An oil pipeline planned in East Africa backed by French fossil fuel giant Total is facing a new lawsuit seeking to stop its construction.
Campaigners in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are pleading with the East African Court of Justice to nullify an agreement for construction of the 1,443 kilometres East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
Documents filed in court on November 6, seen by DeSmog, ask the court to declare that the pipeline is a violation of fundamental rights of the people of East Africa. Campaigners argue that because the pipeline will go through forests, lakes, wildlife habitats, farmlands and settlements, it will endanger not only regional biodiversity, but lives and livelihoods of the communities in its path.
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The US$3.5 billion pipeline — developed by a consortium led by Total with China National Offshore Oil Corporation and the London Stock Exchange-listed Tullow Oil — will run from Lake Albert region in western Uganda to the Indian Ocean area of Tanga in Tanzania. The emissions from the combustion of the fuel the pipeline could carry could total 34.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, campaigners claim.
The suit was filed by the Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), the African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Natural Justice-Kenya and the Centre for Strategic Litigation Limited, against the Attorneys General of Uganda, Tanzania and the East African Community (EAC).
The EAC was named as a defendant in the case since the organisation was a signatory to various international treaties and agreements on environment and human rights. According to Dickens Kamugisha, CEO of AFIEGO, the EACOP project violates the EAC’s own rules concerning major infrastructure projects and community rights.
In addition to seeking an injunction against construction of the pipeline, the groups are pursuing nullification of a 10 September Host Government Agreement (HGA), which allows Total to operate in the countries, in a ceremony witnessed by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli.
The campaigners’ lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal attempts over the years to halt the pipeline and protect communities facing displacement due to its construction.
“Oil activities in Lake Albert region have already displaced some 7,000 people including 3,500 children and 1,500, and no compensation has been offered to them since 2012, even after we sued on their behalf in high court in Uganda in 2014,” said Kamugisha.
“We have never been given a date for hearing of the case nearly six years later, and the same has happened to a second suit we filed on the pipeline in 2019. It is for this reason that we have moved to the regional court, and we are confident that we will get justice,” he told DeSmog, of the reasons for this latest action.
But opponents of the project have faced intimidation and harassment as a result of stringent rules on civil society groups in Uganda, Kamugisha said.
Main image: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development CC BY–SA 2.0