Legal Battle Looms Over East African Crude Oil Pipeline Construction

Legal Battle Looms Over East African Crude Oil Pipeline Construction

The construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) has been challenged in court by the Kampala-based Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights and three other organizations. The 1,445-kilometre pipeline, which runs from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga in Tanzania, is being contested because it is environmentally unsound and violates the East African Community (EAC) Treaty.

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) heard arguments on an objection to its jurisdiction in the case and has reserved its judgment for a later date. The case was filed by the Secretary General of the EAC and the Attorneys General of Uganda and Tanzania. Still, the leading case was brought by the aforementioned human rights organizations.

The respondents in the main case argued that the court did not have the power to entertain the case since it was brought outside the statutory period of two months. Additionally, they contested the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain issues of human rights violations, which they said fell outside the EACJ’s purview. Finally, they argued that the matter was not ripe for hearing because the applicants’ submission was defective.

The legal dispute over the application and the Court’s jurisdiction on human rights matters could cause further delays in the ruling, which is expected in June or August of this year. If the preliminary objection to the court’s jurisdiction is successful, the case will be dismissed. However, if the Court determines its jurisdiction, the case will proceed and be heard on its merits.

According to Diana Nabiruma, a communication officer with the African Institute for Energy Governance, the pipeline will negatively impact the livelihoods of local communities by decreasing incomes, causing school dropouts, family breakdowns, and mental anguish due to human rights abuses under EACOP. She added that the communities deserve justice and hope that the EACJ will hear the main case expeditiously and dispense justice.

Tanzania and Uganda signed an agreement in March 2016 to construct the pipeline from Hoima to the Tanga port to export crude oil to foreign markets. The implementation of the project is estimated to cost $3.5 million, passing through several regions of Tanzania and creating thousands of jobs. The pipeline is expected to deliver about 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day based on initial estimates of the oil flow.