The French group TotalEnergies announced on Thursday January 4 that it was launching an “assessment mission” on the land aspect of its oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania, East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and Tilenga, which are hotly contested by environmental and human rights associations.

This “evaluation mission of the land acquisition program carried out in Uganda and Tanzania as part of the Tilenga and EACOP projects” is entrusted “to Lionel Zinsou, a personality recognized for his expertise in the economic development of Africa”, TotalEnergies said in a press release.

“As the land acquisition process is now coming to an end, this mission will evaluate the acquisition procedures implemented, the conditions of consultation, compensation and relocation of the populations concerned, as well as the treatment process grievances,” the company said.

Ecosystème fragile

“It will also evaluate the actions carried out by TotalEnergies EP Uganda and the company EACOP to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of the people affected by these land acquisitions and will propose, if necessary, additional actions to be implemented,” a- she added.

The launch of this assessment mission is a way for the French oil giant to respond to criticism surrounding the EACOP megaproject, which was the subject of a $10 billion (US$9.12 billion) investment agreement. euros) with Uganda, Tanzania and the Chinese company CNOOC.

The project indeed meets opposition from activists and environmental defense groups, who believe that it threatens the fragile ecosystem of the region and the populations who live there.

It includes the drilling of 419 wells (Tilenga project) in the Murchison Falls Natural Park, a remarkable biodiversity reserve located in western Uganda, as well as the construction of a 1,443 km heated oil pipeline connecting the deposits of Lake Albert at the Tanzanian coast on the Indian Ocean.

“Livelihoods devastated”

At the beginning of July, Human Rights Watch called for it to be stopped, estimating in a report that it had already “devastated the livelihoods of thousands of people”.

In September, four environmental defense associations – Darwin Climax Coalitions, Sea Shepherd France, Wild Legal and Stop EACOP-Stop Total in Uganda – filed a complaint in France for “climaticide” against the group and its project.

Lionel Zinzou, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Benin in 2015-2016, has “already collaborated” with TotalEnergies in the past “on economic development issues”, via his consulting company dedicated to the African continent. It should submit its report “by April 2024”, specifies TotalEnergies.