A mediation hearing between TotalEnergies and the civil society opposed to East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline(EACOP) at the Paris Civil court on flopped Wednesday.
It is alleged that the NGOs that were supposed to be part of the mediation boycotted participating in a court hearing. The court decided that the pleadings would take place on December 7, 2022.
Six NGOs including Amis de la Terre France, Survie, Uganda’s AFIEGO, CRED, NAPE, and NAVODA had petitioned the court in France complaining about shortcomings in TotalEnergies’ environmental oversight plan. The NGOs had also voiced concerns about alleged human rights violations in Uganda.
TotalEnergies in a statement said it regretted that the NGOs involved in the proceedings refused to participate in the mediation process.
The mediation option had been suggested by Nanterre court France to which the NGOs had filed the complaint on the “duty of vigilance”. The court early in the year court found it was not the appropriate place to hear the complaint against TotalEnergies.
France’s “duty of vigilance” law, which came into effect in 2017, requires companies of a certain size to publish in their management report a vigilance plan on measures taken to identify risks and prevent potential serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The companies are also supposed to publicize their human and environmental health and safety, not only in relation to the company’s own activities but also those of its subcontractors and suppliers with whom it has an established commercial relationship.
The mediation accepted by TotalEnergies could have provided an opportunity to initiate a dialogue with the NGOs that brought the proceedings. Similar dialogues have allegedly been initiated TotalEnergies affiliates in Uganda and Tanzania.
Diana Nabiruma, a Communication Officer African Institute for Energy Governance(AFIEGO) in an interview denied that the NGOs boycotted attending the mediation hearing. She said the NGO had requested an extension of the hearing to enable them.
She alleged that TotalEnergies provided a working text for the mediation talks late and so the lawyers of the applicants required more time to study the document.
TotalEnergies said following the refusal by the NGOs party to the proceedings to participate, it now intends to argue before the court that its vigilance plan has been implemented effectively.
It contends that it has properly checked that its Ugandan and Tanzanian affiliates have applied the 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.
The failure of the mediation process comes a day after TotalEnergies refused to appear before the EU Parliament’s Committee to answer alleged human rights and environmental concerns related to the planned construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project in Uganda and Tanzania.
The EU Parliament in mid-September adopted a resolution urging for a halt to the Lake Albert Development project which consists of several partners, with the French multinational oil company TotalEnergies (Total) as the main investor, together with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, the Uganda National Oil Company, and the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation.
The EACOP is a component of the Lake Albert Development. It is meant to evacuate Uganda’s Crude Oil to the International market through Tanzania’s port of Tanga.