A report by GreenFaith accuses TotalEnergies of desecrating graves along pipeline construction routes in Uganda and Tanzania
French oil and gas major TotalEnergies is facing pressure to halt the construction of a pipeline from oil fields in Uganda to a port in Tanzania, after a report found that it had damaged hundreds of graves along the project route.
The report released on Thursday by the New York-based climate watchdog GreenFaith claimed that TotalEnergies "has consistently failed to respect local customs and traditions related to the treatment of graves."
"The company has routinely disregarded the pleas of local families to respect graves, ignored information which families or community members shared about the location of unmarked graves, and provided inadequate, delayed, or no compensation for the harm caused," it stated.
TotalEnergies has been planning to construct the world's largest heated crude oil pipeline, the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), in partnership with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation and governments of Ugandan and Tanzanian, since 2017.
If completed, the 1,443-kilometer pipeline project, which is expected to displace more than 100,000 people, will result in dozens of wellsites, hundreds of kilometers of roads, camps, and other infrastructure.
However, TotalEnergies, the project's largest shareholder with a 62% stake, has long faced legal action from activists for alleged human rights and climate violations.
In June, five French and Ugandan NGOs sued the oil giant for a second time in a Paris civil court after an earlier fast-track attempt was dismissed. The groups accused TotalEnergies of causing "serious harm" to locals, particularly with regard to their rights to land and food, as well as undermining the Paris climate accord through its EACOP and Tilenga oil development project operations.
The "As if nothing is sacred" report by GreenFaith found that the construction is a "spiritual assault" on local communities, aside from environmental and human rights concerns. The findings are based on field surveys in three districts in Tanzania and six in Uganda, including interviews with members of affected families who own graves along the path of either the EACOP or the Tilenga project.
According to the research, the French oil major risks disrespecting over 2,000 graves along the project route, in addition to those that have already been desecrated. This has inflicted "painful spiritual and psychological harm" on affected families, it added.
"It is traumatizing enough that TotalEnergies, supported by Uganda and Tanzania governments, has already displaced thousands of families along the proposed pipeline's route. But the finding that even the dead cannot rest in peace is disrespecting something deeply sacred to Africans," Meryne Warah, Global Organizing Director for GreenFaith, said.
Human Rights Watch has previously demanded a halt to the project, claiming in a 47-page report that the oil pipeline had caused food insecurity, increased household debt, and forced children to leave school in Uganda, adding that it will exacerbate the global climate crisis.