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10 Jan 2020

Portia Crowe, Jefferson Public Radio

Ugandan farmers take on French oil giant in game-changer case for multinationals

Dorothy Mbabazi used to live comfortably as a vegetable farmer in western Uganda. The single mother of seven had 9 acres of land in the Buliisa region — nestled between Lake Albert and Murchison Falls National Park — and could afford good food, basic necessities and her children's school fees...

In May 2017, Mbabazi was among the first people that Total notified that access to her land would be blocked. Security guards were soon stationed in the area. Offered a choice between cash or a land-for-land deal, she chose land, but Total didn't immediately offer any up. For two years, Mbabazi waited for Total to show her where to move while living on rented land nearby. In May 2019, when local Total officials finally took Mbabazi to her new plot of land, she felt it was not comparable to what she lost. She requested better access to roads and basic services before she moves, but Total has not responded to her request...

Total’s land acquisition resettlement framework specifies that the Ugandans should be compensated prior to having their land seized. But, the company argued, it is the responsibility of its subsidiary to implement those regulations.

“That is not enough under the new law,” said Juliette Renaud, a senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth France, one of the plaintiffs. The French legislation requires parent companies to establish procedures to regularly assess the actions of their subsidiaries, subcontractors and suppliers.

If the judges rule in the plaintiffs' favor, Total would likely be ordered to publish a new vigilance plan. The judges could also order it to take urgent measures to prevent existing violations from continuing and new violations from occurring. They have until Jan. 30, 2020, to decide.

Part of the following timelines

6 NGOs file lawsuit against Total over alleged failure to respect French Duty of Vigilance law in its operations in Uganda

Total lawsuit (re failure to respect French duty of vigilance law in operations in Uganda)