Landmark Lawsuit in East African Court of Justice Seeks to Protect livelihood and the environment.

On the 6th of November 2020, Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) together with other CSOs Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Natural Justice-Kenya and Center for Strategic Litigation in Tanzania in East Africa filed a lawsuit in the regional court of justice to halt the planned construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which threatens local livelihoods, food security, public health, biodiversity and the global climate. The suit alleges that the governments of Uganda, Tanzania and the Secretary General of the East African Community have violated environmental laws, human rights obligations and regional agreements, in authorizing French oil giant, Total, to build a massive oil pipeline from Hoima, Uganda to Tanga, Tanzania.

The case has been filed against the governments for agreeing to the pipeline’s construction without complete and adequate environmental and social impact assessments (ESIAs), as required under national, regional and international law. No transboundary impact assessment was submitted for prior approval, and the studies for the pipeline conducted in Uganda and Tanzania did not include human rights or climate impact assessments, among other deficiencies.

One of the reasons for filing the case is that Uganda signed a host government agreement with Total E&P to develop the pipeline without a certificate of approval for the ESIA submitted by Total. However on the 3rd of December 2020 the NEMA issued Total with a certificate of approval to develop the pipeline. According to NEMA a final Environment Impact Assessment report was submitted on the 7th of August 2020, however it should be noted that this final report has not been made available to the public to make comments and therefore this report approved by NEMA is illegal.

The EACOP is a project that is of great threat and will cause irreparable damage to the environment and to livelihoods, not only in Uganda and Tanzania but through the whole East African Region. The project is environmentally untenable and will traverse protected areas in East Africa without any due regard to livelihoods, gender, food security, public health, bio diversity and climate change impacts.

Construction of the nearly 1500-kilometer pipeline will destroy farmland, disrupt livelihoods and exacerbate food insecurity. Thousands of people are to be displaced and have already been told not to set up or plant any long-term structures or crops and yet they have not been given any compensation yet. These impacts are set to cause major social disruption and erode social cohesion, leading to increased poverty in areas affected by the EACOP in Uganda and Tanzania.

The pipeline will traverse protected forests, such as the Wambabya and Bugoma reserves, and endanger numerous water sources of great importance to millions of people in East Africa, including Lake Victoria, the Singida lakes, and over 200 rivers and streams. The EACOP will also significantly impact biodiversity and put numerous vulnerable and endangered species native to Uganda and Tanzania at risk, including elephants, lions, and giraffes, among others.

The pipeline will also have a massive impact on climate change, as the fuel it transports will release huge amounts of carbon emissions in the atmosphere each year. Climate change negatively affects communities locally and globally, yet the environmental and social impact assessments did not consider the pipeline’s overall impact on climate change.

CEFROHT is not against development or exploitation of natural resources in the East African Region. However these natural resources must be exploited in a sustainable manner to promote sustainable development of the East African Region.

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