French giant TotalEnergies implicated in intimidation of communities affected by controversial oil pipeline

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  • In several cases, the investigation also found evidence that suggests TotalEnergies was in communication with Ugandan state authorities prior to threats and detentions of anti-oil campaigners.
  • TotalEnergies is also accused of downplaying abuses and ‘gaslighting’ defenders 
  • Global Witness is now calling for an independent investigation into TotalEnergies' role in this crackdown on land and environmental defenders


Monday 4th December 2023, London - The role of French oil giant TotalEnergies in intimidation of and reprisals against communities affected by a US$5billion fossil fuel project in Uganda and Tanzania has been brought into question in a new investigation by Global Witness.

Backed by TotalEnergies and state oil companies, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) has already caused huge disruption to those living along the proposed 1,440km pipeline route. The project is set to have devastating environmental consequences, with estimated emissions of almost 380 million tonnes CO2 over its 25-year life span – more than the UK’s national CO2 emissions in 2022.

Published today, the investigation found that TotalEnergies and its contractors have been party to bullying and intimidation of communities affected by EACOP - even where it was carried out by state authorities. It documents numerous allegations by community members who felt pressured into accepting compensation deals for their land well below its true value, with some community members reporting being forced to sign contracts on the spot. Others reported not being given enough time to understand the documents they were signing.

On top of these findings, the investigation uncovers evidence that threats against and detentions of several campaigners carried out by state authorities took place after they opposed the construction of the pipeline. In a handful of instances, the state authorities appeared to be in communications with TotalEnergies before reprisals took place.

Since September 2020, at least 40 campaigners in Uganda alone have been detained for speaking out against oil or the pipeline, with some alleging that they have been beaten while in custody. 

The report highlights that if TotalEnergies is found on further investigation to have shared information in the knowledge that reprisals against defenders could follow, this could open the company - which owns almost two thirds of EACOP - to potential liability.

Hanna Hindstrom, Land and Environmental Defenders Campaign Senior Investigator at Global Witness said: “Reprisals against activists in these authoritarian states have created a chilling effect on communities impacted by the pipeline and civil society in both Tanzania and Uganda, with many reportedly too scared to speak out. 

"As the major shareholder in EACOP, it is vital that any complicity on the part of TotalEnergies’ in the arrests, attacks and reprisals against those affected by the project is investigated further.”


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