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12 Oct, 2023 13:15

TotalEnergies sued for ‘involuntary manslaughter’ in Mozambique

The French company was negligent in risk assessment and failed to support evacuation missions during a 2021 jihadist attack, the plaintiffs claim
TotalEnergies sued for ‘involuntary manslaughter’ in Mozambique

The French multinational corporation TotalEnergies was sued earlier this week by survivors of a 2021 terrorist attack in Mozambique that killed dozens of people and led the company to halt Africa’s largest natural gas project.

According to multiple reports on Tuesday, seven survivors – South African and British nationals – have filed a criminal complaint with French prosecutors, accusing the oil firm of “involuntary manslaughter and failure to provide assistance to a person in danger” when they were attacked by Islamist insurgents.

In March 2021, militants attacked the coastal town of Palma, close to areas where TotalEnergies was undertaking a $20 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in Mozambique. The company suspended the Mozambique LNG project operations after the incident and has only recently indicated a possible resumption of investment activities.

The southern African nation reported around thirty victims. However, independent journalist Alexander Perry, who investigated the incident in Palma between November 2022 and March 2023, claimed 1,402 civilians died or were missing, including 55 subcontractors of the Total group.

Many of the victims were said to have sought refuge at the Amarula Lodge, a hotel on the outskirts of the port city in the Cabo Delgado province that had been under siege for several days by jihadists.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit – three former subcontractors who survived the hotel siege and four relatives of two of the victims – claimed that the French oil company, then known as Total, failed to warn of the attack. The suit also alleged that Total lacked a proper evacuation plan and refused to provide fuel to a South African private military company, Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), which attempted a helicopter rescue following the assault.

It is not alleged that TotalEnergies directly caused the deaths of victims but that the company did not act in accordance with the expected diligence standards of a professional in its responsibilities,” lawyers for the plaintiffs said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

TotalEnergies has denied the allegations, insisting in a statement on Wednesday that it had a security plan in place and had evacuated over 2,500 people from the Afungi site, where the Mozambique LNG project is located.

The company, however, said it did not support the evacuation operation led by DAG because several human rights groups had accused the private military contractor of committing “serious” crimes against the local population.