Photos: YouTube Screenshots
The international, multi-faith climate justice organization GreenFaith released a report showing that TotalEnergies, the French fossil fuel giant, has disturbed and risks disrespecting over 2,000 graves along the construction route of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline.
The report, entitled “As If Nothing Is Sacred,” also documents that 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. Family members and local communities have suffered emotional and spiritual trauma due to these actions and project officials’ lack of consideration.
In response to the report’s findings, religious leaders from Tanzania and Uganda, the countries impacted by EACOP’s proposed route, called for an immediate stop to EACOP.
“Local communities told us that TotalEnergies has, on numerous occasions, disturbed or disrespected the graves of their families and ancestors. This has taken place despite countless efforts by local people to alert TotalEnergies to the presence of the graves and about their concerns,” the report states. It goes on to state that the company has disregarded or violated international standards for reburial of human remains. “The company did not follow international best practices related to identifying grave sites, developing plans to relocate affected graves, providing compensation for impacted families, and respecting the spiritual and religious needs of affected family and community members.”
Research for the report relied on public documents and information gathered through field research. GreenFaith conducted an extensive review of information published by TotalEnergies about the EACOP and Tilenga projects and their impacts. In addition, GreenFaith carried out field surveys in three districts in Tanzania and six districts in Uganda, conducting interviews with members of affected families who own graves along the route of either the EACOP or the Tilenga project. For security reasons, all the interviewees’ names in this report have been changed.
EACOP, a proposed 1,443-km long underground oil pipeline, is responsible for numerous negative impacts in addition to the mistreatment of graves. The oil project would displace over 100,000 people, create toxic contamination along its route, degrade farmland and wildlife habitat, and threaten drinking water supplies for three million East Africans. People living along the pipeline route have made numerous credible reports of threats of violence and human rights violations. The project will generate greenhouse gas emissions that are 25 times the annual emissions of Uganda and Tanzania combined.
The disturbance and the risk of desecrating graves has inflicted painful spiritual and psychological harm on families along the construction route. One person interviewed by GreenFaith described what had happened to the body of a deceased relative. “When it came to moving the dead bodies, the coffins they had bought were too little,” he said “My father was broken into pieces to fit the coffin they had contracted.”
“It is traumatizing enough that TotalEnergies, supported by Uganda and Tanzania governments, has already displaced thousands of families along the proposed pipeline’s route,” said Meryne Warah, Global Organizing Director for GreenFaith. “But the finding that even the dead cannot rest in peace is disrespecting something deeply sacred to Africans.”
For over two years, GreenFaith has called for the immediate abandonment of the EACOP and Tilenga projects. Related to the topic of grave disturbance and destruction, the report calls on TotalEnergies to take the following actions:
- Where financial losses have been incurred by local communities due to inadequate Project provisions, these must be reimbursed
- Where religious or cultural needs remain unresolved, the Project must bridge the gap between activities to date and international best practice
- Graves that have been repeatedly claimed by affected community members and families but still remain in the path of the Project need to be relocated and not left to chance finds once construction commences
- Relocated graves with structural flaws or which are unfinished must be brought up to the standard that would be expected on a project of this scale
GreenFaith invites people of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds to write to TotalEnergies and the Presidents of Tanzania and Uganda calling for an end to the EACOP project.