TotalEnergies rejects manslaughter allegations
Response to complaint for actions in Mozambique
MOZAMBIQUE: TotalEnergies today issued a statement rejecting all claims made in a suit filed against the company in France for “manslaughter and a failure to assist people in danger" during the terrorist attacks that took place in northern Mozambique in March 2021.
The statement provides an account of the company’s response to a terrorist attack in the Cabo Delgado province against the town of Palma, close to the Mozambique LNG project at the Afungi site which lasted for several days.
“The conflict in the Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique predates gas development in the region and is linked to many factors unrelated to Mozambique LNG,” the company says adding that the Mozambique LNG teams mobilised to evacuate more than 2,500 people (civilians, personnel, contractors and subcontractors) from the Afungi site where the Mozambique project is located.
TotalEnergies goes on to confirm that as soon as the attacks had started and the situation had been assessed, Mozambique LNG lent its assistance to the Mozambican authorities, namely by supplying fuel for the evacuation and rescue operations.
“The runway at the Afungi site was used by the authorities of Mozambique and international organizations operating in the area to evacuate people by air. Mozambique LNG employees distributed food and water to civilians sheltering at the entrance to the Afungi site.”
The Mozambique LNG medical teams were mobilised to provide emergency medical assistance to injured civilians who were evacuated by air and sea from the Afungi site. The site’s hospital was also made available. Mozambique LNG also evacuated more than 2,500 people, including many civilians by air and sea, especially by chartering a ferry for this purpose. “The resources mobilized to deal with the situation were quite exceptional for a company,” they ascertain.
In response to the specific claim that the company refused to supply fuel to the South African private security company DAG – TotalEnergies has justified this by noting: “. During 2020, several NGOs reported serious crimes against local people supposedly perpetrated by DAG. For these reasons, Mozambique LNG decided that it would not support the offensive military operations carried out by DAG but has provided its assistance in rescue operations carried out under the authority of the government security forces.”
Evacuation and withdrawal
An evacuation plan was implemented in March 2021 in the aftermath of the attack on Palma involved all personnel working on the Afungi site, including those of Mozambique LNG’s contractors and their subcontractors.
In addition, with the intensification of the terrorist threat, the number of employees of Mozambique LNG, its contractors and their subcontractors was significantly reduced in early 2021. The remaining personnel of Mozambique LNG, the contractors and their subcontractors were accommodated on the Afungi site and were instructed to remain inside the site at all times for security reasons.
During the attack on Palma, Mozambique LNG ensured the evacuation of all its personnel and subcontractors’ personnel from the Afungi site, as well as a large number of civilians.
Due to the deteriorating situation in the region, Mozambique LNG decided to withdraw all personnel from the Mozambique LNG project at the Afungi site. The situation led Mozambique LNG to declare force majeure in April 2021.
Justiça Ambiental (JA!) believes that the declaration was made in an effort for the company to free itself from its contractual obligations with its subcontractors, many of whom are local. “This not only affected the workers of Total’s subcontractors, but above all aggravated the situation of the local populations displaced by the gas project, who were abandoned without land or livelihoods, and with the compensation process halted without certainty around when or if it would resume,” they contend.
Anabela Lemos, JA!’s Director, says: “Total’s negligence towards its subcontractors is another expression of the company’s criminal disregard for the people affected by its activities. We shall not forget that the majority of the victims of the Palma attack were the local people. We believe this legal action is important to challenge the impunity of these companies and we hope it expands the possibilities for Mozambican communities to pursue justice as well.”
Despite an announcement by TotalEnergies CEO, Patrick Pouyanné, at the end of last month that operations could resume before the end of the year, the latest press release notes that any decision to restart the project will depend on the ability to complete the project under good security conditions.
JA! Believes that the project should not be resumed: “the ground reality remains problematic, the gas contracts are unjust, and the risks to Mozambique’s people, climate and economy are extremely high.”
Lorette Philippot, Private Finance Campaigner with Friends of the Earth France, says: “Today, Total is still trying to make its financiers and investors believe that the situation is under control and that the actions carried out by Mozambique LNG are having a positive impact on the living conditions of the population. Crédit Agricole and Société Générale need to urgently abandon this myth and stop supporting the oil and gas majors’ projects in Mozambique.”