TotalEnergies Faces Probe Over 2021 Mozambique Attack

French Prosecutors Probes Into Alleged Negligence Over Deadly Assault

A prominent international oil business called TotalEnergies was the subject of a probe by French prosecutors on May 4, 2024, regarding the company’s possible involvement in involuntary manslaughter. This legal lawsuit is a result of a horrific incident that happened in 2021 when militants with ties to the Islamic State attacked the port town of Palma in Mozambique, killing several hundred people and driving thousands more to flee.

Complaints from victims’ relatives and attack survivors triggered this investigation. The complainants assert that TotalEnergies, a company that played a major role in the development of a liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique, failed to provide sufficient protection for its subcontractors. Additionally, they claim that the business neglected to provide the gasoline required for helicopters, which would have made the evacuation of civilians during the crisis.

Terrorists invaded Palma on the day of the attack, March 24, 2021, and over the course of many days, they caused extensive mayhem and destruction. As the assailants seized control of the town, some victims suffered horrifying beheadings. The conflict was concentrated in the province of Cabo Delgado, where the militants, known as Al-Shabab (unrelated to the Somali group of the same name), had been operating since 2017 and had been moving closer and closer to Palma.

Henri Thulliez, an attorney for the complainants, stated on the lawsuit in 2023 that it had been obvious how serious the situation was and how soon danger was. He said that prior to the attack, the hazards were widely understood. Nicholas Alexander, a South African who survived the attack, responded to the French prosecutors’ ruling by expressing relief and optimism, noting it as a “positive step” towards justice. He emphasized that TotalEnergies must acknowledge its part in the incident. Concerns have also been raised about the environmental effects of TotalEnergies’ operations in Mozambique. Friends of the Earth Mozambique campaigner Anabela Lemos accused the oil company of causing environmental damage and continuing deaths after the attack in 2021.

The $20 billion gas field development project on the Afungi peninsula, which was put on hold after the attack, is also involved in the debate. The chairman of TotalEnergies, Patrick Pouyanne, later announced plans to resume the project in spite of this setback. Strong objection was voiced to this decision; in November 2023, an open letter was sent by 124 NGOs, including well-known groups like Oil Change International, Greenpeace France, and the Human Rights League. They called on numerous financial institutions to stop funding the project, calling it irresponsible and stressing the underestimated humanitarian and security risks, particularly in a conflict zone.

The NGOs claimed that the project’s continuation poses a threat not only to the local ecosystems and the global climate, but also to the communities it is supposed to benefit. They forewarned investors that they would be directly and significantly liable for any consequences. Even with its abundance of natural gas and other resources, Mozambique is nevertheless among the world’s poorest nations. Large-scale gas reserves were discovered in 2010, raising hopes for economic growth in this mostly Muslim region in the north. Nonetheless, Islamist militant groups have obstructed efforts at development and stability in the region for the better part of the previous ten years.

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