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Stop disturbing our dead! Religious leaders tell oil giants in Tanzania and Uganda

At least 2,000 unmarked graves were destroyed, interfered with or just disrespected along the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) route, a report has established.

The report dubbed ‘As If Nothing Is Sacred’ was released Thursday by GreenFaith, an international multi-faith climate justice organisation outlined disregard for international

practice by the major EACOP stakeholders.

“TotalEnergies has consistently failed to respect local customs and traditions related to

the treatment of graves. In addition, the company did not follow international best

practices related to identifying grave sites, developing plans to relocate affected graves,

providing compensation for impacted families, and respecting the spiritual and religious

needs of affected family and community members,” the report read in part.

According to testimonies recorded in the report, some families were either compensated

dismally for the disturbed graves, or not given adequate time to rebury after exhumation

to give way for the pipeline expected to run 1,443 km between Uganda and Tanzania

Tanga Port.

“Project officials neglected on many occasions to use due diligence and advanced

survey techniques such as ground-penetrating radar, even when local community

members made it clear that graves were located in the proposed work area,” the report


This is the technology projects such as EACOP use “to identify potential impediments to

construction such as cultural artefacts or grave sites which require careful excavation,”

as per the report.

This comes after at least 30 faith leaders met in Uganda on Wednesday, before the

report’s release, and condemned the disregard for what is sacred for Africans. During

the launch of the ‘As If Nothing Is Sacred’ report earlier today in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, more religious leaders demanded respect for what is sacred to communities in the grassroots. They appealed to the governments of Uganda and Tanzania, which support the project, to listen to religious leaders and understand the true plight of the affected.

“It was traumatizing enough that TotalEnergies, supported by Uganda and Tanzania

governments, displaced thousands of families along the proposed pipeline’s route. But

the finding that even the dead cannot rest in peace in over 2,000 graves is akin to

trashing everything sacred to an African,” read the statement.

The religious leaders emphasized that “the majority of communities in East Africa bury

their loved ones in their compounds, many of them in unmarked graves either due to

preference, poverty, religion, or specific cultural beliefs”. The clerics from Christian and

Muslim faiths said any disturbance of such graves caused psychological torture. “When

our dead rest in peace, quite literally, the living go about their daily routines in peace as

well. No one wants to be haunted,” the statement, posted on the organisation’s website,


The report now recommends reimbursement where financial losses were incurred due

to EACOP project’s inadequate provisions, and where religious or cultural needs

remain unresolved, the gap between activities to date and international best practices be


Besides, GreenFaith wants graves that are still in the path of the project relocated and

those that were moved but have structural flaws “brought up to the standard that would

be expected on a Project of this scale”.

“Our faiths are pro-life and recognise the sanctity with which African communities

regard their departed loved ones’ graves, besides the spiritual and cultural traditions of

the affected communities,” the faith leaders said.

They decried brutality meted on activists opposed to the EACOP project and the fact

that should it proceed, the heated crude oil pipeline will increase Uganda and

Tanzania’s carbon footprint is 25 times “over the current annual emissions combined”.

“EACOP will disproportionately benefit only a few. Oil drilling in Africa has significantly

negatively affected the environment, communities, and economies. Oil spills and gas

flaring won’t stop in the Niger Delta and have caused extensive environmental damage,

besides soil and water pollution,” they said.

They reiterated the normalcy in some African cultures, where communities live “not too

far from the graves of our loved ones”.

“TotalEnergies must recognize the sanctity of life and protect it. We demand justice for

the affected. We demand the well-being of our communities and the environment. We

cannot ignore the spiritual, traditional, and cultural wounds and trauma that this project

poses to affected communities,” the statement concluded.


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