East African Court of Justice ruling impacts pursuit of justice in EACOP case, says activists

East African Court of Justice ruling impacts pursuit of justice in EACOP case, says activists
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On November 29, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) delivered a judgment regarding the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) construction by TotalEnergies, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), and the governments of Uganda and Tanzania.

The ruling upheld the preliminary objection raised by the Tanzanian and Ugandan governments, stating that the case should have been filed in 2017 rather than 2020, thereby lacking jurisdiction.

Environmentalists argue that this ruling will have negative implications on the environmental rights of people in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Consequently, the court concluded that the applicants, including East African civil society organizations Natural Justice (NJ), Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), Centre for Strategic Litigation (CSL), and Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), cannot proceed with the merits of the case at the EACJ.

The applicants plan to appeal the ruling, believing that it disregarded crucial facts that could have allowed the merits of the case to be heard.

Dickens Kamugisha, Chief Executive Officer AFIEGO, expressed disappointment but affirmed their determination to appeal, emphasizing the need to address the environmental, social, and economic risks associated with the EACOP project.

Lucien Limacher, Head of Defending Rights and Litigation at Natural Justice, criticized the court's failure to provide civil society with an opportunity to present their case.

Limacher noted the disregard for environmental destruction and the impact of oil and gas on climate change, prioritizing profit over livelihoods and the environment. They vowed to review the judgment and take necessary actions to protect the environment and the people affected.

Deus Valentine Rweyemamu, Chief Executive Officer of CSL, respected the court's decision but expressed disappointment in missing an opportunity to hold the Tanzanian and Ugandan governments accountable for non-compliance with environmental provisions in the EAC treaty and other laws. Rweyemamu confirmed their intention to engage their legal team and proceed with an appeal.

Dale Onyango of Natural Justice acknowledged disappointment in the court's decision while maintaining respect for the legal process.

They affirmed their commitment to environmental sustainability, social justice, and climate resilience, vowing to explore all available avenues to advocate for communities' well-being and environmental protection.

Natural Justice, CEFROHT, CSL, and AFIEGO have been at the forefront of the legal battle against the EACOP construction.

They filed the case, known as the "EACOP Case," on November 6, 2020, challenging the project led by TotalEnergies and CNOOC.

The organisations argue that the project violates provisions of the East African Community (EAC) treaty, the Protocol for the Sustainable Management of the Lake Victoria Basin, the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the African Convention on Conservation of Natural Resources, the post-2020 Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Paris Climate Accords.

The case revolves around allegations that the project proponents failed to conduct meaningful public participation and consultation.

The civil society organizations also assert the absence of human rights and climate impact assessments before commencing the EACOP project, raising significant concerns about environmental sustainability, social justice, and climate justice.

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