EACJ to Hear Appeal on Jurisdiction in East African Crude Oil Pipeline Case

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EACJ to Hear Appeal on Jurisdiction in East African Crude Oil Pipeline Case

Judge's gavel on the table (© Shutterstock/FabrikaSimf)
Judge's gavel on the table (© Shutterstock/FabrikaSimf)

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) will consider an appeal challenging a lower court's decision to dismiss a case against the controversial East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop), offering a procedural victory for environmental activists.

As reported by The East African on Wednesday, February 21, the five-judge appellate division, led by Justice Nestor Kayobera, agreed on Tuesday to determine whether the EACJ's First Instance Division has jurisdiction to hear the case. This decision puts the November 2023 dismissal on hold, which cited lack of jurisdiction and timeliness concerns.

"The appellate court will only use the written submissions to determine whether the First Instance Court has jurisdiction to hear the case," said a party to the case who attended the hearing.

The activists, including Ugandan and Kenyan NGOs, argue that the 1443-kilometer pipeline, expected to cost $5 billion, violates regional and international treaties and laws related to environment, human rights, and climate change. They seek temporary and permanent injunctions to stop its construction.

The Ugandan government and the East African Community (EAC) Secretary-General, named as respondents, maintain the case is time-barred and outside the EACJ's jurisdiction.

"We are happy that the court has set in motion processes to ensure that justice is served for the benefit of communities," said Dickens Kamugisha, CEO of Ugandan NGO Afiego.

According to the EACJ, petitioners file written submissions by March 22, respondents to file theirs by April 22, and rejoinders by May 6. The decision offers a glimmer of hope for activists who have faced setbacks in other courts, including France, where they challenged French oil giant TotalEnergies' involvement in the project.

The EACJ's final decision on jurisdiction will determine whether the case proceeds, potentially leading to a legal battle with significant environmental and economic implications for the region.

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