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East African Court of Justice dismisses petition against crude oil pipeline

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The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has dismissed a petition by a number of civil society organizations challenging the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.

In its ruling, the EACJ said the petition was filed late (2020) when the memorandum of understanding for the project construction had taken place. The court said the petitioners should have filed the documents in 2017, at the initiation of the project.

“Consequently, when the Applicants filed their Reference on 6tn November 2020, this was well over two months after execution of the IGA,” the ruled on Wednesday, 29 November 2023.

“The Reference was therefore time barred and as is the long established jurisprudence of this Court and the delineation of its mandate by the Treaty, the Court does not have authority to extend, condone, waive or alter the prescribed timeframe for filing a Reference or claim- see Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda & Another vs Omar Awadh and 6 Others (supra),” they added.

The Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Natural Justice, Centre for Strategic Litigation, the Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) Limited, in November 2020 filed a case against the governments of Uganda and Tanzania, and the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), challenging the construction of the EACOP at the EACJ.

The applicants wanted a temporary injunction to stop the construction of the EACOP until the questions of environmental, social justice, and climate justice concerns raised in the case were heard and determined.

The governments of Uganda and Tanzania signed the Host Governments Agreements for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in 2017. The lawyers representing the government of Uganda argued that the matter should have been filed at that time.

But the court sitting in Arusha upheld the objection by Tanzania’s solicitor general, noting that the case was filed out of time.

The ruling means that the applicants cannot proceed with the merits of the case. AFIEGO said the ruling will negatively impact the environmental rights of Ugandans, Kenyans and Tanzanians.

Mr Dickens Kamugisha, the Chief Executive Officer of AFIEGO, described the ruling as a sombre day for the millions of East Africans who had anticipated that the court would allow the consideration of evidence concerning the environmental, social, and economic risks of the EACOP project and make a determination on our case based on its merits.

“Despite the setback we have suffered, we remain determined and are prepared to appeal this unjust ruling, firmly believing that the dangers  posed by EACOP can and will be stopped,” said Kamugisha

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