Tilenga / Kingfisher Oil Fields and East African Crude Oil Pipeline


Lake Albert & Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda to Tanga, Tanzania

Project risks:

Conflict/Violence, Environmental Destruction, Litigation, Social Harm


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Total and CNOOC want to produce oil in the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil fields in Uganda. The East African Crude Oil Pipeline would bring the oil all the way through Tanzania to the Indian Ocean port of Tanga. Map: Yale Environment 360. Source: Total

Total and CNOOC are sensing big money in Uganda. The companies want to produce oil in the country, and pump it all the way through savannahs, swamps and tropical forests to the Tanzanian coast. To make space for the wells and the pipeline, Total and CNOOC are forcing more than 100,000 people off their lands.[1] At the same time, the oil giants are destroying the homes of elephants, lions, leopards, and giraffes.

Tilenga & Kingfisher Oil Fields

CNOOC and Total want to extract oil in the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil fields in north-western Uganda. These oil fields lie underneath farmland, lakes and the Murchison Falls National Park.[2] The Murchison Falls National Park is a sanctuary for iconic and threatened animals. Lions and leopards lurk through the savannah and elephants walk  the grasslands.[3] The Park is one of the last places on Earth where Nubian giraffes, a critically endangered giraffe species, are gazing across the thicket[4] The Nile River also flows through the Murchison Falls Park; its riverbanks are a resting place for more than 450 bird species.[5] The Murchison Falls National Park is the oldest and biggest natural protected area in Uganda and a candidate to become a UNESCO biosphere reserve.[6][7] In this Park alone, Total and CNOOC want to drill 132 oil wells.[8]

An endangered Nubia giraffe is grazing in the Murchison Falls National Park, where Total wants to drill 132 wells. Credit: Juliette Renaud, Amis de la Terre France, 2018

The foreign companies are blind to what the Murchison Falls National Park stands to lose. In the heart of this paradise, CNOOC and Total are building drilling sites, access roads, and a network of pipelines. This infrastructure is cutting through the animals’ hunting and breeding grounds like barriers.[9] In some parts of the Park, the companies’ heavy machinery is so loud that it is chasing animals away.[10] Conservation organizations have even started to evacuate Nubian giraffe herds to save them from the dirt and noise of the oil companies.[11]

Outside the Murchison Falls National Park, Total and CNOOC’s oil megaproject is spreading across people’s fields and farms. For the Tilenga oil site alone, Total is forcing more than 31,000 people off their lands and they have no say in this.[12] It took the company more than two years to hand out compensation to those already forcibly displaced for the central processing facility. Those who must leave to make space for Tilenga are still awaiting compensation, but Total has already taken their lands.[13] Without farmland or compensation, people can no longer grow the crops that once brought them a meagre income. Many people are struggling to pay for medicine and their children’s school fees.[14] Others no longer know how to afford the next meal for their families.[15]

For their oil fields and the pipeline, CNOOC and Total want to destroy hundreds of villages and the farmlands of thousands of farmers in Uganda and Tanzania. Credit: Juliette Renaud, Amis de la Terre France, 2018

East African Crude Oil Pipeline

To move the oil out of the landlocked Uganda, CNOOC and Total want to build the 1,445 km (898 mi) East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). EACOP would run all the way through Uganda and Tanzania to the Indian Ocean Port of Tanga. From there, the oil would be shipped out into the world.

On its way to the Tanzanian coast, EACOP would run through forests, savannahs and swamps. A 30-meter-wide (98 ft) pipeline corridor, cleared of houses and trees, would crisscross countless nature reserves. EACOP would scatter the natural homes of chimpanzees, lions, buffalos, zebras, antelopes, elephants, and migratory birds. Once the pipeline reached the Tanzanian coast, oil tankers would steer through mangrove swamps and coral reefs to export the oil.[16]

Total and CNOOC have planned the pipeline in a way that would force tens of thousands of farmers and families off their land. EACOP would cut through 178 Ugandan and 231 Tanzanian villages and invade the lands of more than 86,000 people.[18] [19] As for Tilenga, people have no say in this. If they don’t make space for EACOP voluntarily, the oil giants’ subcontractors will intimidate and threaten the people to make them leave.[20] [21]


Bill McKibben, an American environmentalist, author and co-founder of international environmental organization 350.org said,

“The proposed route looks almost as if it were drawn to endanger as many animals as possible.” [17]  

Total and CNOOC are intimidating and threatening those who do not want to leave their homes and lands. Credit: Amis de la Terre France

Those who dare to stand up against CNOOC and Total are risking increasing threats and harassments. After the farmer Fred Mwesigwa came to France on the occasion of a court hearing against Total in 2019, unknown men tried to break into his home and locked him into his house with padlocks.[22] The community leader Jelousy Mugisha also spoke out against Total during the same visit in Paris.[23] As soon as he arrived back in Uganda, the police arrested him and questioned him for nearly 9 hours.[24] In September 2020, the Ugandan police arrested three journalists and six environmental defenders to silence their protest.[25] Half a year later in May 2021, the Ugandan police arrested the human rights activist Maxwell Atuhura and the journalist Federica Marsi. They were on their way to talk to people who are suffering the effects of the oil project, but they never arrived.[26]

Under Fire

Total is no longer getting away with this. Ugandan and French organizations have taken the oil giant to court in France for breaching the “duty of vigilance” law. This law binds Total, its subsidiaries and subcontractors to prevent human rights violations and environmental damages wherever the company is operating.[27] The organizations are convinced that Total is totally breaching this law with its dirty project in Uganda and Tanzania.[28][29]

CNOOC and Total are feeling the heat of widespread resistance from all over the world. More than 260 civil society organizations are demanding a stop to EACOP. They have called out international banks and insurers to refrain from supporting it. Worldwide, over one million people have signed a petition to stop the oil drilling in Uganda and EACOP.[30] Even four United Nations Special Rapporteurs have confronted Total about the human rights violations in Uganda and Tanzania.[31]

Some of the world’s largest banks and insurance companies have already ruled out support for EACOP, a project they are calling “too hard to defend”.[32] Among them are BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole, Barclays, Credit Suisse, ANZ, UniCredit, Mizuho and AXA.[33][34][35] But all of them continue to support the companies behind this megaproject: CNOOC and Total.

Check out the video:

Groups like Friends of the Earth France are spreading the word on the disastrous effects of Total's and CNOOC's project in Uganda and Tanzania.

Groups working on Tilenga/Kingfisher/East African Crude Oil Pipeline: African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), NAPE (Friends of the Earth Uganda), Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), NAVODA, Les Amis de la Terre France (Friends of the Earth France), Survie, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Oxfam, Global Rights Alert, Northern Coalition on Extractives and Environment, IUCN Netherlands, BankTrack, Both Ends, Just Share, Inclusive Development International, Global Catholic Climate Movement, Extinction Rebellion South Africa, 350 Africa, CEFROHT, CECIC, Avaaz

[1] More than 31,000 people for the Tilenga oil field (Tilenga Resettlement Action Plans (RAPs 2, 3a, 3b, 4 & 5) Executive Summary, September 2020, p. 138) and more than 86,000 people for EACOP (https://www.amisdelaterre.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/20210407-numbers-of-individual-persons-affected-by-eacop.pdf).
[2] Les Amis de la Terre France, Survie, 2020. A Nightmare Named Total. https://www.amisdelaterre.org/communique-presse/a-nightmare-named-total-in-uganda-new-report-reveals-extent-of-violations-by-french-oil-major-on-the-eve-of-the-appeal-court-judgement-in-duty-of-vigilance-case/ (hereinafter: Les Amis de la Terre France & Survie Report 2020), p. 4
[8] https://www.stopeacop.net/our-news/stopeacop-alliance-statement-in-response-to-totals-recent-disclosures (p.6); In Total’s “Tilenga Project: Environmental and Social Impact Assessment,” Vol. I, Ch. 4, Feb. 2019 (https://corporate.totalenergies.ug/tilenga-project-environmental-and-social-impact-assessment-report), Figure 4-1 on p. 4-6 shows that well pads JBR-01 to JBR-10 are located within the Murchison Falls National Park. Table 4-7 on p. 4-19 specifies the number of wells for each well pad.
[9] FIDH/FHRI, 2020. New Oil, Same Business? At a Crossroads to Avert Catastrophe in Uganda, September 2020 (hereinafter: FIDH Report), pp. 115-118 https://www.watetezi.org/example-new-oil-same-businessat-a-crossroads-to-avertcatastrophe-in-uganda/
[12] Les Amis de la Terre France & Survie Report 2020, Chapter II.3, pp.16-18
[13] FIDH Report 2020. Chapter III.2.2.3, pp. 61
[15] FIDH Report 2020. P.64
[16] Les Amis de la Terre France & Survie Report 2020. Chapter IV.1, p. 24
[18] Les Amis de la Terre France & Survie Report 2020. Chapter I, p. 4
[20] Les Amis de la Terre France & Survie Report 2020. Chapter II
[21] See also Oxfam International, 2020. Empty Promises Down The Line? A Human Rights Impact Assessment of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. https://policy-practice.oxfam.org/resources/empty-promises-down-the-line-a-human-rights-impact-assessment-of-the-east-afric-621045/
[26] https://www.amisdelaterre.org/communique-presse/uganda-arrest-of-an-italian-journalist-and-a-human-rights-defender-mobilized-against-totals-oil-projects/. For more information about human rights violations against land defenders and activists, see Les Amis de la Terre France & Survie Report 2020, Chapter III, and FIDH Report 2020, Chapter III.1
[27] Les Amis de la Terre France, Survie, 2020. Total Uganda A first lawsuit under the duty of vigilance law: an update, p. 3 (https://www.amisdelaterre.org/publication/total-uganda-a-first-lawsuit-under-the-duty-of-vigilance-law-an-update/)