 Ugandans, suing the company for alleged human rights violations at two of its mega-projects in Uganda, including the EACOP.

While TotalEnergies has claimed to offer fair compensation and to respect the rights of the affected communities, HRW insists that the project should not be completed. The project, hailed by President Museveni as a major economic boost for Uganda, has raised concerns about its potential impact on the environment and local communities.

As the debate continues, the fate of the EACOP project hangs in the balance, with the international community closely monitoring developments and calls for greater accountability.

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