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Legal Wrangle as Court Reserves Hoima-tanga Pipeline Decision


  • Adjournment of the ruling follows the hearing of arguments on an objection to the regional court’s jurisdiction in the case

Arusha. The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has reserved its judgement in a case challenging the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop).

Adjournment of the ruling follows the hearing of arguments on an objection to the regional court’s jurisdiction in the case.

The judgement will be made after questions of environmental social justice and climate justice concerns are heard and determined.

The case (challenging the court’s jurisdiction) was filed by the secretary general of the East African Community (EAC) and the attorneys general of Uganda and Tanzania.

The matter came up for highlighting during submissions for the preliminary objections filed by the respondents.

The objection sought to dismiss the case before the applicants got the opportunity to ventilate the real issues at the main hearing.

The main case was filed by the Kampala-based Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights, a human rights organisation, and three others.

They challenged a decision to construct the 1,445-kilometre pipeline from Hoima, Uganda, to Tanga, Tanzania, on the grounds it was environmentally untenable.

By impacting on their natural environment without due respect for their livelihood, it was a violation of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty.

The contention of the respondents in the main case was that the court did not have the power to entertain the case since it was brought outside the statutory period of two months.

Secondly, they contested the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain issues of violation of human rights, which, they said, fell outside the EACJ’s purview.

Finally, the respondents argued that the matter was not ripe for hearing because the applicants’ submission was defective.

The applicants are Natural Justice, the Centre for Strategic Litigation, the Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights and Africa Institute for Energy Governance.

They asked the court to dismiss the preliminary objection on the basis that it was not properly framed.

The legal tussle over the validity and mode of the application and the Court’s jurisdiction on human rights matters could further delay the ruling.

This means a ruling on the preliminary objection will likely be handed down when the Arusha-based Court sits again in June or August this year.

If the preliminary objection to the court’s jurisdiction is successful, the case will be dismissed.

But if the Court determines that it has jurisdiction, then the matter shall proceed and be heard on its merits.

According to Ms Diana Nabiruma, a communication officer with the African Institute for Energy Governance, the pipeline will negatively impact the livelihoods of the local communities.

These include decreased incomes, school dropouts, family breakdowns and mental anguish “due to the human rights abuses seen under Eacop.”

She added; “The communities deserve justice and it is our hope that the EACJ will expeditiously hear the main case and dispense justice.”

In March 2016, Tanzania and Uganda signed an agreement to construct the pipeline from Hoima to the Tanga port for the export of crude oil to markets abroad.

The cost of implementation of the project has been estimated at $3.5 million, passing through several regions of Tanzania and offering jobs to thousands of people.

Initial estimates of the oil flow indicate the 24-inch pipeline will deliver about 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Source: The Citizen