TotalEnergies hires former Benin PM to assess E.Africa land purchases

PARIS (Reuters) -France’s TotalEnergies has hired former prime minister of Benin Lionel Zinsou to assess land purchases in Uganda and Tanzania as part of the Tilenga oil and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) projects.

Activist groups, led by Friends of the Earth France, are suing TotalEnergies over the projects, accusing it of failing to protect local people and the environment. TotalEnergies rejects the allegations.

TotalEnergies said on Thursday that as the land acquisition process draws to a close, Zinsou will evaluate the procedures used, the conditions for consultation, the compensation and relocation of people affected, and grievance handling.

Zinsou’s consulting firm will also assess actions taken by TotalEnergies EP Uganda and EACOP to improve living conditions for those affected. It will submit a report by April 2024.

TotalEnergies said the Tilenga and EACOP projects include a land acquisition programme covering 6,400 hectares (15,815 acres), carried out on behalf of the Ugandan and Tanzanian governments.

The programme concerns 19,140 households and communities owning or using plots of land, and includes the relocation of 775 primary residences.

To date, 98% of the households concerned have signed compensation agreements, 97% have received compensation, and 98% of households to be relocated have taken possession of their new homes, TotalEnergies said.

NGO Human Rights Watch said that its research shows the land acquisition process for the EACOP pipeline has been a disaster.

“Tens of thousands of people have lost land that provided food for their families and an income to send their children to school and they have received too little compensation from TotalEnergies,” HRW’s Myrto Tilianaki said.

She added that Ugandan activists calling out these sorts of problems have been subject to arrests, threats and harassment.

The Tilenga project in Uganda is being carried out by TotalEnergies (56.67%, operator), CNOOC (28.33%) and UNOC (15%).

Ugandan oil will be transported to the port of Tanga, Tanzania through EACOP, whose shareholders are TotalEnergies (62%), UNOC (15%), TPDC (15%) and CNOOC (8%).

Zinsou, prime minister of Benin in 2015-2016, is founder of consulting firm SouthBridge, with which TotalEnergies has collaborated in the past.

(Reporting by Geert De ClercqEditing by Mark Potter and Barbara Lewis)