On Sunday April 11, 2021, in the presence of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the new Tanzanian leader Samia Suluhu Hassan, the French Total, the Chinese CNOOC, the state oil companies of Uganda (UNOC) and Tanzania (TPDC) ) finalized the agreement allowing them to exploit the immense oil fields located in the region of Lake Albert in Uganda at the gates of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Describing this day on Twitter as " historic for Uganda, Tanzania, East Africa and Total" , Mr Patrick Pouyanné. President of the oil group, will be able to start one of the biggest oil projects in history . Holder of 56.67% of the project's shares, Total plans to begin operations in 2025 and complete it in 2045. Alongside it, the Chinese Cnooc holds 28.33% and Unoc 15%. reach up to 230,000 barrels of crude per day.Once extracted, the oil is expected to be transported by a 1,400 km pipeline to the shores of the Indian Ocean, crossing Tanzania. 'East African Crude Oil Pipe Line (Eacop) and will have cost about 3.5 billion dollars or 2.9 billion euros.
Mr Pouyanné added: "This project will create significant added value for Uganda and Tanzania". You should know that Uganda has an economy that is 80% based on agriculture, with coffee as an essential resource. It is a little different for Tanzania, which in addition to its agriculture, can rely on its mining industry. Indeed, this country is the fourth largest producer of gold in Africa. Suffice to say that this new oil project represents a fabulous growth driver for these two countries with significant financial benefits.
However, even if Total, CNOOC and TPDC have undertaken to conduct operations with respect for biodiversity, environmental issues and the rights of local communities who will, of course, be impacted by the works, this was not enough to allay the fears of the many Ugandan and French NGOs who have been fighting for several years to prevent this project from seeing the light of day. This collective, made up of around thirty associations, NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion or even Fridays For Future Uganda, once again seizes justice qualifying this project as "climaticide" . The associations highlight the 132 oil wells which should be located in a protected area, near Lake Albert, the risk of degrading the natural reserves as well as the very sensitive areas of water catchment of Lake Victoria which we have mentioned. in one of our previous articles. The collective is also keen to attack the tanker for its failure to fulfill its duty of vigilance. It should be remembered that this duty is characterized by “the obligation imposed on ordering companies to prevent social, environmental and governance risks linked to their operations but which may also extend to the activities of their subsidiaries and their business partners, subcontractors and suppliers. "
The NGOs say: "Total chooses to ignore the massive climate risks posed by the construction of a crude oil transport pipeline that will generate a new source of 34.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions at the peak of its operation" and to add: "Despite promises of jobs and a better future, communities worry about losing their land, environmental damage and 'empty promises' of oil money."
Concerns are also fueled by the very nature of Ugandan oil which has the particularity of being very viscous. It will therefore have to be heated to remain sufficiently liquid to flow along the pipeline. Which would make EACOP the longest electrically heated crude oil pipeline in the world!
Faced with the attacks, Total had to react. The group defends itself and has opted for transparency. Mr Pouyané said in this regard : “Total takes fully into consideration the sensitivity of the environmental context and the societal issues surrounding these onshore projects. Our commitment is to implement these projects in an exemplary and transparent manner " . To do this, Total will make public all the studies that have been carried out during the development of the project. And Mr Pouyané to insist: " Faced with oppositions, the only strategy is absolute transparency. The board of directors has decided to publish all the audits, all the studies. […] the only good policy for groups like ours is to respond with facts. perhaps not to convince everyone, but we will not be able to reproach us for having hidden things ”.
Indeed, even if the method is laudable, one can reasonably think that it will not be enough to convince and that the many NGOs which have been struggling for so long, will have a hard time being satisfied with this.