EAC Court throws out Eacop challenge

Thursday November 30 2023

The court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the challenge by several civil society groups because it was filed too late.



A regional court on Wednesday threw out a legal challenge to a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline project in Tanzania and Uganda that has been condemned by environmental and human rights campaigners.

The East African Court of Justice ruled that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the challenge by several civil society groups because it was filed too late.

The pipeline is part of a $10 billion project led by French energy giant TotalEnergies to develop Ugandan oilfields and ship the crude to Tanzania for export.

Read: Tanzania, Uganda sign gas pipeline deal

The scheme has come under fire from activists who say it will harm fragile ecosystems in areas rich in biodiversity as well as the livelihoods of tens of thousands of local people.

A five-judge panel at the court based in the Tanzanian town of Arusha said the lawsuit submitted in 2020 "cannot be adjudicated upon for having been filed outside the time period prescribed".

The civil society groups involved said they planned to appeal the "unjust" ruling.

Lucien Limacher of Natural Justice, an environmental and rights organisation working in Africa, charged that the court had failed to give the petitioners the chance to argue their case.

"The judgement marks a continuation of how the global north and various government institutions in Africa are blind to the destruction of the environment and the impact oil and gas has on the climate," Limacher said in a statement.

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) is a 1,443-kilometre (900-mile) heated pipeline that will run from the oilfields in Lake Albert in Northwestern Uganda to Tanzania's Indian Ocean port of Tanga.

Read: Uganda keeps oil dream alive

TotalEnergies has a 62 percent stake in the pipeline, with Ugandan and Tanzanian state-owned oil companies holding 15 percent each and China National Offshore Oil Corporation eight percent.

Lake Albert lies atop an estimated 6.5 billion barrels of crude, of which about 1.4 billion barrels are currently considered recoverable.

Uganda's first oil is expected to flow in 2025 -- almost two decades after the reserves were discovered -- and the project has been hailed by President Yoweri Museveni as an economic boon for the landlocked country where many live in poverty.

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