Five groups of activists have sued French petrofuel giant TotalEnergies in a Paris civil court over two of its operations in East Africa.

The suit refers to TotalEnergies’ Tilenga oil development in Uganda and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which transports oil from Ugandan oil fields to the Tanzanian port of Tanga.  

The company is facing a lawsuit over the two projects for the second time. In 2019, six NGOs brought TotalEnergies to court to force the company to cease its activities in Uganda. The activists cited France’s 2017 Duty of Vigilance law, which requires large companies to formulate a “vigilance report” in order to quantify the risks inherent in the project, and act on those risks to mitigate them.

“TotalEnergies considers that its vigilance plan is implemented effectively and has ensured that its subsidiaries in Uganda and Tanzania have applied the appropriate action plans so as to respect the rights of local communities and biodiversity,” TotalEnergies said to Reuters in a statement.

The initial court case was dismissed in March 2023. As it was a fast-track lawsuit, the judge stated that the case should be contested in a standard trial to further examine the depth of the information.

The NGOs claimed that France had failed to take adequate steps to protect the local communities and biomes, which it had pledged to do in its vigilance report. Meanwhile, TotalEnergies argued that the French Government has no jurisdiction to rule over the French company’s activities in foreign countries such as Uganda.

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By GlobalData

Despite the dismissal, the court found that nothing was stopping the French Government from ruling on the overseas activities of French companies, a fact that will likely become prominent in the upcoming case.