Climate activists deplore French court ruling on EACOP, say major issues were ignored

Climate activists have condemned a ruling by a Paris civil court that dismissed their case against French oil giant Total regarding its environmentally destructive oil project in Uganda and Tanzania.

The case has been filed by civil society organizations which included: Friends of the Earth France, Survie, AFIEGO, CRED, NAPE/Friends of the Earth Uganda and NAVODA).

The CSOs wanted the project halted until Total would prove that it has a vigilance plan to guard against the harmful effects of the project; that there would be timely compensation of people affected by the project by the EACOP and that there would be food support to communities deprived of their livelihood.

However after more than three years of legal battle, the activists are intrigued that court dismissed the case on procedural grounds and that substantive matters of the case were not considered.

In a statement, the CSOs said: “The judges did not rule on the core elements of the case, namely Total’s serious failures to meet its duty of vigilance obligations to identify and properly prevent the risks of human rights violations and environmental damage associated with its Tilenga and EACOP projects in Uganda and Tanzania.”

Dickens Kamugisha, the executive director of AFIEGO, said the decision is a huge disappointment for the associations and affected communities in Uganda and Tanzania who had placed their hopes in French justice.

Dickens Kamugisha

“The human rights violations and environmental damage continue and are getting worse. We will continue to work harder than ever in the courts and elsewhere to put a stop to them and hold Total accountable for the consequences of its activities,” he said.

Juliette Renaud, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, said: they strongly deplore the decision.

“Once again, the French courts have missed an opportunity to put an end to the multiples violations taking place in Uganda and Tanzania. It is essential that this summary judgment procedure, which allows for faster judgments, be effective in order to achieve the central objective of this law: to prevent human rights violations and environmental damage before they occu

Pauline Tétillon, co-chair of Survie said while Total’s devastating oil mega-project in Uganda and Tanzania is being criticized from all sides, from journalists to academics, from the European Parliament to UN rapporteurs, and while civil society mobilization has taken on an international dimension, “the judges are still postponing a decision on the heart of the matter: the consequences of this project on the population, the environment and the climate. We have been denouncing them for more than three years, the disaster must stop as soon as possible, while we are only a few weeks away from the first drillings in the heart of the protected natural park of Murchison Falls.”

Since 2019, the six Ugandan and French CSOs have carried out several field investigations and compiled overwhelming evidences and testimonies against the oil major: partial or total eviction of more than 100,000 people, deprived of their livelihoods even before receiving any compensation; more than 130 drillings planned in a protected natural area; and construction of a heated pipeline through seismic zones and fragile ecosystems; in a context of harassment of environmental and human rights defenders.

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